Advocates present financial plan for performing arts center

Hoping to succeed where the county government could not, a coalition of performing arts supporters in Arlington has unveiled a fundraising plan to, they hope, pave the way for the construction of a new venue. specially designed to meet the needs of a number of local arts groups.

The proposed facility would cost more than $10 million in capital costs, coupled with a modest shortfall in annual operating costs, and could be completed without government support, Embracing Arlington Arts said.

This rights organization has been pushing for a venue dedicated to the performing arts for several years, and its president – Janet Kopenhaver – said the recently released plan is helping to get the ball rolling.

“We are very pleased to release this business plan for a new location in the county,” Kopenhaver said, thanking Amazon for meeting the cost of a consultant to research and write the document.

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The proposal calls for a facility that would include a 100-150-seat black-box performance space, as well as rehearsal studios, dressing rooms, backstage storage, offices, concession space and a lobby.

The goal is to bring a developer to the rescue by providing space and building costs, with an Embracing Arlington Arts fundraiser to cover additional costs.

This plan assumes [we] will raise funds to support the new venue from investors, corporations, the developer, individuals, foundations and other entities to cover capital costs,” said Embracing Arlington Arts Treasurer Robert gobble. “Furthermore, this plan assumes no requirement for county management [and] no county staff costs.

The most optimistic timeline, if a developer-partner could be found quickly, would be to start construction in late 2023 or early 2024.

“Several specific sites are currently being researched, and an announcement will be made once a site has been chosen and approved,” organization officials said.
The somewhat tragicomic – sometimes bordering on farce – experience of the Artisphere, a county government funded and run arts centre, which opened in Rosslyn to a high standard (and, in the end account, hugely inflated) expectations and proved a financial disaster before the government cut its losses and shut it down in 2015.

Despite this experience, Arlington has what seems like a large number of performance spaces relative to its overall size. Signature Theater performs in a dedicated space in Shirlington; Synetic Theater performs in its own space in Crystal City; and the county government operates theaters in several schools which are rented out for productions.

Yet there were more venues available, occupied by more performing arts organizations, in the county. The proposed new space would increase offerings while providing additional economic benefits, Kopenhaver said.

“We know it’s a challenge, but we also recognize that Arlington is a great county that can be improved with the addition of a performing arts/live music venue that can benefit many of our residents through the continued incorporation of arts and culture into their daily lives, as well as helping local restaurants that depend on Arlingtonians who spend their time and money in Arlington, not DC, Maryland or other other parts of Virginia,” she said.

For more information on the plan, see the website at www.embracing-arlington-arts.org.