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Northern Virginia arts agencies join forces for new collective

The organizations that make up the new collaborative, Northern Virginia Local Arts Agencies (courtesy ArtsFairfax)

Arts agencies from Fairfax County, Arlington and Alexandria are forming a supergroup.

Unveiled Monday (Aug. 8), the newly created Northern Virginia Local Arts Agencies (NVLAA) consists of ArtsFairfax, the Alexandria Office of the Arts, and the Arlington Cultural Affairs Office. Its initial ambitions are modest, centered mostly on professional development, but the pooled resources could be a boon for the local arts community.

“The more opportunities that are available and cross-promotion that we can provide, getting the word out and reaching artists and organizations that can use this type of support, it benefits everyone,” ArtsFairfax Senior Director of Grants & Services Lisa Mariam said, noting that many artists do work across the three jurisdictions.

The collective can trace its origins back to the pre-pandemic days of early 2020, when the Washington Area Lawyers for the Arts approached all three agencies to see if they were interested in collaborating on workshops for artists, Mariam told FFXnow.

Formed in 1983, WALA is a nonprofit of volunteering lawyers who provide education, advocacy, and legal services to artists and cultural organizations in the D.C. area, according to its website.

The groups started planning a series of workshops that Mariam says was always intended to be virtual, since it would serve participants from across the region. That decision proved fortuitous, though, after COVID-19 shut down in-person gatherings and events in the spring of 2020.

The desire to collaborate reemerged last year when ArtsFairfax invited its Arlington and Alexandria counterparts to an “Art of Mass Gatherings” symposium aimed at helping festivals prepare for emergencies. Though based in McLean, the event drew participants from all three localities over two days in October.

After that experience, staff at the different agencies started discussing other ways to collaborate, especially for professional development, as local arts groups were trying to find their footing during the pandemic.

“It’s been really great for us, because we each have limited resources for this type of programming,” Mariam said. “Sharing the costs as well as the logistical support involved in pulling off these programs and promoting them works really well with a collaborative like this.”

ArtsFairfax received nearly $1.4 million from Fairfax County for the current fiscal year, which started on July 1. That included a $250,000 increase over the previous year to bolster the agency’s grants program. The organization also gets funding from state, federal, nonprofit and private sources.

NVLAA will officially launch this fall with four online workshops:

09/14: DATA + STORYTELLING = IMPACT (PART 1)

Facilitated by Brighter Strategies

Nonprofits have countless stories to tell, and stories are better with data! This workshop teaches attendees how to begin to collect data to tell their story in a unique and compelling way every time.

09/28: DATA + STORYTELLING = IMPACT (PART 2)

Facilitated by Brighter Strategies

This is a follow-up workshop for a deeper dive into data collection and analysis, including personalized Q&A around techniques and methods for data collection, analysis, and use.

11/09: E-COMMERCE PRINCIPLES FOR ARTISTS, MAKERS, AND PERFORMING ARTISTS

Facilitated by Latela Curatorial

For artists looking to update their website or expand into ecommerce, this workshop will review the basic checklist of what’s needed for an artist website, what collectors and art experts look for as well as how to use metadata appropriately to work for you.

11/17: BUSINESS PLAN ESSENTIALS

Facilitated by Springboard for the Arts

Participants will learn how to prepare a simple business plan, in arts-friendly language, to organize all the various aspects of their artistic practice and make informed business decisions.

The workshops are all free, but advance registration is required.

While the collaborative is focused on professional development and networking right now, it could include “more programming-oriented collaborations” in the future, Mariam says.

“At this point, it’s not something that any of us have had the capacity to really focus on yet, but the potential for that definitely exists,” she said.

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