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An FCPS employee gets vaccinated against COVID-19 at an Inova clinic in January 2021 (photo by Karen Bolt/Fairfax County Public Schools)

Fairfax County is looking for artists to contribute to a COVID-19 memorial.

The project is spearheaded by ArtsFairfax, the county’s official arts agency, after planning started nearly a year ago.

“The selected artist/team will design, fabricate, and install a permanent work of art that will commemorate the suffering of people in the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the heroism of the people who responded to the emergency,” ArtsFairfax said in an email.

The memorial commemorates the approximately 1,743 deaths from Covid in the Fairfax Health District, where there have been approximately 264,451 cases. The district includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church.

“This scale of disease and its impact to the communities of Fairfax County, as well as the impact to a County workforce that responded to the public health emergency, are worthy of memorialization,” ArtsFairfax said in a release. “The County has identified a location for a significant public artwork that will commemorate the suffering of people in the pandemic as well as the heroism of the people who responded to the emergency.”

The memorial will be located at the center of the plaza at 12055 Government Center Parkway.

The application is open to all artists living and working in the area — meaning anywhere between Richmond and Baltimore, according to the release — and eligible to work in the U.S.

A $200,000 artist fee includes design, materials, fabrication, insurance, travel, packing, shipping, installation and a maintenance plan for the artwork, the release said.

Admission opened on Jan. 23. An online information session is scheduled for Wednesday (Feb. 1) at 3 p.m. The application deadline is April 12.

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An opportunity for local artists to gain exposure at the D.C. area’s biggest mall has been extended through the new year.

ArtsFairfax, the nonprofit arts agency for Fairfax County, announced on Dec. 22 that it will continue to partner with Tysons Corner Center owner Macerich to bring temporary art installations to the mall.

The collaboration was originally set to conclude on Dec. 31, 2022, but the quality of the 19 submissions that they received convinced ArtsFairfax and Macerich to keep the portal open for 2023. All artists and arts organizations based in Fairfax County and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church can apply.

“We had some excellent applicants, and they wanted to be able to accommodate more artists on an ongoing basis,” ArtsFairfax Senior Director of Grants and Services Lisa Mariam said. “We continue to be getting the applications and interest.”

The first exhibition resulting from the initiative, which launched in July, is currently on display in the second-floor hall outside Macy’s.

Developed by ArtLords, an Afghanistan-based street artist collective with an office in Tysons, the installation features 30 paintings that were either rescued from Afghanistan when the Taliban took over the country in August 2021 or created afterwards by recently evacuated artists.

An opening reception will be held from 6-8 p.m. tomorrow (Thursday) to celebrate the installation, which is scheduled to remain on display through February.

To involve more artists, Tysons Corner Center will open up additional sites for exhibits, including a space by Barnes & Noble where ArtLords is planning to add a mural, according to Mariam.

The applications are collected and vetted by ArtsFairfax but chosen by Macerich. Mariam says the real estate company is currently negotiating agreements with at least two other artists.

In addition to lending some color to Tysons Corner Center and giving artists a platform to display their work for the 22 million people who visit the mall each year, the partnership has helped ArtsFairfax get acquainted with new artists and organizations, Mariam says.

“It’s been a really great experience for us, because through gathering these proposals, we’ve been learning about a lot of new artists that we weren’t even aware were living or working in Fairfax County,” she told FFXnow, noting that making those connections now will be especially useful as the agency gears up to do a census of local artists.

ArtsFairfax obtained funding for the census project in November, though Mariam said it’s too early to share details of exactly what it will entail. The count will help the agency know what services it needs to provide and focus its advocacy efforts on behalf of the arts community.

The findings will be integrated into a Master Arts Plan that the agency is developing with Fairfax County.

Eligibility criteria and other information about the Tysons Corner Center partnership can be found at ArtsFairfax’s submissions portal. The mall has committed to keeping each installation up for at least eight weeks.

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The arts center could be located on Block J in Reston Town Center (via Fairfax County)

(Updated at 6:55 p.m.) Concerns of about the financing and feasibility of a proposed 60,000-square-foot performing arts center in Reston dominated a town hall last night (Tuesday).

Boston Properties has proffered to provide a site for the arts center on Block J of the next phase of its Reston Town Center development.

A feasibility report by the architectural firm Grimm + Parker estimated the cost would be roughly $58 million in current dollars and $81 million, accounting for inflation, through 2030.

“We’re talking about a pretty significant project from at least a capital cost standpoint,” said Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn.

Fairfax County has to choose between two options for the site, as pitched by Boston Properties: an arts center or an athletic field.

The athletic field would include one or more full-size fields built by Boston Properties on top of a parking garage on the property off Sunset Hills Road. If that doesn’t work out, the developer would provide roughly $6.5 to $7 million for park facilities in the Reston area.

For the arts center option, Boston Properties would provide property to the county on Block J and drop the athletic and park improvements described above.

A Fairfax County Board of Supervisors decision on the feasibility of the project is anticipated by the end of January. The deadline was pushed back by several months to allow more time for public input and engagement.

Financing remains an issue, some residents noted at the town hall, which is the second on the proposal this year.

Hunter Mill District Planning Commissioner John Carter said that although the estimated costs are “daunting,” he expects overall costs to go down as the scope of the project narrows.

“This is a great location right next to Metro,” Carter said. “We certainly would like to hold onto that, I would think.”

The financial cost of the project will not fall on residents who live in Special Tax District #5 — a possibility that was floated in earlier months. The county will likely seek general obligation bonds for the project, a method typically used to fund libraries, schools and other public projects, but no related bond referendum is currently under consideration for voters.

Reston Community Center Executive Director Leila Gordon pledged that residents in the tax district would not see increased taxes as a result of this project. A potential operator for the arts center hasn’t been identified yet, but its board of governors has committed to keeping the tax rate flat.

(Correction: This article previously said that RCC won’t operate the arts center, but the community center clarified that no decisions about the operator have been made yet.)

“We need similar space to accommodate existing demand and will be seeking solutions to that problem using our available resources in one way or another,” Gordon told FFXnow. “So while we don’t know who might operate this venue, the idea of RCC doing so is not out of the question.”

Other options for an arts center could include a venue on county-owned land west of the Herndon Metro station or similar property in Reston Town Center North, according to the county.

Tammi Petrine, a Reston resident and community advocate on the Reston Planning and Zoning Committee, noted that residents of the tax district already pay a “huge tax” that can be “way too much of a burden” for residents.

While much of the discussion was dominated by funding options and overall cost, ArtsFairfax board chair Scott Cryer encouraged residents to step back and examine the overall economic and cultural benefit of the project.

“There’s a real positive economic impact that will be provided by a facility like this,” Cryer said.

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ArtsFairfax has expanded its residency program (via ArtsFairfax)

ArtsFairfax, the county’s designated arts agency, is expanding its artist residency program for 2022-2023 throughout the county.

Through a $55,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the residency program will place performing and visual artists at county parks, libraries, schools, community centers, and affordable housing complexes.

“Everything we do to increase access to the arts is rooted in the belief that meaningful arts experiences are transformative for all of us, regardless of age or lived experiences,” ArtsFairfax President and CEO Linda S. Sullivan said. “We are so grateful to the County agencies for their partnership in helping ArtsFairfax expand our reach into the communities that need it the most.”

ArtsFairfax started the residency program as an effort to improve access to artistic opportunities for marginalized communities throughout the county. It also provides education and community engagement training to professional local artists.

This year marks a return for the residency program, which limited activities after COVID-19 hit in 2020.

“In recent years because of Covid, we had a few virtual programs in senior centers and middle schools,” an ArtsFairfax spokesperson said. “In the year ahead, we will be in person at a broader range of locations reflecting the needs of areas identified by the County as being underserved in formal arts programming.”

For the 2022-2023 year, resident artists from a variety of disciplines will provide free, interactive programming at five different locations.

ArtsFairfax has partnered with the county’s public schools and library systems, Neighborhood and Community Services, the park authority, and nonprofit Wesley Housing for the program.

Participants will work alongside the artists, whose residencies range from one to four months.

“Arts and humanities go hand-in-hand to spark the imagination and nurture creativity. We’re thrilled to launch ArtsFairfax Artist Residencies at the John Marshall Library to inspire and engage the community with visual art,” Kevin Osborne, deputy library director of Fairfax County Public Library, said.

Registration for the artist residency at John Marshall Library in Rose Hill opens tomorrow.

Scollon, a visual artist based in Fairfax, said she sees art as a tool for promoting empathy and attested to the transformative impact of working with students.

“I’ve worked with all ages on creating carved ceramic relief tiles inspired by personal stories,” she said. “It has been remarkable and joyful to see middle school students participate so openly and to see older adults illustrate important memories and life events.”

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Fairfax County Executive Bryan Hill, Fairfax Poet Laureate Danielle Badra, and Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey McKay (courtesy AE Landes Photography)

Fairfax County has a new ambassador for poetry.

Danielle Badra will serve as the second Fairfax Poet Laureate through 2024, leading a program to bring poetry-related activities to local parks, ArtsFairfax shared yesterday.

Introduced by the arts agency in 2020, the poet laureate is intended to celebrate poetry and promote the art form to new audiences through a community service project and events. The title was first bestowed on “How to Prove a Theory” author Nicole Tong for the inaugural 2020-2022 term.

“The Fairfax Poet Laureate is a remarkable example of how support to a single artist can impact the whole County,” ArtsFairfax President and CEO Linda S. Sullivan said in the news release. “Danielle’s vision to bring poetry to the parks is inspired, and we’re as excited to learn from her as we are thrilled to share her work with the Greater Fairfax community.”

Badra was selected by a six-person panel of Tong, Maryland Poet Laureate Grace Cavalieri, Poetry Daily Managing Editor Gregg Wilhelm, Beltway Poetry Quarterly Editor Kim Roberts, Fall for the Book Festival Director Kara Oakleaf, and Anya Creightney, a programs specialist for the Library of Congress Poetry and Literature Center.

The panel considered applicants’ proposed community projects, their professional activities, and the artistic merit and impact of their work, according to Arts Fairfax.

“Grace Cavalieri emphasized that Dani’s style of poetry and delivery allows her to be vulnerable, warm, friendly, and accessible, which in turn helps her meet people where they are in their poetry journey whether they are new to the form or avid fans,” the agency told FFXnow.

A Clifton resident who works as a technical writer for the county’s Land Development Services, Badra sees the poet laureate position as an opportunity to share her love of poetry with the community.

“Poetry is one of those subjects that a lot of people learn in school and never want to learn again. And I want to change that,” she told FFXnow by email. “Poetry is inspirational, it is healing, it is empowering. I want to share that with the community.”

An ArtsFairfax spokesperson says that while the selection panel was aware that Badra had a county government job, it “was not a factor in their selection,” though they saw a “potential benefit of having representation of a poet who does not work in academia.”

Originally from Kalamazoo, Michigan, Badra has published two collections: “Dialogue with the Dead,” which was published in 2015 and dealt with the loss of her sister, and “Like We Still Speak,” which won the 2021 Etel Adnan Poetry Prize, according to her website.

The $1,000 prize is awarded annually by the University of Arkansas to a writer of Arab heritage for their first or second book of poetry in English. Badra is of Syrian and Lebanese heritage.

She obtained a bachelor’s degree in creative writing from Kalamazoo College and a master’s of fine arts degree from George Mason University. The latter program also counts Tong as an alum.

Badra told GMU that her “Poetry in the Parks” project reflects her enthusiasm for the outdoors and nature — a source of “poetic inspiration” for her.

“Poetry in the Parks looks to not only provide inspiration for creative expression but to also advocate for environmental stewardship,” Badra told FFXnow.

Her plans for the next two years include poetry readings, workshops, a “Poetry Beneath the Stars” event, and “poetry plaques” that will display a poem and prompt at scenic stops around local parks.

The plaques will specifically appear at Riverbend Park, Huntley Meadows Park, Burke Lake, and Ellanor C. Lawrence Park. A QR code will let visitors upload their own writings.

Readings during National Poetry Month, which comes in April, will likely be held at Ellanor C. Lawrence in Chantilly, she said.

“My experiences in life and in the literary world directly inspire my vision for the next two years as Fairfax Poet Laureate,” Badra said in a statement to ArtsFairfax. “Through poetry workshops, readings, and activities in the Parks, I want to illuminate how language and our natural environment can be a source of comfort and creativity.”

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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: Read More

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Tysons Corner Center is now home to one of three “LOVE” signs in Fairfax County (courtesy Tysons Corner Center)

Local artists could get their work seen by tens of millions of people under a new partnership between Tysons Corner Center and Fairfax County’s official arts agency.

Property owner and developer Macerich announced yesterday (Tuesday) that it has teamed up with ArtsFairfax on an initiative to enlist individual artists and groups “to activate several spaces” in the mall with temporary installations.

The selected artwork will be on display for at least eight weeks, according to the press release:

The goals for this initiative are to create unique and interactive art environments, echo Tysons Corner Center as a contemporary and creative destination, and most importantly, to showcase the talents of local artists and arts organizations.

This unique collaboration will enable the more than 22 million yearly visitors who explore Tysons Corner Center’s retail and entertainment offerings to discover the diversity, creativity, and quality of visual artists from the Fairfax region.

The submission period opened on July 7, and contracts will be awarded on a rolling basis through Dec. 31, according to ArtsFairfax.

Applications can be filed through ArtsFairfax’s website, but they’re being evaluated solely by Macerich.

Tysons Corner Center also announced yesterday that it has recently acquired a permanent installation: a 6-foot-tall, 7,000-pound “LOVE” sign.

The sign comes from the Virginia Tourism Corporation as part of its ongoing “LOVE works” campaign, which has placed more than 300 similar signs across the state. The Tysons Corner Center sign will be just the third in Fairfax County, joining displays at Reston Station and the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton.

“The steel display features a uniquely designed ‘V’ that represents the shopping center,” Tysons Corner Center said in the press release. “This installation also has a QR code in which, upon scanning, visitors will learn about tourism in Fairfax County and things to do in the surrounding area.”

The mall says the installation was funded with a grant from the VTC’s DRIVE Tourism 2.0 plan, which is the state’s blueprint for promoting travel and tourism, and “was made possible through a partnership with Visit Fairfax and Virginia Tourism.”

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A visitor walks into Capital One Hall in Tysons (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

For a second year in a row, ArtsFairfax will hold its annual celebration of the local arts community on Oct. 28 at Capital One Hall, which also happens to be one of this year’s award recipients.

The Tysons performing arts venue will receive the Jinx Hazel Arts Award, the top honor from ArtsFairfax, the nonprofit Fairfax County arts agency announced last Tuesday (May 17).

The 2022 Arts Awards will also honor philanthropists Gary and Tina Mather, actor and former Reston Community Center assistant technical director Mark Brutsché, and George Mason University’s Fall for the Book festival, which will get a new Innovation Award.

“We are delighted to honor the remarkable contributions of this year’s Arts Awards honorees, who have all demonstrated a deep commitment to our community and to making Fairfax arts and culture more accessible,” ArtsFairfax President and CEO Linda Sullivan said in the news release.

According to ArtsFairfax, the awards ceremony draws approximately 300 patrons every year. The 2021 awards were among the first events hosted by Capital One Hall, which opened on Oct. 1 at 7750 Capital One Tower Road.

Proceeds from the awards support the nonprofit’s activities, which include artist residencies, grants, promotion of local arts and cultural organizations, and advocacy for the arts.

ArtsFairfax announced on Thursday (May 19) that it had received a $55,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to expand its artist residency program, which currently places professional artists in middle schools across the county to help educate students.

With the grant, the nonprofit says it will bring artists to a public elementary school, a public library, a county park, a community center, and an affordable housing development.

“By placing professional artists in communities with less access to arts, artists in residence can share their art form and spark creativity for participants of all ages,” ArtsFairfax said.

Here’s more from ArtsFairfax on this year’s Arts Awards recipients: Read More

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Kids gather at Lake Fairfax Park for a day of fishing on Saturday, April 2, 2022 (via Fairfax County Park Authority)

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors agreed yesterday (Tuesday) to advance proposed spending adjustments to help its park authority, ArtsFairfax and nonprofits.

County leaders approved the changes at a budget markup meeting, serving as a final step before the board adopts the final fiscal year 2023 budget on May 10.

The approved adjustments to the advertised budget, which was presented in February, include:

  • $751,954 and three new positions to support the Park’s natural resources sustainability efforts to help maintain the system’s actively managed acres
  • $250,000 for ArtsFairfax to supplement the organization’s existing grant program for the arts
  • $825,000 in additional funding for nonprofits to cover contract rate increases for direct health and human service providers
  • $6.1 million for a salary increase for certain public safety workers
  • Removal of an additional six positions and a decrease of $804,258 in funding that was initially proposed in the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney

“Fairfax NAACP is pleased to see the [Board of Supervisors’] recognition of the importance of parks shared extensively in their pre-markup plan,” Lydia Lawrence, the organization’s environmental and climate justice lead, said in an email to FFXnow.

The park authority had wanted $5 million to reduce financial barriers to certain fee-based amenities, such as golf courses and the RECenters. The $500,000 allocated to the equity program will stay the same as the advertised budget, but the budget markup suggests it could serve as a pilot for possible expansion in the future.

FCPA board members also expressed concern over how changes to a bond referendum cycle could affect capital projects.

“We are glad to see the BOS recommendation to meet FCPA’s natural resource ask,” Lawrence wrote. “While there were no changes to the County Executive’s proposed equity funding and bond movement, we trust the BOS’s commitment in the pre-markup plan to work closely with FCPA and the community to adequately fund FCPA’s future capital improvements and equity projects.”

Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said the board will still support capital projects, such as planned Audrey Moore and Mount Vernon RECenter renovations.

ArtsFairfax President and CEO Linda Sullivan said the arts agency wants to be able to better serve the 200-plus nonprofit arts organizations that are still striving for recovery following the sector’s mass closures, staff reductions and income loss during the pandemic.

“With the County’s additional funding, we hope to reach those organizations who have not benefited from past emergency relief funding, as well as arts organizations who represent historically underserved or economically disadvantaged areas of the County, and organizations who represent cultural traditions that reflect the diversity of County residents,” she said in a statement.

The budget markup process followed three days of public hearings on April 12-14, where community members expressed their opinions on issues from affordable housing to employee vacancies.

Other changes include a reduction in the machinery and tools tax from $4.57 to $2 per $100 of assessed value. Supervisors said that would help small business and economic development.

The budget will also bring changes to employee compensation, county services and tax relief, most notably for real estate and vehicle assessments.

Photo via Fairfax County Park Authority

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