Despite quality programming and growing support, Arlington County’s arts center, Artisphere, is set to close its doors this summer. The closure is considered a significant blow to the local arts community and the surrounding economy. (WCP, 5/7)
What went wrong? If Artisphere had been judged on the quality of its programming, the enthusiasm of its attending audiences, and its steadily growing numbers, it would be here to stay. But in her closure announcement, [Arlington County Manager Barbara] Donnellan focused on Artisphere’s current and future dependence on taxpayer support. “In the current fiscal environment,” she said, “I cannot advise we continue.” Artisphere had not met the county’s financial or attendance goals, and that came with a consequence: the withdrawal of the funds taxpayers contribute to the venue’s operation. Donnellan did not plead poverty or say that Arlington was unable to fund Artisphere; instead, she emphasized that the venue was “money-losing.”
It’s not uncommon for a public cultural center, if it has become too much a financial burden for the local economy to bear, to be deemed an extraneous service and shut down. Still, Artisphere’s success was not measured by the visual and performing arts programming it has provided but by quantitative outcomes weighed against faulty and unrealistic projections. A publicly funded cultural center tasked with servicing the community should not be evaluated according to its revenue-generating abilities. Arlington County is treating Artisphere like an amusement park or corporate movie theater rather than the only accessible, common space of cultural identity in a large, diverse, resource-rich county.
PHILANTHROPY/RACIAL EQUITY | Racial inequality has been at the forefront of the news recently, presenting an urgent challenge for foundations to help tackle systemic issues. Many philanthropic organizations are taking a broad approach to reach a lasting solution. (Chronicle, 5/7)
COMMUNITY | Whitman-Walker Health, a nonprofit health organization that partners with the Washington AIDS Partnership, will relocate to a new, modern healthcare facility this spring. (WCP, 5/7)
GENDER EQUITY/MARYLAND | According to a new annual report, the number of companies in Maryland with no women in executive positions or on boards increased for the first time in three years. The number of women in leadership positions throughout the state also falls behind the national average. (WaPo, 5/6)
HOMELESSNESS | Meet the outsider who accidentally solved chronic homelessness (WaPo, 5/6)
– In an effort to learn more about the needs of D.C.’s young adult residents, and to prevent the unrest that has recently played out in a number of American cities, Mayor Bowser plans to hold a Youth Engagement Forum. (WaPo, 5/7)
– Is Ward 8 “underserved” or undervalued? (CHOTR, 5/6)
AGING | How to build livable communities for older people: report (WaPo, 5/6)
EDUCATION | Opinion: Tuition free or not, are the nation’s community colleges well-equipped enough to be able to provide a viable solution to growing inequality? (WaPo, 5/6)
In the 1980s and 1990s, talking dolls were all the rage. But a century prior, they were just about the creepiest thing you’ve ever heard.