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Plans Unveiled for Art Campus at Clemyjontri Park in McLean

The Fairfax County Park Authority and the McLean Project for the Arts have revealed plans for an arts campus at Clemyjontri Park in McLean.

The meeting last Monday (Feb. 24) kicked off with a reception before presentations gave an overview of the park’s history and the current proposal, followed by a Q&A.

Adele Lebowitz and her family donated the property (6317 Georgetown Pike) to the Park Authority in 2000. The Park Master Plan was approved two years later, kicking off several phases of development that turned the park into a place to play for kids who use wheelchairs or who have sensory or developmental disabilities.

Now, MPA wants to expand its offerings, which are currently at the McLean Community Center, with an arts campus that will be intreated into, but distinct from, the park.

“We are thrilled,” Lori Carbonneau, MPA’s executive director, said during her presentation. “There is no art gallery in the world who wouldn’t love to have the 80,000 visitors that come to Clemyjontri each year at the front door steps of an art gallery.”

The campus would include galleries, studios, a creative outdoor space and turf parking at the end of the park closest to Route 123, Carbonneau said.

Of the three proposed galleries, one would be a blackbox space allowing for light installations, she said.

Carbonneau said that she is excited about combining the interests of people visiting for the park and for the arts campus — like a garden with native plants that can be used for dyes for fiber arts.

At the park, MPA tentatively plans to hold exhibits eight-12 times per year with 80-120 attendees and special events three times a year with 100-250 attendees. Carbonneau noted that two of MPA’s four largest events — MPA ArtReach and MPAartfest — would stay in their current locations.

“This new facility would build upon the existing visual arts programming currently provided by MPA through a public/private partnership with Fairfax County at the McLean Community Center,” according to the county.

As for the project’s costs, Carbonneau said that MPA has a roughly $1 million budget and will need to fundraise for the project.

Compass Nonprofit Consulting Group has given MPA an in-kind grant of $50,000 worth of consulting work, she said.

Of the roughly 10 people who commented at the meeting, a handful mentioned potential issues.

One person raised concerns about adding security measures like a gate to keep frisky teenagers away, while another said that standing water at one area might impact construction.

“We are aware of neighborhood concerns about evening music,” Carbonneau said, adding that parking is also a concern, which could get resolved by offering a bus.

As the process continues for the proposal, the plan will have to head to the county board for special exemption process and get reviewed by the Park Authority.

“We’re not starting from scratch in terms of a new master plan,” Ryan Stewart, the park planning supervisor for the Park Authority, said.

The entire process could take a year or more. Carbonneau said aiming for completion in 2022 for MPA’s 60th anniversary would be “aggressive.”

“It’s a fabulous combination of the space and nature,” she said.

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