New plan offers guidance for arts venues in Fairfax County

Capital One Hall in Tysons, one of Fairfax County’s newest arts venues (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

(Updated at 11:55 a.m.) Fairfax County has a new plan that could help inform arts venue development in the county for the next 20 years.

Adopted unanimously by the Board of Supervisors Tuesday (July 11), the 49-page Fairfax County Master Arts Plan: Facilities includes an inventory of the county’s arts venues, an examination of gaps in resources, options for funding new facilities and more.

Members of the county board said that, in the past, they have lacked some key information when trying to establish arts facilities.

“We were kind of operating under good guidance, but largely in the dark in terms of some of the technical components and what makes sense and where you do these in the county and in what types of communities, and so the work that the task force has done is amazing,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said.

The facilities plan takes into account the county’s strategic plan, adopted in October 2021. For example, its formulation involved “inclusive engagement,” which the facilities plan says was among the drivers of the strategic plan.

“Extensive analytical data was collected through interviews and personal discussion with a wide range of arts and community leaders, as well as residents of both majority and minority ethnic or racial makeup,” the facilities plan reads.

The facilities plan also aligns with One Fairfax, which is the county government and school board’s racial and social equity policy.

“Equity and diversity goals should be paramount in the development of venues that will support arts activities from ethnically diverse perspectives and approaches,” the plan reads.

Among the plan’s recommendations is an expansion of “support facilities,” which could include vacant buildings converted for temporary arts use and storage facilities for costumes, props and scenery.

A consultant’s study conducted in 2019 as part of the plan found that cost is the top consideration for local arts organizations when they decide what venues to use, leading many to go outside of the county or utilize facilities like churches and community centers that aren’t designed for the arts.

Marketing organizations, venues and specific events is also a challenge, tending to be “cost-labor-time intensive and drastically underfunded.”

Following Capital One Hall’s opening in Tysons in 2021, new venues have been proposed for Fairfax City, Reston, Falls Church City, Chantilly, and the Herndon area, among other sites.

The report also outlines funding possibilities for capital projects, including bond referendums, an entertainment tax and private donations.

The facilities plan came out of work by the Master Arts Plan Task Force, which formed in 2009. Before the board adopted the  plan Tuesday, it passed a resolution recognizing the task force “for their achievements.” Members of the task force, including chair Leila Gordon, attended the meeting.

Gordon gave a presentation about the plan to the board’s economic initiatives committee in March. Even as the board accepted the plan at Tuesday’s meeting, members and Gordon noted the plan’s status as a “living document.”

“Now we have a solid plan for supporting the wonderful array of arts venues already available in Fairfax County as well as to realize the venues of the future that will continue to provide encouragement to artists and welcoming spaces for all to enjoy,” Gordon said at the meeting. “This is a living plan designed to achieve our goals while responding to change.”

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