The Fairfax County Park Authority has officially opened the door for an arts building at Clemyjontri Park in McLean.
The park authority board voted unanimously on Jan. 12 to revise the Clemyjontri master plan to include an arts center or a similar community-serving facility as an option for its next phase of development.
“The revision gives the park authority the flexibility in how Clemy may be further developed,” Timothy Hackman, the board’s Dranesville District representative, said. “If in fact it is, it creates the potential for new and exciting opportunities for the community and the county.”
FCPA initiated the master plan revision process in December 2020 after the nonprofit McLean Project for the Arts unveiled a proposal earlier that year for an arts center at Clemyjontri, which is best known for its colorful, accessibility-focused playground.
Originally adopted in 2002, the park’s master plan breaks its development into three phases. The first phase involved the construction of the playground and main parking lot in 2006, and it was followed by the addition of a secondary parking lot and trails in 2019.
Under the newly revised plan, the county has two options for the third and final phase:
- A local history museum or a meeting and event space in the former home of Adele Lebowitz, who donated the property to the park authority
- A new arts center building
If the arts center comes to fruition, the plan calls for the Lebowitz house to be preserved, an overflow parking lot to accommodate larger evening events, and outdoor amenities, such as a gazebo, outdoor classrooms, and a gathering area with gardens.
The building itself will have space for social events, galleries and exhibitions, and classrooms, FCPA senior landscape architect and project manager Doug Tipsword told the Park Authority Board’s planning and development committee prior to the vote.
Tipsword noted that park authority staff heard some concerns at community meetings about the proposed facility’s size, visibility from residential neighborhoods adjacent to the park, and potential noise and traffic impacts.
The master plan dictates that existing trees on the north side of the Lebowitz house be preserved as a buffer and new evergreen shrubs planted on the park’s east and west sides.
In response to questions about the arts center’s size, county staff revised their presented design to emphasize that it’s conceptual, not a literal representation of what the building will look like.
“Specific details on facility design, usage, hours of operation, those kinds of things are reviewed and approved via separate public processes prior to development,” Tipsword said.
Now that the master plan revision has been approved, the park authority has to submit a more concrete proposal to the county’s planning department and go through the special exception and public facilities review processes, which both require public hearings.
While MPA is the most likely candidate to operate the arts center, the park authority will consider other possible partners as well.
“I think the park authority, to give everybody some comfort, will in fact analyze any such proposals thoroughly and will be sensitive to any overall community interests that may be expressed,” Hackman said.
Map via Fairfax County Park Authority
The McLean Project for the Arts will give community members an opportunity later this month to hear from the artists behind its current exhibitions.
Scheduled for 7 p.m. on Jan. 20, the virtual artist talk will include wood sculptors Emilie Benes Brzezinski, Rachel Rotenberg, Foon Sham, and Norma Schwartz, whose work is featured in the exhibit “Give and Take: Building Form” currently on display in the nonprofit’s Emerson Gallery.
Artist Sheila Crider will also participate. Her exhibition, “Intersectional Painting: Works by Sheila Crider,” occupies the Atrium Gallery.
Advance registration is required to receive a Zoom link for the talk.
Here are MPA’s descriptions of its winter exhibitions, which launched on Dec. 2:
Give and Take: Building Form (Emerson Gallery)
Featuring abstract wood sculpture by Emilie Benes Brzezinski, Rachel Rotenberg, Foon Sham and Norma Schwartz
Featuring dynamic abstract sculptural works by four artists who work primarily in wood, this exhibit will explore each artist’s personal vision along with their methodology of making. By employing varying degrees of adding and subtracting material-laminating or carving, sawing and sanding-these artists build form by either giving or taking away. With this mind, process is highlighted, understood and demonstrated with an eye towards clarifying the genesis and emergence of form.
Intersectional Painting: Works by Sheila Crider (Atrium Gallery)
Artist Sheila Crider will exhibit works from an on-going series that combines painting, drawing, braiding, stitching and weaving to create three-dimensional abstract forms. Through these works, which are both beautiful and evocative, Crider has found an inventive and original process that enables her to visually explore multiple intersections between material, place, tradition, race, gender, history, culture, narrative, art, painting, object and picture.
The exhibits will remain available for viewing both in person and online through Feb. 19. The Emerson Gallery is open to visitors from 1-4 p.m. on Tuesdays through Fridays and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.
Both galleries are located in the McLean Community Center (1234 Ingleside Avenue), which requires all visitors to wear face masks. The exhibitions are also limited to six viewers at a time to encourage social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to MPA’s website.
The Fairfax County Park Authority has opened a 30-day public comment period on its draft plan to allow an arts center at Clemyjontri Park in McLean.
The comment period commenced Thursday night (Oct. 28) with the county’s first public meeting on the proposal since it kicked off the Clemyjontri Park master plan revision process in December.
Possibly the first exclusively in-person public meeting that the park authority has held during the COVID-19 pandemic, the gathering at Franklin Sherman Elementary School was subdued, with county staff appearing to outnumber members of the general public.
The community members in attendance, though, seemed open to the idea of an arts center, albeit with some wariness regarding its potential size and noise and parking impacts.
“As long as there’s screening, the building isn’t too tall, and it stays within the walkway boundary, I’m okay with it,” said a man who lives adjacent to Clemyjontri on the west side. He noted that the park “has been a great neighbor so far.”
Another McLean resident stressed that he’s “not against the arts” but fears the building could end up being too large for the 18.5-acre park, crowding out the families who use its unique playground.
“I just don’t want to see us do something to the park that we’ll regret,” he told Tysons Reporter after the meeting.
The master plan revision focuses on the last of three development phases planned for Clemyjontri Park.
With second phase completed in 2019, the third phase in the current plan calls for the existing house and gardens to host a local history museum or community meeting and event space. It also suggests adding a “small parking area” for event staff and people with disabilities.
Under the revised plan, the house would still be preserved and refurbished, but phase three would instead focus on a new arts center with gallery, studio, and classroom spaces and outdoor amenities, such as a courtyard with gardens for events and a gazebo.
The draft also proposes an overflow parking lot to accommodate increased demand from the arts center as well as tree and shrub plantings to enhance the buffer to adjacent properties and maintain the park’s “natural setting.”
Presented to the Park Authority Board on Oct. 22, the draft plan adheres closely to what was proposed in December, but FCPA staff made a couple changes, including specifying that the plants used for buffering be evergreens in response to public feedback.
“The master plan is for the most part conceptual in detail,” FCPA senior landscape architect and project manager Doug Tipsword said. “However, in this case, clarifying evergreen plants rather than deciduous plants is an important detail for ensuring the intent to mitigate sound and visual impacts has a year-round effect.”
Staff also added a provision for public art, sculpture, and seating along Clemyjontri’s perimeter trails “to further enhance the natural trail experience,” according to the draft. Tipsword says that idea grew more out of refining the conceptual design than as a direct response to public input.
After the public comment period ends around Nov. 27, county staff will revise the draft plan again based on the new feedback before presenting a final plan to the FCPA board for its approval, which could potentially come in January.
If the revisions are approved, the park authority says it will be able to develop a more detailed plan for the development as it goes through the county’s public facilities review and special exception processes.
The county could also start looking for partners to manage the arts center. As the group behind the proposal, the McLean Project for the Arts would be a likely candidate, but it’s not guaranteed, Tipsword says.
“I am thrilled that this proposal has made it to this point,” Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said. “It is not a done deal…Personally, I hope we’re able to work this out, because I believe it would be a very positive thing.”
A new website called McLean Today launched last week with the ambitious aim of being a one-stop shop for all things related to events, activities, and shopping around McLean.
The website is a Voltron-like collaboration of several local groups: the McLean Citizens Association, the McLean Chamber of Commerce, the McLean Community Center, the McLean Revitalization Corporation, the McLean Planning Committee, and the McLean Project for the Arts.
“McLean residents and visitors looking for dinner, a local activity, a special gift or a hard-to-find item will find their search simplified by using the recently released McLean Today website,” a press release from the site said. “McLean Today, the collaborative effort of several local community organizations, is a new one-stop site to find many of the activities, events, goods and services that are close to home.”
The site’s lead organizer is local resident Kim Dorgan, who is also on the board of directors for the McLean Revitalization Corporation.
“McLean Today is your go-to source for the latest information on the activities and events, goods and services offered here in our hometown,” Dorgan said in the press release. “There is so much great information out there about what McLean has to offer, but there has been no central source to find what is offered day-in and day-out. With McLean Today, you can find what you need close to home in one place with a single search.”
The site has a selection of local dining options categorized by type. According to the press release, there are over 40 food and drink outlets listed on the site, as well as 100 businesses within walking distance or a “short drive” from McLean.
The McLean Today website launches even as Fairfax County works to do more on a planning and policy level to revitalize McLean’s downtown. The press release also notes that the impact of COVID-19 on local businesses played a role in inspiring the website’s creation.
“The aim of McLean Today is to provide a list of activities and events in one place that have community-wide impact and are of interest to the general public,” Dorgan said. “While its primary focus is the economic center of McLean in the downtown corridor, it will include activities and events throughout all of greater McLean.”
The Weekly Planner is a roundup of interesting events coming up over the next week in the Tysons area.
We’ve searched the web for events of note in Tysons, Vienna, Merrifield, McLean, and Falls Church. Know of any we’ve missed? Tell us!
Monday (Sept 27)
- Free Movie Mondays — ShowPlace ICON Theatre (1667 Silver Hill Drive) — The movie theater at The Boro continues to offer free movie passes every Monday. Tickets must be reserved in person day of show and are available one hour before showtime.
Tuesday (Sept. 28)
- 123 Andrés — 6-6:50 p.m. at Alden Theatre at McLean Community Center (1234 Ingleside Avenue) — The Spanish-speaking duo will give a free performance and teach children about rhythm and musical instruments. Registration is required.
- “I Love You More Than Coffee: Essays on Parenthood” — 7-8:30 p.m. at Patrick Henry Library (101 Maple Ave. East) in Vienna — Author Melissa Face describes the rollercoaster of emotions that parents face in her debut collection of essays. Books available for sale and signing.
Friday (Oct. 1)
- Sean McConnell at Wolf Trap — 8 p.m. at The Barns (1635 Trap Road) — He’s crafted songs for Brad Paisley, Christina Aguilera and more, but now, the Nashville insider has some new songs of his own after releasing another album last month that showcased his signature folk and country music. Proof of a vaccination or negative test for COVID-19 is required. Gates open at 6:30 p.m., and tickets start at $27 plus fees.
- An Intimate Evening with Josh Groban at Capital One Hall — 8 p.m. at Capital One Hall (7750 Capital One Tower Road) — Tysons’ newest performance venue, tied to Capital One’s headquarters, hosts the Tony-nominated singer as its first performer. Tickets start at $89 plus fees.
- Sunset Cinema — 7:45-10 p.m. at Cherry Hill Park (312 Park Ave.) — Falls Church City’s outdoor movie series finishes its one-month fall run with “A League of Their Own.” Visitors are encouraged to grab blankets, bring picnics, and/or enjoy snacks, drinks, and popcorn for sale.
Saturday (Oct. 2)
- McLean 5K Run — 8 a.m. start at McLean Square (6627 Old Dominion Drive)– The annual race for runners of all abilities will span parts of Old Dominion Drive, Chain Bridge Road, and other local streets. Pre-registration is currently $45. Proceeds benefit the nonprofit McLean Community Foundation. Packet pickup is at 1440 Chain Bridge Road.
- Vienna Oktoberfest — 11 a.m.-7 p.m. on Church Street — The Town of Vienna’s annual celebration returns after a year off with beer, entertainment, vendors, and kids activities. Free admission.
- Damien Jurado with Okkervil River opening at Wolf Trap — 8 p.m. at The Barns (1635 Trap Road) — The two songwriters make their debut at this intimate venue, giving audiences a taste of their different indie folk styles. Proof of a vaccination or negative test for COVID-19 is required. Gates open at 6:30 p.m., and tickets start at $27 plus fees.
Sunday (Oct. 3)
- MPAartfest — 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at McLean Central Park (1468 Dolley Madison Boulevard) — Artists, musicians, and food vendors come together for the McLean Project for the Arts’ 15th annual showcase for visual artists from across the mid-Atlantic region.
Photo via Abby Gillardi/Flickr
Work by dozens of artists from across the mid-Atlantic region will soon be on display at the McLean Community Center, courtesy of McLean Project for the Arts.
The local visual arts-focused nonprofit announced on Wednesday (Sept. 8) that it will introduce its latest exhibition “(Not) Strictly Painting” to the community center’s Emerson Gallery (1234 Ingleside Avenue) next Saturday (Sept. 18).
This will be the 13th iteration of the juried, biennial exhibition, which will include paintings and other kinds of art that’s somehow related to painting from 37 different artists. MPA says it is “one of the region’s most important painting exhibitions.”
“(Not) Strictly Painting will exhibit works by some of the most interesting and innovative artists currently active in the Mid-Atlantic region,” MPA Director of Exhibitions and Curator Nancy Sausser said in a statement. “The exhibit was expertly juried by Virginia Treanor and Foon Sham, a curator and an artist, respectively. Their choices will be displayed separately online and blended together in the gallery.”
A Virginia-based artist, Foon Sham also teaches art at the University of Maryland at College Park, while Virginia Treanor serves as an associate curator at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in D.C.
Once the exhibition launches, the MPA Emerson Gallery will be open for viewing from 1-4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays, though it will be limited to six visitors at a time to allow for social distancing.
MCC currently requires all visitors to wear masks that fully cover their mouth and nose while attending programs at its facilities in accordance with federal and local COVID-19 health guidelines. Fairfax County has been requiring masks for visitors and employees in county government facilities since Aug. 9.
“In addition, patrons are requested to do their best to observe six feet of social distance from other patrons as often as possible and to wash their hands often,” MPA said in its news release.
MPA will host a virtual opening reception for “(Not) Strictly Painting” from 7-8 p.m. on Sept. 23. A full list of the artists featured in the exhibition, which will run through Nov. 13, can be found on the nonprofit’s website.
After shifting to a virtual format last year, the McLean Project for the Arts will be back in person at McLean Central Park for its 15th annual MPAartfest, which will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 3
In addition to showcasing the for-sale work of visual artists with mini galleries and a juried contest, the free festival will feature food from local restaurants, a children’s art walk, and a full day of live music.
Announced on Wednesday (Sept. 1), the musical program curated by Veronneau guitarist Ken Avis will kick off at 10 a.m. with the Blues Alley Youth Jazz Orchestra and close with Caribbean steelpan musician Josanne Francis, whose set will start at 3 p.m.
The full lineup from MPA’s press release is below:
Blues Alley Youth Jazz Orchestra will kick off MPAartfest at 10:00 am*. Comprised of accomplished student musicians and directed by legendary jazz bassist Michael Bowie, this award-winning, 15-piece youth swing big band seeks to preserve and promote the big band jazz art form. Now in its third decade, the Orchestra has performed at DC’s leading venues.
Vocalist, pianist and guitarist Sheyda Do’a will perform with her band at 11:00 am. Blending sounds from across the globe into what she calls “melodies for the soul,” Do’a draws on her multicultural heritage and her upbringing in Albania to create music that inspires across cultures and generations. Do’a was selected in 2020 to the prestigious Strathmore Artist in Residence program.
Nataly Merezhuk’s Hot Band takes the stage at 12:00 noon. Originally from Russia, Nataly has made her way from the Moscow Conservatory all the way to the United States’ Peabody Conservatory. Influenced by the sounds of Stéphane Grappelliand Svend Asmussen, Merezhuk brings her beautiful, classical tone to the world of hot jazz and swing.
At 1:00 pm, Project Locrea brings international harmonies to the MPAartfest Music Stage. Project Locrea is an all-star international collective featuring musicians from China, Argentina, Ethiopia, Bulgaria, Peru… and even the USA. With vocals and traditional instruments, the band weaves an intriguing, multicultural tapestry of music with impact and appeal to all and a joyous onstage presence. Led by Bulgarian flute player Yana Nikol, the music reflects not only the band’s ethnic diversity but their backgrounds in multiple music genres. Locrea is a word invented to reflect their ethos of Love and Creation.
Italian vocalist and loop artist Irene Jalenti kicks off the 2:00 pm hour. A dynamic, soulful and passionate performer and composer, Jalenti delves deeply into the meaning of each song and brings drama and conviction to her performance with her naturally deep tone and an impressive wide range. Adept at scat singing and able to sing in five different languages, Jalenti connects with and delights a range of audiences.
Steelpan musician Josanne Francis will close out the MPAartfest Music Stage at 3:00 pm. Born and raised in the twin-island Republic of Trinidad & Tobago, Francis’s music blends together and draws influence from traditional Calypso music, jazz, Indian, funk, rock and classical music.
MPA says on its website that it is working with state and local officials to ensure the festival follows all COVID-19 health guidelines.
“The health and safety of our community, artists, and staff is our highest priority as we plan for the return to McLean Central Park for our 15th annual MPAartfest,” the nonprofit says. “We are working with state and local authorities, as well as following CDC guidelines, to ensure that we are in compliance with official policies as we develop COVID-19 protocols and procedures.”
MPA, which operates out of the McLean Community Center (1234 Ingleside Avenue), uses the funds raised by MPAartfest through sponsorships and donations to support the exhibitions, classes, and other programming it provides throughout the rest of the year.
Third COVID-19 Vaccine Dose Now Available — Fairfax County Health Department clinics can provide a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine to people who are fully vaccinated but whose immune systems have been compromised by certain medical conditions or treatments. The third dose is thought to boost the immune response and can be administered at least 28 days after the individual gets their second dose. [FCHD]
Law Firm Moves into Boro Tower — The law firm Williams Mullen announced yesterday (Monday) that it has moved about 30 attorneys and staff members into its new Tysons office at Boro Tower (8350 Broad Street, Suite 1600). The Boro’s developers said in May that the firm had leased 14,950 square feet on the office building’s 16th floor. [Williams Mullen]
McLean Project for the Arts Announces Fall Classes — “Registration is currently underway for fall art classes at McLean Project for the Arts (MPA). Autumn offerings include the return of many popular classes, as well as the debut of exciting new options. MPA will be holding fall classes both online and in-studio.” [MPA]
New Laws Take Effect in Virginia — A host of new laws passed by the General Assembly take effect today, including the legalization of simple marijuana possession, the abolition of the death penalty, and a requirement that drivers change lanes when passing bicyclists. The fine for littering is now $500, up from $250, and it is now illegal to intentionally release a balloon outside. [Patch]
MPAartfest Returns In Person This Fall — The McLean Project of the Arts announced yesterday (Wednesday) that its annual, free art festival will officially be back in person at McLean Central Park from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 3. The event will feature a one-day juried fine art and craft show/sale, food vendors, and more. It will also stream online. [McLean Project for the Arts]
Jones Branch Connector Awarded — “The Jones Branch Connector, a joint effort by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and Fairfax County to build a new crossing over the Capital Beltway in Tysons, has been named the 2021 National Project of the Year by the American Society of Highway Engineers.” [VDOT]
1st Stage Finds Success with Return to Live Theater — Almost 1,000 people attended 1st Stage’s Celebration at The Boro on Sunday (June 27), according to an email sent to supporters yesterday. The event, which centered on a concert reading of the musical “A New Brain,” was the Tysons theater’s first in-person production since February 2020 and raised $87,000 for the venue. [1st Stage]
Tysons Partnership Considers BID — The Tysons Partnership could become a business improvement district that would impose a tax to help fund its efforts to implement Fairfax County’s Tysons Comprehensive Plan. The district would be a first for the county, similar to what Arlington has around Amazon HQ2, but a majority of property owners would have to approve the tax. [Washington Business Journal]
Fairfax Connector Commits to COVID-19 Health Protocols — The bus system has joined the American Public Transportation Association’s Health and Safety Commitments Program, pledging to take “all the necessary measures to operate safely” as Fairfax County plans a recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The program commits transit systems to following public health guidelines, including cleaning protocols and mask requirements, and keeping passengers informed. [Fairfax Connector]
MPAartfest Submissions Open — The McLean Project for the Arts is seeking submissions for its 15th annual MPAartfest, a one-day, juried fine art and craft show featuring local and regional visual artists. This year’s festival will take place on Oct. 3 in McLean Central Park. The deadline to submit work is June 15. [McLean Project for the Arts]
McLean Teen Organizes Church Food Drive — “A 14-year-old from McLean, Virginia, is making an extraordinary difference in her community by helping hundreds of families who need some extra help during the pandemic…[Sophia] Sears’ efforts were done in conjunction with St. John’s Episcopal Church.” [WTOP]