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After Half Century, McLean Arts Center Closes

 

Nearly 50 years ago, inside an old-time white framed building, Molly Vick founded the McLean Arts Center and McLean School of Ballet and Jazz. After five decades of serving as a hub for the arts in Northern Virginia, the center will close on June 1 due to the unavailability of funding.

“We are losing money and I tried to support [the center]. I had to mortgage my house last year to live and there’s no money so I had to sell it,” said Vick, founder and director of the center. “We should have gotten corporate funding. We never could get it, we needed a team to go out and get [funding].”

Since its inception, the center has sponsored programs in all styles of lyrical movement as well as visual arts. Under the direction of Vick, a well known dancer and choreographer, the school of ballet and jazz received wide recognition for its dance-dramas and ballets.

Vick studied dance at the School of American Ballet in New York. She has taught and directed in the Washington area for over 45 years. In 1983, the Virginia State Legislature passed a resolution honoring Vick for her contribution to the arts in the state.

“I wanted to have an art center where people from all the different arts could come together and exchange ideas and have a wonderful life,” Vick said.

Inspired by her interest in choreography, Vick purchased the center, a former church, to support creative pursuits among her students.

“We have produced many dancers that have become professionals. [The center] was just a wonderful place,” Vick said.

One of Vick’s most distinguished students includes Julia Moon, principal dancer and director of the Universal Ballet of Korea.

Vick said nonprofit arts businesses nationwide lack the resources to operate programs due to the lack of federal support funds.

“I think the arts are in bad shape anyway. People can’t afford it. All the schools are down and even the merchants selling dance wear clothes are down. America has to do better than this,” Vick said.

In fact, a large funding cut has been proposed to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). In 2007, NEA received a $20.3 million increase as part of the fiscal year 2008 budget. This year, President Bush requested a $16.3 million dollar decrease in funding for the agency.

Funding for arts and culture organizations is contingent upon state, local and private sources.

“Our school was way down. You can’t make it just with a $15 ticket. Some of our customers supported us, but we never had corporate funding,” Vick said.

According to Arts and Economic Prosperity, a national economic impact study on the nation’s nonprofit arts organizations and their audiences, the arts and culture industry generates government revenue, stimulates job growth and promotes tourism in cities with arts attractions.

Data collected from 94,478 attendees at a range of arts-related events reported that audiences’ spending generated an estimated $103.1 billion of valuable revenue for local merchants and their communities in 2005.

The McLean center has sustained its reputation for quality and creativity throughout the Washington metropolitan area. Notable alumni from the School of Ballet and Jazz included members of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Prima Ballerina of the International Ballet Company of Korea, the Royal Swedish Ballet and several small dance touring companies.

“The school is done. I got a little disillusioned and hurt by it all, but my daughter is going to teach. She’s looking for places to teach now,” Vick said.

Jennifer Vick, a professional jazz and ballet dancer and choreographer co-directed the School of Ballet and Jazz.

Currently there are no future plans for the center.

“The almighty dollar spoke and we had to do it,” Vick said.