Local Commentary

Editorial: Huge Show of Support for Arts




What started out looking like a disaster for fledgling Falls Church arts organizations, trying to get a performing and visual arts center built in the City, turned into a major mobilization of leading citizens making the case for the program at the City Council meeting Tuesday.

As strong and forceful a case as could be made for the Council to live up to its $50,000 commitment to the center was presented by three former City Council members, including two former vice mayors, and respected leaders of a wide array of civic organizations.

Laura Hull, executive director of Falls Church’s Creative Cauldron non-profit arts mentoring association, who is the “point person” getting the arts center built, said she was pleasantly surprised by the depth and scale of support for the effort that showed up to speak to the City Council Tuesday night. It was not lost on the Council, which wound up voting unanimously, 6-0 (Dave Snyder absent) to reinstate the $50,000. This was in the face of news of tough economic times ahead, which initially led some on the Council to consider de-funding the program at a work session last week. The Council will have to provide a final approval in a follow-up vote in a few weeks.

Strong petitions underscored the significant, positive economic benefits of a thriving arts presence in any jurisdiction, adding that a focus on nurturing the arts exactly corresponds to the type of community many want Falls Church to become known for.

Two other compelling arguments dealt with the Council keeping its promise, and the ability of the arts center, at a low cost to the City, to ameliorate the consequences of severe budget cuts to school, after-school and other arts programs that are anticipated in both Falls Church and Fairfax County in the coming year.

Many argued that the Council was obligated to keep its promise for the $50,000, which it voted to provide in 2006. It was only due to a clerical oversight that the money was not carried forward into the current budget, since the arts groups had up to three years to use it.

While the threatened loss of the money, even though Creative Cauldron and Falls Church Arts had begun to spent it on the project, generated a lot of heartburn among arts proponents over last weekend, the net result, at least through Tuesday, was an unintended consequence. The value of the program was passionately underscored from many pillars of the Falls Church community, which was not lost on the Council. “Do you see who showed up to support this tonight?” Vice Mayor Hal Lippman commented. “These are the top and most committed leaders of this community.”

The resulting chorus of support, including confirming the project’s compliance with the City’s vision statement, provided a remarkable and unified affirmation for the City’s true, unique identity going forward.