Editor: Most Loudoun residents believe in the importance of the arts in our community. Certainly, the hundreds of artist-entrepreneurs who live in Loudoun County are an economic force. According to the Federal Bureau of Economic Analysis, the arts employ more than 4.7 million workers nationwide, creating 4.23 percent of our domestic product.
Much more importantly, the arts are the glue that binds us all together. A dance or musical performance, or an experience journaling, or learning a craft, connects us to our history and prepares us for new ways of thinking. Public art projects transform urban environments in ways that bring people together. When we use the term “culture,” we are referring to these shared understandings, this “created community.”
This past year we saw the closing of some prominent cultural programs. The LAC’s Arts in the Village Cooperative Gallery lost its lease in January. A forty-year-old performing arts institution, the Bluemont Concert Series, also closed its doors this year. Other arts organizations are struggling to find performance space and keep afloat. In this environment, we are more determined than ever to fight for a role for the arts in the development of Loudoun County.
Scores of new construction projects are started here every year. As one of the most wealthy counties in the U.S., Loudoun seems to enjoy an embarrassment of riches when it comes to commercial development. It is indeed embarrassing to witness the small amount of attention paid to creative placemaking here compared to nearby Arlington, Fairfax, Prince William, Clarke, Shenandoah or Frederick counties.
Surrounding counties offer their residents several places to attend performances and make and view art. These facilities are funded a variety of ways, by crowdfunding, through dynamic partnerships between businesses, community groups, and non-profit organizations—and with local government support. This is something we can improve.
This year, we would like to join with all arts and community organizations in Loudoun to support our own local culture, and call for policy change. Arts facilities should have a central place in future development and redevelopment plans in Loudoun’s towns and urban areas. Monetizing every square inch of real estate won’t lead to lasting success. Strong communities have physical facilities dedicated to public life. We need those dedicated spaces in Loudoun.
It’s a big goal. We can’t do this alone. Most of our community arts groups are run, like the LAC, by just a handful of volunteers. The LAC, for example, has no paid staff. Everyone on the Board has—at least—one other job. These volunteers put in many hours supporting local arts organizations, recognizing and rewarding our young talent, managing grants, and creating new opportunities for working artists. Like other arts groups in Loudoun, we often feel like we are pedaling as hard as we can.
But, by coming together, with all of our various connections, we can have a much louder voice. In my last full year as Loudoun Arts Council president, I ask everyone to help create a new local arts coalition for this purpose. The arts deserve a place in our policymaking, and in our towns.
Jill Evans-Kavaldjian, President
Loudoun Arts Council