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Community-sourced art: Arlington, Virginia example

There are many ideas about integrating art into the community. One idea is public art. Arlington County, Virginia provides an aggressive campaign for the arts that includes public art, and providing spaces and galleries in which local artists may produce and exhibit their work. It is all part of an overall strategy to leverage artists and creative professionals to enhance the quality of life and value in the community.

Ken Ashton
Arlington Arts Center, Summer 2013
James George

“The term public art properly refers to works of art in any media that have been planned and executed with the specific intention of being sited or staged in the physical public domain, usually outside and accessible to all. The term is especially significant within the art world, amongst curators, commissioning bodies and practitioners of public art, to whom it signifies a particular working practice, often with implications of site specificity, community involvement and collaboration. The term is sometimes also applied to include any art which is exhibited in a public space including publicly accessible buildings.”

Today’s story at the top of the New Year is about “community-sourced art,” emphasizing that the initiative has long standing roots in Arlington, Virginia. Arlington Arts Center (AAC) has been engaged for 40 years.

Laura Roulet is the independent curator for the 40th anniversary celebration exhibit.

“Laura Roulet is an art historian and independent curator with over 10 years of experience in the DC area. She has worked with museums and galleries including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Art Museum of the Americas, Hillyer Art Space, DC Art Center and Artisphere.”


AAC provided a robust description of the current exhibitions that surely entice art enthusiasts to visit the gallery and to share in the celebration of this wonderful community asset.

“CSA: Forty Years of Community Sourced Art Opens Jan. 22

Arlington, VA - To kick off a year-long 40th anniversary celebration, Arlington Arts Center will
unveil CSA: Forty Years of Community-Sourced Art on January 22. Curated by Laura Roulet, the exhibition celebrates 40 years of AAC's role as incubator of regional talent, both artistic and curatorial.

Featuring artists whose careers were launched at AAC, either through the residency program or exhibitions, CSA highlights veterans Ken Ashton, Martha Jackson-Jarvis, Soledad Salamé, Erik Thor Sandberg, and Foon Sham, alongside the more recent arrivals Tariq Tucker, J.J. McCracken, Nikki Painter, Alex Podesta, and Dane Winkler.

CSA includes site-specific outdoor sculpture, indoor installations, and new work in materials ranging from dry sod to a historic oak tree from the University of Maryland's College Park campus.

The outdoor public art works are designed to expose the inner workings of AAC while highlighting past and future talent supported by the arts center. Through CSA, Roulet highlights AAC's long standing support of regional arts by inviting these local luminaries to participate in the exhibition.

Roulet comments: "Without organizations like Arlington Arts Center, which provides studios, exhibition space, classes, and professional development, this region would not have the critical mass of artists choosing to stay and build their careers here. It takes a substructure to build a vibrant art community."

Artists included in the exhibition: Ken Ashton, Martha Jackson Jarvis, J.J. McCracken, Nikki Painter, Alex Podesta, Soledad Salamé, Erik Thor Sandberg, Foon Sham, Tariq Tucker, and Dane Winkler. The opening reception for CSA is Saturday, January 25 from 6 pm to 9 pm. The exhibition runs through April 13, 2014.

Alex Podesta, Self-Portrait as Bunnies (The Scientists), 2011. various materials. 108in x 32in x 36in

ADDITIONAL EXHIBITIONS: AAC will present two additional shows in conjunction with CSA: Forty Years of Community Sourced Art. In the Wyatt Gallery, Here and Now highlights the work of Arlington Art Center's twelve resident artists. The exhibition shows the diversity of artistic production taking place in AAC's studio spaces today. Artists included are: Si Jae Byun, Michele Colburn, Lee Gainer, Roxana Geffen, Hedieh Javanshir Ilchi, Becca Kallem, Bridget Sue Lambert, Pam Rogers, Rachel Schmidt, Katie Lynch Thibault, Jessica Van Brakle, and Alice Whealin.

In the Jenkin's Community Gallery, Arlington Arts Center: Building History features a timeline of the historic Maury School now home for nearly 40 years to Arlington Arts Center. The exhibition includes historic photographs and ephemera related to the building's rich architectural and social history. Originally the Clarendon Elementary School, the building was constructed in 1910 to serve the growing Clarendon neighborhood. The school was renamed in 1944 to honor Matthew Fontaine Maury (1806-1873), a naval officer, geographer, and oceanographer. The school closed in 1975 and the Arlington Arts Center moved there in 1976. The Maury School is a designated Arlington County Landmark and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

About Arlington Arts Center:

AAC's exhibitions and their attendant lectures, workshops, and panel discussions offer opportunities for dialogue, and ultimately serve to illustrate the value of contemporary art-specifically, what it is, how it works, and why it matters in our daily lives. Established in 1974, Arlington Arts Center (AAC) is a nonprofit contemporary visual arts center dedicated to presenting and supporting new work by regional artists. Through exhibitions, educational programs, and subsidized studio spaces, AAC serves as a bridge between artists and the community. AAC is housed in the historic Maury School, and boasts nine exhibition spaces, working studios for thirteen artists, and two classrooms. At 17,000 square feet, AAC is one of the largest non-federal venues for contemporary art in the Washington metropolitan area. For more information, visit or call 703.248.6800."

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