When government works well, you don’t really notice it, and that’s the way it should be. Your trash gets picked up, clean water comes out of your tap, and streets are paved. All this is possible thanks to the many dedicated men and women who are working behind the scenes . . . for you.
Those of us who work in local government know that our jobs -- our real roles –- are to build our communities.
And while basic infrastructure –- water, sewer, streets, transportation, housing, etc. –- is an important part of community, many other aspects are vital to quality of life . . . including the arts. That’s why we have a robust arts program in Arlington.
The “incubator” program is part of our arts program, under which we support a number of small arts and theatre groups. In fact, Signature Theatre got its start as one of our incubator groups and it is now hailed as an outstanding regional theatre and has won a Tony Award!
In 2007, we built a library/theatre complex in the Shirlington neighborhood, to house Signature Theatre together with a County library branch, in a public/private partnership. The public plaza combines traditional/industrial feel with a more modern, open design that encourages social interaction. The plaza, the theatre and the library have all combined to anchor development in Shirlington and have created a wonderful sense of “place” there, providing economic benefits as well.
And in 2010, Arlington opened Artisphere, a 62,000 sq. ft. cultural campus that hosts several well-known arts groups, including WSC Avant Bard. Most recently, Artisphere was the first and only U.S. venue to host a remarkable collection of photographs from the life and loves of the famed artist Frida Kahlo. More than 13,000 people came to Artisphere to view this exhibit –- literally bringing thousands of visitors into our community.
My personal love of theatre comes from Cardozo High School in Queens, New York. I was a good student, but I really loved theatre and drama. I owe a lot to teacher Barry Marcus and his Drama class –- my favorite class!
Since we were fairly close to Manhattan, we were able to see dozens of Broadway shows. I also learned a lot about public speaking and delivery in Mr. Marcus’ class -- lessons that have served me well throughout my career. We could all do with a little more theatre in our lives –- it helps give us perspective and opens our hearts and minds to new possibilities. Theatre is fun, it’s enjoyable, and it challenges us. Theatre helps build community.
It’s really wonderful to work on something that has lasting effects on making great communities. Working in local government provides that opportunity every day. Come visit us in Arlington!
Barbara M. Donnellan is the County Manager of Arlington, Virginia. She is originally from Douglaston, Queens.