Business, Arts Seek Community Gains


How are the arts and business communities intertwined for the betterment of both Alexandrias residents and visitors? And how can that interdependency be enlarged and strengthened for the common good?

Those questions drew about 45 members of both factions, as well as some city political leaders, to the Torpedo Factory Arts Center Tuesday night to learn more about The Business Side of the Arts: Behind the Scenes. 

A joint effort by Friends of the Torpedo Factory Art Center and the West End Business Association, the discussion centered on the need for money, volunteer support and forming partnerships.
One of our main goals is to foster better communications between artists and residents, said Michael Jankowski, president of the FTFC. 

This meeting is just the type of thing we want our building to be available for, added Rosemary Covey, president of the Torpedo Factory Artists Association.

Serving as moderator for the evenings presentations, Linda Vitello, marketing and public relations manager of the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center, explained that the center, although an entity of Northern Virginia Community College, receives no money from them. Therefore, they engage in a number of fund raising activities, such as renting the center, to raise funds.

Joining her on the panel to present the business side of their organizations activities were Adrien Finlay, executive director of the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, and Linda Hafer, executive director of The Art League of Alexandria. Closing out the presentations was Deborah Tomkins Johnson, senior manager of state and local affairs for Dominion Power, which provides about $20 million annually to the arts in 15 states.

We are looking for organizations and functions that attract people to them because we want people to know that Dominion is interested in promoting the arts, Johnson told the audience gathered in the first floor of the Torpedo Factory.

We look for new organizations and new programs to help, she said, but we do need some history of a track record. Most organizations we give to are established but starting new programs.

That spirit of innovation was the essence of Finlays presentation. Emphasizing recent Symphony programs, Finlay said, We intend to continue innovative programming because we want to stand apart from other orchestras. But, we area at a critical junction we need to get more financial support.
He also noted that the Alexandria Symphony had to make substantial cuts in its present budget due to the loss of state funds which normally account for 15 percent of that budget. The ASOs 2008 budget was approximately $900,000, according to Finley.

We are developing partnerships to share expenses and revenues. We also have a huge need for volunteers, he said. Finlay and his assistant are the only two full-time employees of the ASO.
Hafer echoed Finlays call for developing partnerships between the arts and business communities. In 1998 the Art League began applying for grants and undertook a variety of fund raising activities, she said. The school is specifically not accredited so that it can be open to everyone. It is also very important for us to keep the school affordable to all potential students, Hafer said.

Prior to the presentations, a reception for attendees included a raffle prize drawing conducted by John Porter, executive director of Alexandria Community Trust, and Marian Van Landingham, founder of the Torpedo Factory Art Center.