Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Four years later, Artisphere is still a bust - why?

In 2010, Arlington County, VA built a new arts space to replace what was once the Newseum (which is now in a new location in the District): Artisphere. This would be one of the first spaces of its kind in the area, and certainly one of the largest arts spaces in the county. Unfortunately, Artisphere did not live up to its expectations. Since its opening, Artisphere has failed to remain profitable and has consistently fallen short of its attendance and financial projections. It is clear that senior management at Artisphere was not able to translate or sustain Artisphere’s strategy, leading to an implementation failure.

When Artisphere opened, senior management wanted to open an “Arts Space for Everyone” (ARLnow, 2011), free of the constraints seen in Arlington’s theatres and museums. However, Artisphere failed to define what fell under “Arts” and who “Everyone” was, leading to much confusion. Marketing & Communications staff did not know how to target constituents, and there was a lack of direction in artistic programming.

In addition, Artisphere opened to the public long before it knew how to sustain its strategy. When Artisphere opened on 10/10/10, it hadn’t hired a Marketing & Communications Director or an Executive Director (Baca, 2011). Without these senior staff members, Artisphere was incapable of sustaining its strategy, and could only focus on trying to stay afloat. By the time senior management came on a few months later, it was too late – staff members had already established practices and were resistant to change.

Four years after its opening, Artisphere is still struggling to remain in the black and increase attendance. The Arlington Commission for the Arts has created a new long-range strategic plan with many recommendations for Artisphere, but it will be difficult for Artisphere to shed its reputation as a floundering, aimless endeavor.


Artisphere. Accessed April 22, 2014.

“Artisphere, Two Community Centers Could Be on Next Year’s Chopping Block.” ARLnow. February 22, 2013. Accessed April 23, 2014.

Baca, Alex. “Artispheric Ambitions: Did Arlington’s New Resident Arts Center Expect Too Much?” Washington City Paper. June 22, 2011. Accessed April 22, 2014.’s-new-resident-arts-center-expect-too-much/.

“DEVELOPING – Major Changes Proposed for Artisphere.” ARLnow. November 29, 2011. Accessed April 22, 2014.

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