Civic News

Why 100 local tech leaders are trying to save Arlington’s Artisphere arts center

Could the Rosslyn venue become a hub for the local tech scene?

Keeping the Artisphere open as is would cost Arlington County about $3.5 million each year.

(Photo by Flickr user steve loya, used under a Creative Commons license)

The Artisphere, an arts center and event space in Rosslyn, was set to shut down in June, a move that could save Arlington County about $2.5 million per year.

But Pete Erickson, an Arlington resident and the founder and CEO of  local wearables conference Modev, wouldn’t have it.
He started a petition among members of the “National Capital Region technology industry” to keep the Artisphere open, collecting about 100 signatures from technologists — including Fosterly founder Adam Zuckerman, iStrategyLabs CEO Peter Corbett and Tech.Co COO Jen Consalvo.
Besides hosting works by artists both obscure and famous like Frida Kahlo and Andy Warhol, the Artisphere is also a “unique” space where Erickson has organized dozens of events, including last fall’s Wearables + Things conference, he told DC.
It’s located in Erickson’s neighborhood, too. He is an Arlington resident, and “Modev started in a pizza shop in Rosslyn” he said. “It’s at our core where we started.”
The space cost the county $6.7 million when it was launched in 2010, according to the Washington Post. It has been running on an annual $3.4 million budget, including a $2.2 million shortfall, according to local paper The Connection.
Erickson sent out the petition to the Arlington County Board Friday and received a phone call back on the same day. “The letter actually worked, and we’re now actually having the discussion about the future of Artisphere,” he said.
He will meet Wednesday morning with the economic development team of the board, and is currently “lining up corporate partners” who will also attend, he said.
Erickson hopes to make the space sustainable by opening it up to corporate partners and making it a hub for startups, investors and stakeholder companies. “There’s a real demand for that kind of collaborative environment,” he said, citing D.C.’s 1776. “A growing demand for incubation.”


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