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It wasn’t a washout, but the Alexandria Old Town Springtime Art Festival was a little less busy than expected due to the rain.

On Saturday and Sunday (May 14 and 15) the festival featured dozens of artists at the John Carlyle Square outside of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (600 Dulany Street).

The next art festivals are the 20th Annual Alexandria Old Town Art Festival on September 17 and 18, followed by Art On The Avenue on October 1 in Del Ray.

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The Alexandria Old Town Springtime Art Festival is, despite the name, headed for the heart of the Carlyle neighborhood this weekend.

The art festival is scheduled for Saturday (May 14) and Sunday (May 15) from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. The art festival will be held at the John Carlyle Square outside of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (600 Dulany Street).

“Alexandria is recognized as one of the country’s premier artistic hubs,” the website said. “All artwork is juried, which provides a higher level of quality, diversity and creativity of art on display, exemplifying the gifted artists in regions from all over the country.”

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Zeina Azzam is Alexandria’s next Poet Laureate. (Via Zoom)

Palestinian American Zina Azzam has been chosen as Alexandria’s poet laureate, and will take over the post filled three years ago by KaNikki Jakarta, who was honored with a proclamation on Tuesday night (April 5).

“I’m really delighted to be here and to I’m really honored to have this position,” Azzam told the Alexandria City Council. “I’ve got big shoes to fill and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Azzam is a volunteer with Grassroots Alexandria and is the author of poetry collection “Bayna Bayna, In-Between“. She has a master’s degree in Arabic literature from Georgetown University and her professional credits include stints as the publications editor at the Arab Center Washington D.C., senior program manager for

Mayor Justin Wilson presented outgoing Poet Laureate KaNikki Jakarta with a proclamation honoring her for her work over her three-year term, which concludes at the end of April.

“You have been a wonderful poet laureate,” Wilson told Jakarta. “It seems like just yesterday that we were appointing you. I don’t know what the heck happened here in time, but you have been a wonderful ambassador for our city and just set the perfect tone for so many different events on so many different occasions.”

Jakarta wrote 25 poems in those three years, spoke at numerous annual events and conducted poetry workshops.

“Thank you very much for appointing me to be poet laureate,” Jakarta said. “It’s been very interested in these Covid times, being able to pivot. It has been an honor to honor other people before me and to bring history and words to that.”

Azzam was chosen by a literary task force made up of representatives from the Alexandria Library, a local book store, the Alexandria Transit Company, and the Office of Historic Alexandria. If unable to fulfill her three year term, the task force recommended that poet Elias Yabarow act as an alternate.

The poet laureate program began in 1979, and there have been seven poets to hold the position:

  • KaNikki Jakarta, 2019-2022
  • Wendi R. Kaplan, 2016-2019
  • Ryan Wojtanowski, 2016
  • Tori Lane Kovarik, 2013-2016
  • Amy Young, 2010-2013
  • Mary McElveen. 2007-2010
  • Jean Elliot, 1979-1999

Photos via Zoom

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(Updated 7:15 p.m.) For a while now, there’s been a fairly straightforward trade between the City of Alexandria and developers: if you want more density, you need to build affordable residential units.

New development in Old Town North, however, has thrown a wrinkle into that system by opening up a second option. Now, developers can also get bonus density by opening up sections of new development to arts use — part of the city’s efforts to establish Old Town North as an arts district.

In theory, the two bonuses stack, trading greater levels of density for both arts and affordable housing. Housing advocates raised eyebrows when two of the initial developments only pursued the arts district bonus density, though newer developments have since pursued both types of density.

Karl Moritz, Director of Planning and Zoning for the City of Alexandria, told ALXnow the goal is to balance the two density trade-offs.

“There are multiple goals and objectives in every small area plan,” said Moritz. “[We’re] trying to balance objectives, and sometimes they aren’t competing, but sometimes they’re more competitive in the sense that everything takes money.”

Moritz said that if the standpoint is that housing should be a sole priority of new development, it would follow that density traded for anything else is space and funding taken away from housing.

“Are these conflicting goals? I think there are people with legitimate points of view on both sides of that question and I want to honor both perspectives,” Moritz said. “We are seeing both being maximized. That is at least a little bit of evidence that they are not competing so much as the market in Old Town North is strong enough that both are being maximized. But for anyone that feels affordable housing is a more urgent problem: that’s density that could have gone to affordable housing because they’re maximizing the affordable housing bonus.”

Moritz said the goal is to create a neighborhood that includes a variety of attributes, including both arts space and affordable housing. Part of that balance is ensuring that there’s not a significant cost difference between the two trade-offs.

“Our goal is, among other things, to make sure they are balanced so it’s not significantly cheaper over the long run to provide arts density bonus over affordable housing bonus,” Moritz said. “It is more expensive to provide affordable housing than an arts shell, but an affordable housing project gets up to 60% of rent whereas arts use is zero, so it costs more in the long term. We’re still looking at that issue.” Read More

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Morning Notes

A view from Shipyard Park along South Union Street (staff photo by Brandi Bottalico)

Mayor Asks Metro for Support During Closure — “Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson urged Metro in a Thursday letter to commit to city rail and bus service amid an announcement of extended closures, particularly on the transit agency’s Yellow Line.” [WTOP]

West Glebe Road Bridge Lane Closed — “Engineers have identified a structural issue with a bridge connecting Arlington County and Alexandria, prompting a lane closure.” [Patch]

Art Installation Opens at Waterfront Park — “The ‘I Love You’ art installation opened Friday morning at Waterfront Park, 1A Prince Street.” [Patch]

It’s Monday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 36 and low of 28. Sunrise at 7:00 am and sunset at 7:29 pm. [Weather.gov]

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The City of Alexandria is still mulling over what to do with the Torpedo Factory, but one way of paying for the expensive additions could lie in a program started under FDR.

At a meeting of the Waterfront Commission, representatives from the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership (AEDP) outlined one potential path to financing the Torpedo Factory overhaul as part of a “public real estate entity.”

Christina Mindrup, VP for commercial real estate at AEDP, said the partnership has been considering the creation of a new public real estate entity that could help “unlock new financial resources” to assist with arts development in Old Town North, some of which has been stalled and fallen behind the pace of attached developments.

Mindrup said that AEDP is working with the city to assess whether this public real estate entity could absorb the Torpedo Factory.

“AEDP working with city manager office to evaluate whether [Torpedo Factory Art Center] building could be included with assets financially managed by public real estate entity in Old Town North,” Mindrup said. “We’re now exploring options for expanding role of the real estate entity to include governance of TFAC.”

The topic of TFAC changing governance has been a touchy one, but Mindrup said the change could open up a new source of funding in the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) of Alexandria. The low range of cost estimates, essentially the “do-nothing” build with only the most basic of needed repairs and improvements, is still estimated at $16 million. Cost estimates for more substantial improvements range up to $41.5 million.

“For those who don’t know, the Industrial Development Authority has been around forever,” Mindrup said. “It’s been around back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It was used to help jurisdictions rebuild and put investment in the area.”

Specifically, Mindrup said the IDA can issue tax-exempt bonds to borrow at lower interest rates to fund improvements. It’s a program already in use at other developments, such as the hospital development at not-Landmark Mall.

“This would become a financing tool to help us fund improvements towards the Torpedo Factory,” Mindrup said. “It’s really just a low-interest loan that’s a tool for non-profits.”

AEDP leadership emphasized that the program is just one of several tools being considered, but AEDP President and CEO Stephanie Landrum said one benefit is it could be a revenue source outside of the already strained city budget.

“[We were] asked , as the city is looking at particular governance models, some of which might create a nonprofit or ownership of building not by the city, what models are available to finance improvements,” Landrum said. “There is a cost for improvements that needs to be made that is large and we do not have the money to pay for it. The only way we’ve been looking for that money is traditional CIP or city budget.”

Landrum said AEDP is examining changes to funding that could be made under a different governance model.

“We’re looking at: if the government model changed, could IDA funding be made available?” Landrum said.

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I Love You park design, via City of Alexandria

A new art project coming to Waterfront Park later this month is bringing a splash of pink to Old Town.

The project by Miami artists Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt was proposed last year and the city announced it will be officially unveiled on Friday, March 25.

The design is a bold choice for the more aesthetically conservative Old Town known more for red brick than kitsch. A painted pink and white carpet will take up much of the park space while “I Love You” shines from a sign in neon pink letters.

The new display is the fourth public art feature in Waterfront Park since the Mirror Mirror exhibit opened in 2019. The “I Love You” display is scheduled to remain in the park until Nov. 6.

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Performance at Classical Movement, image via Classical Movements

Fresh off an approval to expand their music venue, the concert series at Classical Movements (711 Princess Street) is planning to highlight the music of two countries in crisis.

One of the two concerts will feature music from Afghanistan, featuring a performance from a recently arrived refugee. The other will feature musicians from the National Symphony and the Washington National Opera/Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra in a fundraiser for Doctors Without Borders’ work in Ukraine, according to a release from Classical Movements.

On March 10, “Flamenco Guitar Meets Tabla” will have Afghan tabla-player Hamid Raouf Habib Zada — who escaped Afghanistan with his family in August 2021 — performing alongside flamenco guitarist and vocalist Wadih Ettabbakh.

There are two programs scheduled, one at 7 and one at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are available online.

“In the United States, he has been able to pursue his career as a performer on the tabla, the hand drums popular in India and throughout South Asia,” the release said. “Habib Zada’s own Hindustani classical musical tradition will intersect with Wadih Ettabbakh’s own fusion of flamenco and Moroccan styles, a musical journey from Spain to Afghanistan, from Morocco to India – complemented by a glass of Spanish wine.”

The second program is scheduled for Tuesday, March 22, and will be a “Concert for Ukraine.”

“In response to the tragedy unfolding in Ukraine, Classical Movements dedicates its 100th concert, the Spring Season Opening Concert on Tuesday, March 22, in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, featuring musicians from the National Symphony and the Washington National Opera/Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra,” the release said.

The program will feature Ukrainian musicians performing classical songs from Ukrainian composers.

“A portion of proceeds from ticket sales and the entirety of additional donations will be donated to ‘Doctors Without Borders’ in support of their relief efforts in Ukraine,” the release said.

There are two showings scheduled, one for 5 p.m. and one for 6:30 p.m. Tickets are available online.

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I Love You park design, via City of Alexandria

The new kitschy “I Love You” public art installation at Waterfront Park (1 Prince Street) is scheduled to be unveiled on March 25.

The new installation by Miami artists Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt features illuminated neon pink lights spelling out “I Love You” mounted on a 15-foot high display and will “bathe visitors in a soft pink hue,” a press release from the city described with an unusual touch of sensuality. The color scheme had earlier been described by Office of the Arts Director Diane Ruggiero as “Pepto-Bismol pink.”

“Below, a hand-painted ground mural of a pink and white carpet will define the space as an open room welcoming everyone,” the release said. “The unexpected and luminous social space will invite visitors to get lost for a few moments in this fictional realm.”

“I Love You” will be the fourth public art display in the park since the Mirror Mirror exhibit opened in 2019. The release noted that the City will be working with regional artists for more public art activations this spring that “respond” to “I Love You,” no word yet if any of those activations will say “I Know.

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There’s been some drama around the future of the Torpedo Factory, but applications are opening next month for local artists looking to get in ahead of those changes.

“The City of Alexandria will be accepting resident artist applications for studio space at the Torpedo Factory Art Center (105 N. Union Street) beginning March 1,” the city said in a press release. “Individuals or groups of up to four artists are invited to apply for the studio jury for a three-year lease in one of the available studios. The deadline to apply is April 19.”

All artists over 21 are eligible to apply. The fee is $45 for new applicants or groups, but the release says that will be waived for current resident artists and individuals for whom the fee is a barrier. Artists can apply for a three-year lease or can become an artist pro tem and eligible to sublease.

The application is followed by a jury examining the work of an artist studio, the background of artists, how they communicate about their art and other factors.

The jury process was one of the recommendations from a 2019 plan for improving vibrancy at the Torpedo Factory Art Center. For the first time, current artists will have to compete against new artists for spots in the Torpedo Factory, but they have a few advantages. The release said incumbent residents can apply at no cost and will be given priority access to their current studios if they score high enough to earn a studio and list it as their top choice. The release says by 2024, all resident artists will have been juried through the new system.

“This is the first time that re-jurying for current artists is occurring in the Art Center’s 48-year history,” the release said.

“For more information about this process, attend an instructional webinar on either March 30 at noon or March 31 at 7 p.m.,” the release said. “The webinars will allow prospective applicants to review the process with City staff and receive live answers to application-related questions.”

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