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MEDIA ADVISORY                      Contact: Janet Kopenhaver, 703-528-6674

April 25, 2023                                 Email:

Embracing Arlington Arts Hosts Democratic County Board Candidate Forum on the Arts 

(Arlington, VA) – Six Democrats are running in the primary to fill two County Board seats due to the retirements of Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey. Embracing Arlington Arts recently hosted a Forum with all six candidates (Maureen Coffey, Susan Cunningham, Jonathan Dromgoole, Natalie Roy, Julius D. Spain and Tony Weaver) in order to help voters understand each candidate’s stand on the importance of arts and culture in the County. “We were so pleased to not only have every candidate participate in this important discussion, but we also had a packed house of voters in attendance,” remarked Janet Kopenhaver, President of Embracing Arlington Arts.

Much of the evening was spent discussing the lack of performance and rehearsal space and how each candidate would help solve the problem. Every candidate expressed support for a facility and referenced the opportunity to transition vacant retail space into some type of arts space.

Coffey: The arts have to be part of our County’s vision. Facilities for the arts has to be a priority. I would love to see an arts district that has a true cultural presence in the community.

Cunningham: Office buildings can become creative spaces. There is an easy way to make studio space from vacant businesses and we need to incorporate affordable housing with arts facilities into our long-term planning.

Dromgoole: We need to invest in unique spaces for arts that encompasses all of the aspects that artists need. There is a lot of empty commercial space that can be used for artist studios.

Roy: Let’s use empty commercial space as a place for the arts. We need to look at our land use and strategic planning and determine where we can fit a theater. The Key Bridge Marriott is an opportunity for affordable housing, theater, schools, etc.

Spain: We need more than just a theater in Shirlington. I’ve always had a vision – why don’t we have multicultural places for the arts? We need to think big for minority opportunities in the arts.

Weaver: We should be thinking about the commercial office vacancy rate. How does this tie into the arts? We need to change how the zoning is structured that allows for a broader range of activities and could expand to arts related activities.

Another topic addressed was the importance of the arts in Arlington.

Coffey: The arts are a way for us to connect and a soul for the community. Arts are also a good economic opportunity.

Cunningham: Arts have an important role to play in our community – especially for our youth which COVID impacted so drastically.

Dromgoole: There is a good return on investment with the arts. Patrons spend at least an additional $25 above the ticket price when they eat out. Let’s keep dollars in Arlington.

Roy: I am an enthusiastic supporter of the arts and am a proud sponsor of Embracing Arlington Arts through my business. We need to make the arts a front-and-center priority and not an after-thought. And we need to add money to the arts grant fund. We can do better for the arts.

Spain: The arts and a creative economy will be a signature issue of mine if elected.

Weaver: Arts is an opportunity to bridge division in our community. The County should pursue public/private partnerships to provide spaces for artists.

The concluding question of the night (What piece of art would you bring with you if stuck on an island for a year?) produced wide-ranging responses.

Coffey: My violin which I played for many years.

Cunningham: A quilt that a friend made for me that would provide me with shelter, warmth and  a way to gather items.

Dromgoole: A painting of a kaleidoscope of the cherry blossoms that I bought at a local art show.

Roy: A photo of my family.

Spain: A drawing of my family sketched when we lived in Europe.

Weaver: A painting my brother painted in Puerto Rico.

In-person early voting starts May 5, 2023 and the Democratic Primary Election takes place on June 20, 2023.

Embracing Arlington Arts is a non-profit organization whose mission is to advance the vibrancy and health of arts and culture in Arlington through advocacy and awareness programs, outreach initiatives and projects that enhance equitable access to the arts and cultural environment. Interested supporters are encouraged to “follow” and “like” us on Facebook; and follow us on Twitter.

For more information, contact Janet Kopenhaver at


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