Letter: Where is leadership on future of Lee Arts Center?

Editor: Lee Arts Center (LAC) has a 40-year history of public-engagement activities and as a place for local ceramicists and printmakers to develop their skills. Students and recent graduates of university art programs, as well as professionals and small-business owners, need a place to work.

LAC artists have formed bonds, developed a vital network and benefited from the synergies of shared studio space.

The artists were locked out of their space since the beginning of the pandemic, and we have lost artists who have moved onto places outside of Arlington that offer a venue where they can pursue their work. And now they face the prospect of more than a doubling of fees charged.

The county government adopted a benefits-based cost recovery philosophy more than a decade ago, with a cost-recovery pyramid guide for execution.

The county programs and services that have the most widespread public benefit receive the greatest public subsidy, whereas cost-recovery goals are larger for programs and services that have more of an individual benefit.

Under the county manager’s proposed budget, the LAC studio program is budgeted to fully recover all expenses beginning in the coming fiscal year. These increases mean fees will be more than double what were being paid before the pandemic.

Is there room to negotiate a way to make it more affordable? Perhaps a less steep increase might work or attract a larger number of artists to offset the costs.

That space has been under the guillotine, as far as the county manager has been concerned, for some time now. We have been reminded many times with regards to the unfortunate state of the facility (due to the county’s neglect over the years), coupled with a program who has received very little support, that the artists are now faced with another dilemma: What happens when the county government shutters and mothballs the building?

There is no plan from county leaders to do anything with the building. What happens to the artists? Is there a plan in place for such a day? Will there be a space available sooner than later? Where is the responsibility to the artists, who are the living part of the program?

We need a plan immediately that would establish a future for this valuable program and that recognizes the need for a strong arts presence on the Langston Boulevard corridor.

One thing that has been proven historically in Arlington is, once you lose something, it does not come back. And Langston Boulevard should be aware of this if it wants to have a real arts presence in its future.

I would like to quote someone from a recent conversation we were having about art: “As a culture, we celebrate and value the art that has happened.

What we lack is our support of art that is happening. Without that, the first is impossible, and we risk losing our record of the cultural mindset of that time.”

David Carlson, Arlington

William E. Bennett