In the Moment: ‘Arts Live Here -Tysons Tiles: Bringing Art to Tysons Corner’

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Density, urbanization and perhaps, someday in the future, “cool” is coming to the new downtown “Tysons” in Fairfax County, Virginia.

Over the decades there has been much talk about refreshing the now nearly five-decade old car-centric, Mall-centric Tysons Corner. Actions and activities are easily visible with high cranes hard to miss, the Silver Line Metro opening and some updating of roads to transform the current Tysons into something else again. Oh, and remember the place name is no longer Tysons Corner, but just Tysons.

With the reshaping of Tyson into a “downtown”, what about the arts as a core amenity, whether performing or visual? What efforts are under way to bring the arts into the contemporary Tysons landscape? What is under consideration beyond developers’ proffers of new green space for parks and for walkability?

A first step for the arts is underway with the leadership of the Arts Council of Fairfax County. It is an on-going “Imagine Arts Here” project  with its “Tysons Tiles” component that will feed into a Fairfax County Master Plan.

 The Tysons Tile Installation. Photo by Vita Images.

The Tysons Tile Installation. Photo by Vita Images.

“The objectives of the project are to raise awareness about the arts, share community opinions in an innovative way, enhance place making, and to gain insight about interest in future arts amenities in Tysons,” said Linda S. Sullivan, president & CEO, of the Arts Council of Fairfax County.

Funding for “Imagine Arts Here” came from a lead “Our Town” grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) with matching funds from corporate sponsors; The ASCENT, Capital One, Intelsat, The JBG Companies and JBGR Retail, The Meridian Group, and Washington Real Estate Investment Trust. In-kind support was provided by AlumiGraphics, Beacon Capital Partners, INADEV, and Severn Graphics. There is also partnership with Fairfax County Government and Tysons Partnership.

According to artist Julia Vogl who was engaged specifically for the Tysons Tiles project, “I was impressed with how diverse Tysons is; ethnically, socio-economically, and in age. Tysons has the potential to be culturally very rich because there are so many stories and traditions to draw from.” Of note, Vogl grew up in Northern Virginia.

To gain understanding and insights from actual Tysons folk, Vogl developed a Tysons Tiles art trolley, a custom developed app, and questions that investigated the individual’s role in the community, opinions on culture and went out to 27 different locations in Tysons.

The data was digitally recorded, analyzed, and used to develop colorful artistic ground mural art installations at Greensboro Green (8301 Greensboro Drive, in Tysons) and Tysons West (1500b Cornerside Boulevard, in Tysons).  The ground mural depicts the data with text in different languages. The ground murals are currently on display through early August.

“While trends of certain answers did emerge, I was more interested in the conversations and logic people stated to back up their decisions,” Vogl continued. “A great many people shared their personal history with Tysons. I look forward to all visiting the murals and creating their own analysis of the patterns. Tysons is certainly a colorful place.”

For those who missed the Tysons Tiles trolley, there is still an opportunity to provide your voice by visiting Arts Fairfax. The app questions are there with feedback welcomed until August 3, 2015.

For those deeply interested in the Arts for the new redeveloped and undergoing rebranding of Tysons, which is located in the largest populated county in the DC metro area, with one of the highest per-capital incomes, as well as a diverse population, the approved Fairfax County plan for the area is a key read. This is a pull quote is from Fairfax County web site: “Tysons is envisioned as Fairfax County’s “downtown,” a 24-hour urban center where people live, work and play. Three-quarters of future growth will be within a half mile of the stations. Many offices and homes will be a three to six minute walk from the stations, allowing people to get around on foot, bicycle, bus or subway.

You may also be interested in The Tysons Partnership.

For those interested in the performing arts in the current Tysons, this is not a comprehensive listing, but at the moment there is the professional and theaterWashington member 1st Stage is performing in its venue near the Spring Hill Metro Silver Line Station. In nearby McLean, is the Alden Theatre in the McLean Community Center. There is also the Tysons Corner AMC Multiplex Movie Theater.

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