Focus on the Arts in Old Town North

Old Town North was designated the Arts and Cultural District back in 2017, read about how the area is focusing on arts today!

Buzz Peele and his daughter Hope perform as Sally and the Mander at the Old Town North Farmer’s Market. It was the first of many warmly welcomed Music at the Market events. (Photo Grace Billups Arnold)

By Margaret Townsend

Alexandria, VA – In 2017, when the City of Alexandria Department of Planning developed the Old Town North Small Area Plan (SAP), Old Town North was designated the Arts and Cultural District.

The SAP acknowledges the importance of two cornerstones of the arts located in OTN, the Madison Street Annex of the Art League School and MetroStage. The plan also acknowledges the importance of new, innovative arts programs and events in Old Town North.

Carr Companies, the developer of several residential properties in OTN, has committed to creating new spaces for MetroStage at Venue (314 Montgomery St) and for the Art League at Muse (1201 N Royal St).

MetroStage’s cabaret-style theater, designed by architect Skip McGinnis, will seat 109 guests and is scheduled to open in spring 2022. About the new theater at Venue, MetroStage Artistic Director Carolyn Griffin said, “We’ve received continued support from our subscribers, the City of Alexandria, Carr Companies, and several local not-for-profits in OTN, like the Old Town North Alliance, the Old Town North Community Partnership, and NOTICe. We are very grateful.”

MetroStage, a professional nonprofit theater company, is scheduled to reopen in spring 2022 at its new location at Venue. (Photo courtesy of Carolyn Griffin, Artistic Director MetroStage)

These three organizations are committed to supporting the arts in Old Town North in many different ways.

The Old Town North Community Partnership recently brought back Music at the Market in Montgomery Park on the third Thursday of every month over the summer.

The Concert Series was canceled in 2019 due to COVID-19 restrictions, but neighbors were eager to attend the first live, free concert in over a year. On June 17, at the Old Town North Farmer’s Market, local artists Hope and Buzz Peele of Sally and the Mander gave a soul-filled performance.

The Old Town North Community Partnership is working to raise public and private funds to encourage more Art in the Park programming. They hope to have free concerts in the park every week, along with art classes and performances by the artists of MetroStage to promote the new location while it is under construction.

Small business owner Margaret Townsend speaks to Zebra reporter at Thursday Old Town North Farmer’s Market, Music at the Market with Sally and the Mander. (Photo Grace Billups Arnold)

Agnes Artemel, president of the Old Town North Alliance, recently said, “The Old Town North Alliance is committed to the implementation of the Old Town North Small Area Plan recommendation of an Arts and Cultural District in the neighborhood.” In coordination with the City of Alexandria’s Office of Arts, the Alliance also supports a variety of other projects, including one inviting artists to submit designs that will be embossed on Stormwater covers in the neighborhood.

“The Alliance is also working on an overall plan for publicly and privately funded art on new buildings, existing walls, and along major pedestrian walkways,” she added.

Existing art in Old Town North includes artist Tom Fruin’s “Plinth” in front of Gables Old Town North, the Promenade Classique at the Canal Center, and the metallic mural on the brick wall of Harris Teeter. NOTICe also encourages its members to remain engaged and supportive of arts programming and public art installations throughout Old Town North.

Most members of NOTICe, OTNCP, and the Alliance are residents of Old Town North and recognize the impact having a flourishing Arts and Cultural District will have on their streets, their homes, and their hearts.

ICYMI: City Arts District in Old Town North Takes Public Art to the StreetZ