Arts Incubator

Winner of the Ford Foundation & Harvard University  



In an era when governments and artists often eye each other with suspicion, Arlington County, Va., developed an award-winning program for nurturing its arts community without a significant increase in funding.  

How? By using old spaces in new ways, by centralizing the use of these spaces and other resources, by cultivating local talent and by attracting first-rate artists to the area.

Creatively using its status as a government body to secure resources for the arts, the county demonstrated that artists and government can work together, and transformed its own cultural landscape in the process. Moreover, the program led The Washington Post to call Arlington's government "hip," surely an unprecedented adjective for a local bureaucracy. It is a twenty-year-old success story.

The story of how it happened and the principles that guided its development are spelled out in the publications below, all of which you can download.  For more information, please email us.

Arts Incubator Handbook:  Arlington Virginia's Award Winning model to create a vital arts presence in your community

Americans for the Arts Monograph: "Hatching Art.  Creating a Vital Arts Presence in Your Community", April, 1997)

Incubator for New Voices, by Jon Palmer Claridge.  American Theatre, September 1991

Miracle Grow: How Arlington's award-winning incubator made theatre blossom (and became an International Model), by Jon Palmer Claridge, Director of Arts Programs, Arlington Cultural Affairs.  Southern Theatre Magazine, Winter, 2002

Double Bill: Arlington's Arts Incubator chalks up another success as the Rosslyn Spectrum opens its doors to business and art. Washington City Paper, July 18, 1997

Blueprint for Success: Granting Space Instead of Money, Arlington Revolutionizes arts funding,   by Bob Mondello. Washington Post, March 20, 1994

An eminently adaptable model of arts support for both public and private nonprofit arts agencies, the Arts Incubator is transferable to any community interested in expanding its arts activity in spite of limited resources. Arts advocates, whether public or private, board or staff, must connect to schools, economic development, recreation, urban planning, zoning, private sector partners, or any local resource available to forge the strategic alliances necessary to implement an incubator program.

What follows are the six principles that guided the Arlington Arts Incubator's development.

  1. Generate Support for the Arts
  2. Seek out Untapped Resources
  3. Connect Arts Support to Community Benefit
  4. Maximize Resources Through Creative Sharing
  5. Adopt a Flexible Approach to Arts Support
  6. Enable Artistic Risk Taking
  7. The Arts Incubator Story