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Logistics challenge stymies MPAartfest's plans for 2024

Traditional venue of McLean Central Park is undergoing renovation work this summer and fall
McLean Project for the Arts officials recently decided to cancel MPAartfest on Oct. 6, 2024, owing to the Fairfax County Park Authority's ongoing revitalization efforts at McLean Central Park.

MPAartfest, which each October brings throngs of visitors to McLean Central Park to view artworks and take part in children’s activities, will not be held this year because Fairfax County Park Authority renovations at the park will wrap up too close to the festival date, McLean Project for the Arts (MPA) officials announced recently.

MPA had planned to hold the 18th annual event Oct. 6, but the park’s renovation schedule called for the group to get access to the site Oct. 4.

MPA leaders thought that was cutting it too close, especially with the possibility of weather-related construction delays, and decided not to hold the festival after they could not find another suitable venue.

“While we are disappointed to have canceled the 2024 MPAartfest, we are delighted to see McLean Central Park refurbished and excited about the programming possibilities and amenities this redesign will offer going forward for both MPA and the McLean community,” said Deborah Bissen, a spokesman for the arts group.

The organization instead, as it has for the past two years, will hold a Children’s Art Walk, exhibiting artworks by community schoolchildren at MPA’s Ramp Gallery in the McLean Community Center.

Afterward, MPA will share some of those artworks with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority when it refreshes its Children’s Art Walk display later this year at Washington Dulles International Airport.

MPA only has scratched the festival one other time, when forecasters predicted hurricane weather during that weekend in 2022. But the pandemic couldn’t stop the festival, as the group held MPAartfest online in fall 2020, Bissen said.

MPA does not rely on the festival for its funding, usually breaking even at best after covering the cost of tents and other expenses, Bissen said.

“We see MPAartfest as a great partnership with the McLean Community Center and a way to bring the community together,” she said.

MPA in 2023 paid the Fairfax County Park Foundation $1,500 to use McLean Central Park for two days, one to set up and the other to hold the festival, said Park Authority spokesman Benjamin Boxer.

The Park Authority in March began revitalization work at 28-acre McLean Central Park, which includes removal and replacement of the existing walkways and playgrounds and the addition of a new pavilion, Boxer said.

All of the project’s components are in progress and officials anticipate construction will wrap up this fall, he said.