On the ground in D.C., Maryland and Virginia

Planetarium group surpasses $100,000 fundraising mark

December 8, 2010 - 03:34 PM
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David M. Brown Planetarium
Arlington's David M. Brown Planetarium, which sits on the grounds of Washington-Lee High School. (Photo: TBD Staff)

Alice Monet, head of the Save Arlington's David M. Brown Planetarium group, got some pretty good news last night as she tuned in to the sounds of local band Dreamscape playing at a benefit concert for the group at Iota in Clarendon.

Defense contractor EADS Corporation is giving the group $5,000 toward its $400,000 fundraising goal, the company told Monet yesterday. It might not be a lot, but she's hoping that the commitment will light a fire under the other major aerospace companies around Arlington.

Arlington citizen mobilized around the planetarium after the Arlington Public Schools board, which owns the planetarium, decided to shut it down in the current year's budget after receiving estimates that it would cost $400,000 to rehab the half-century-old planetarium.  Save the Planetarium members persuaded the school board to keep it open while they tried to raise the money.

All told, the group has raised about $120,000 since it started fund-raising in August. Part of that is a $50,000 grant from the Children's Fund of Metropolitan Washington, which closed its doors this year and sought a like-minded nonprofit to take over its assets.

Monet hopes the EADS grant will be the first of several from private corporations with offices in Arlington. "It's not a huge amount of money, but it puts all the aerospace corporations on notice that EADS is in," Monet says. "I've been getting a lot of phone calls and emails today, from other major defense companies."

Members of the Save the Planetarium board are meeting with the STEM Committee at Boeing next week to make their pitch, and Monet says SAIC, BAE and Lockheed have all expressed an interest in supporting the facility. "Doors are definitely opening to us," she says.

She hopes to have a number of these commitments, or at least preliminary commitments, in place before the group's next meeting with the superintendent of schools Jan. 13. School board president Libby Garvey has said that if there isn't sufficient evidence that the group can raise the funds, the superintendent might once again recommend closure of the planetarium in his proposed annual budget.

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