Torpedo Factory Art Center
Once the U.S. Naval Torpedo Station in Alexandria, Torpedo Factory Art Center is in the nation’s longest continually operated community of publicly accessible artists’ studios in a converted industrial space. It has inspired cultural placemaking around the world.
Artists earn studios through a multi-phase competitive jury process. Meet them as you visit all three floors. Spark your creative spirit by watching them work. Bring home original art, too.
Torpedo Factory Art Center is managed by the City of Alexandria’s Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities through the Office of the Arts. Learn more at alexandriava.gov/arts. Follow @alexartsoffice on Instagram and Twitter.
Torpedo Factory Art Center Stakeholder Task Force
As part of the continued revitalization efforts of Torpedo Factory Art Center, the City has been working to establish a stakeholder task force charged with helping develop a coherent approach to vibrancy and sustainability in alignment with the principles for Torpedo Factory Art Center adopted by City Council at their meeting on December 14,2021.
The Torpedo Factory Art Center Stakeholder process is being managed by the City of Alexandria's Department of Project Implementation. For questions or additional information, please email email@example.com
Stakeholders shall be defined as: a person, group, or organization that has interest or concern in the Torpedo Factory Art Center.
The role and responsibilities of the Task Force engaged for this process will include:
- Develop a coherent and comprehensive approach toward expanded Vibrancy and Sustainability.
- Develop ideas to broaden the scope of artistic expression and improve the diversity of artists in the Art Center.
- Guide a community engagement process to solicit input and feedback on the work of the Task Force.
- Respect process integrity and ensure that all stakeholder voices are heard and considered.
- Use the community engagement process as an opportunity to promote participation of Art Center neighbors, non-Art Center artists, and residents in how the Art Center could benefit the community even further.
The Task Force will work with a facilitator, staff, and consultants throughout the process and develop a recommendation to the City Manager based on this Charge of Work.
The members of the Stakeholder Group are expected to:
- Participate on behalf of their representative groups by sharing information both ways in this process.
- Attend and participate fully in all Stakeholder Group meetings, in addition to attending work sessions and public hearings of the City Council as needed. If unable to attend, members are encouraged to notify staff in advance and provide comments on meeting materials in a timely manner.
The Task Force will meet approximately once a month starting in Summer 2022 with recommendations due in mid-2023. Most meetings will be held on a weeknight (Monday-Thursday) from approximately 7-9pm.
Composition, Selection Procedure & Considerations
The stakeholder task force is comprised of 20 members; 12 positions which are appointed by representative organizations and 8 positions are available through an open application process.
In May, the representative organizations were informed to appoint an individual member to the Task Force. The City issued a citywide release in coordination with the Office of Communications and Public Information (OCPI), directly reaching approximately 15,000 residents or businesses and notified over 30 community organizations and leaders on the available opportunity.
Through May and June, the City opened applications for the two community at-large positions, two current Art Center leasing artists positions, the one Art Center post grad position and up to three at-large regional arts professionals positions.
Over 40 applications were received for the two community at-large positions, 12 applications were received for the two current art center leasing artists positions, with lesser amount of interest (less than five applications each) in the post grad participant and regional arts professionals’ positions. With this high community interest, the City increased the available community at-large positions from 2 to 4 representatives and the Regional Arts Professional representation that had an upper limit of three was kept at one representative.
In reviewing at-large applicant applications, the City considered demographic diversity, including but not limited to race, age, gender, and location and the City Manager appointed the following representatives:
- Judy Heiser, Commission for the Arts
- Kristina Hagman, Waterfront Commission
- Martha Raymond, Historic Alexandria Resources Commission
- Ivy E Whitlatch, Alexandria Archaeological Commission
Torpedo Factory Art Center Representatives
- Saya Behnam, Current Torpedo Factory Art Center Leasing Artist
- Matthew Johnston, Current Torpedo Factory Art Center Leasing Artist
- Cindy Lowther, Torpedo Factory Artists’ Association
- Suzanne Bethel, The Art League
- Alan Sislen, Torpedo Factory Art Center Galleries
- Nicole Wandera, Torpedo Factory Art Center Post Grad Participant
- Yvonne D. Callahan, Old Town Civic Association
- Charlotte A. Hall, Old Town Business Association
- Ryan Whitaker, Old Town North Alliance
- Jason Longfellow, Alexandria Arts Alliance
- Kate Ellis, Visit Alexandria Board
- Michelle Kołacz, At Large
- Yasin Seddiq, At Large
- Peter Horst, At Large
- Melynda Wilcox, At Large
- Lyric Prince Harris, Regional Arts Professional
In 1973, many roads met to form a new cultural hub in Alexandria. Marian Van Landingham, as president of The Art League, sought a new building to house the nonprofit. Alexandria was also preparing for its Bicentennial celebrations and wanted to improve the derelict waterfront by 1974. James W. Coldsmith, editor of the Alexandria Journal, suggested Van Landingham consider the abandoned torpedo plant, solving two problems at once.
Van Landingham rallied the community and City Council around the idea. She joined the City of Alexandria’s staff as the Art Center’s first director from 1974 –1975, before embarking on a decades-long political career in the Virginia General Assembly in Richmond.
The Art Center was originally pitched as a three-year experiment. Under the direction of Van Landingham’s successor, Margaret Alderson, the longest-serving director to date, the Art Center established itself as an edifying mainstay for the region.
On the Waterfront Since 1918
They used to make torpedoes
Ground broke on the U.S. Naval Torpedo Station in 1918, the day after Armistice Day ended WWI. Mark 3 torpedoes—like the silver model through the red doors to your right—began production in 1920. This building held the completed torpedoes as they waited to be shipped via the Potomac. The factory operated for five years before becoming munitions storage.
During WWII, the Torpedo Station grew to 16 buildings with 5,000 non-segregated employees. They produced Mark XIV torpedoes, including the green torpedo in the Grand Hall. The bright paint indicates it was a test torpedo, making it easier to spot through binoculars at the Naval Torpedo Test Range in Piney Point, MD. This building is one of the last structures from the original factory.
Less than two months after V-E Day, they built the last torpedo on June 18, 1945. Production shifted to rocket motors before the plant shuttered in June 1946.
In the 1950s, the complex converted to the U.S. Federal Records Center and stored large federal collections. Captured Nazi documents were translated from German for the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials. Smithsonian dinosaur bones and other oversized objects and archives were also housed here. The City of Alexandria acquired the complex in 1969.