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.
Annual Open Call for Artist
Once a year, Torpedo Factory Art Center accepts applications for Resident Artists — individuals or groups of up to four — who earn three-year studio leases and Artists Pro Tem — individuals who earn the ability to sublease and participate in the Art Center programming.
Applicants accepted as Resident Artists receive a three (3)-year studio lease with publicly subsidized rent. The application process normally begins near the end of the winter and concludes in the summer.
The partially blind three-phase process allows a team of four expert, independent jurors to review work for quality and merit. The juror panel also considers artists’ ability to successfully interact with the general public and positively contribute to the overall Art Center community. The application is in three (3) phases.
Read the 2022 Jury Report here.
Read the 2023 Jury Report here.
Torpedo Factory Art Center Stakeholder Task Force
As part of the continued revitalization efforts of Torpedo Factory Art Center, the City established 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 concluded on February 15, 2023. To stay updated on the progress, visit www.torpedofactory.org.
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.