Torpedo Factory Art Center

Page updated on May 8, 2020 at 2:36 PM

Torpedo Factory Art Center

Founded in 1974 in an old munitions plant, Torpedo Factory Art Center is home to the nation’s largest number of publicly accessible working artist studios under one roof. The City of Alexandria manages the Art Center through the Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities, as part of the Office of the Arts' family of programming. (Follow them on Instagram and Twitter.)

An Alexandria landmark for more than 45 years, it’s the highlight of the Potomac Riverfront, attracting approximately 500,000 visitors annually. Find artwork in a wide variety of media–including painting, ceramics, photography, jewelry, stained glass, fiber, printmaking, and sculpture–in  82 open artists’ studios. Observe the creative process and ask questions. 

Torpedo Factory Art Center is also home to the City's Alexandria Archaeology Museum, operated by the Office of Historic Alexandria; the independent nonprofit The Art League Gallery and School; two group workshops; and five artist-run galleries.

Frequently Asked Questions

When is the building open to visit?
The Torpedo Factory Art Center is open seven days a week to the public, 360 days a year (56 hours a week) with no entry fee. 

Who owns the building?
The City of Alexandria owns the building as a public trust and leases space inside the building directly to artists, galleries, and The Art League.

How many studios are in the building?
There are 82 artist studios in the building in addition to seven galleries, a café, and some of The Art League classrooms. More than 120–140 artists hold leases at any given point in the year, based on seasonality.

How much is rent?
The City feels that it’s important that arts space continues to be below market rate to ensure a vibrant arts community. To that end, all current leaseholders currently pay $15.91 per square foot per year. This includes utilities, marketing, programming, maintenance, staffing, etc. Rent is the same no matter the location in the building or services of the tenants to the public.

Find answers to more Frequently Asked Questions by clicking the link below.

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Follow Torpedo Factory Art Center on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest via @torpedofactory.

Vibrancy & Sustainability

Throughout its 45-year history, Torpedo Factory Art Center (Art Center) has enjoyed a long and distinguished history culminating in the 70s and 80s as a model for placemaking and a never seen before way for the public to experience an artist at work. Today the Art Center welcomes more than a half million national and international visitors each year who visit Alexandria’s waterfront. The Art Center creates a welcoming and engaging experience with interactive events that attract new, diverse audiences which is essential to the future success of the Art Center in the 21st Century.

On November 17, 2018, City Council unanimously approved and adopted the following three recommendations:

  • Direct the City Manager to develop, via a public process in coordination with stakeholders, a Torpedo Factory Art Center Vibrancy and Sustainability Plan, and bring that plan to City Council for consideration.

  • Recognize that substantial capital funding, in the order of $10 million to $15 million, will be required in the decade ahead in order to address current and future Torpedo Factory Art Center facility deficiencies, as well as to address to-be-determined future program needs; and

  • Affirm that the City of Alexandria Office of the Arts will continue as the long-term managing entity responsible for management and operations of the Torpedo Factory Art Center. 

While the management of the Art Center by the City has brought stability and renewed public excitement making it possible to launch this new action plan, the City also needs to rebuild the relationship with the Alexandria community and the broader artist community throughout the region to ensure the Art Center’s success.

To achieve the Council directed objective of creating a Vibrancy and Sustainability Plan, the City has contracted with SmithGroup and Chora, two well-known consulting groups that work with industry leading art institutions, to review stakeholder reports and recommendations and develop an Action Plan to move the Art Center forward.

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Celebrate the History

Ground broke on the U.S. Naval Torpedo Station in 1918, the day after Armistice Day ended WWI. The building opened in 1919 and the first Mark III torpedoes rolled off the assembly line in 1920. The plant was active for five years before becoming munitions storage. In WWII, it produced Mark XIV torpedoes. By the war's end, it converted to government storage for the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial Records, Smithsonian dinosaur bones, and other large objects and archives. The City of Alexandria acquired the complex in 1969, setting the stage for the Art Center that stands today. 

To learn more about the history of the Torpedo Factory Art Center, watch A Brush With History: The Torpedo Factory Art Center from Istrico Productions, created in honor of the 100th anniversary of the building and the 45th anniversary of the Art Center.

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A Study of the Studies: Themes and Recommendations for a Vibrant and Sustainable Torpedo Factory Art Center

The City of Alexandria has undertaken a process to determine the vibrancy and sustainability of Torpedo Factory Art Center. As part of that process, the City contracted with SmithGroup and Chora to review the 16 existing studies about the Art Center and develop a set of overarching goals and recommendations based on those existing plans. In July 2019, SmithGroup and Chora presented to the City, “ A Study of the Studies: Themes and Recommendations for a Vibrant and Sustainable Torpedo Factory Art Center.”

Both consultants were selected based on their work with outstanding national and international arts and culture institutions. SmithGroup has a vast knowledge of the City of Alexandria from working together in the past and is supported by a seasoned Cultural division having worked with institutions including the National Park Service and Smithsonian Institution. Chora has completed strategic planning for notable institutions including the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh.

Button: Download the Report

Torpedo Factory Community Engagement Report

As part of the continued transition of Torpedo Factory Art Center (Art Center), staff in Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities; Planning and Zoning; and the City Manager's Office engaged Diane Mataraza and Surale Phillips to undertake a community engagement process and get feedback from the community about their use and experience at the Art Center. The Alexandria Commission for the Arts appointed a five-member task force to advise on the community engagement process.  

Button: Download the Report    

To ensure that a variety of voices and perspectives were gathered, the consultant team, with input from the Task Force, developed a community engagement strategy that included a variety of opportunities for people to participate and provide their feedback with the intent of reaching the diverse residents of Alexandria.

Three survey protocols were developed – an intercept survey, an online survey for members of The Art League, and an artist survey. The questions in the intercept survey and the online survey were identical, however the intercept survey (done in person and by phone) were geographically representative and was designed to be the primary survey and has been given more significance. The artist survey was developed to ensure that all points of view were considered.

The report only contains the feedback from participants who indicated they live within Alexandria. Additionally, the report combines the results of the Intercept Survey and the Online Survey and is called “City Resident Survey Results".

The engagement process was completed in spring 2018 and received by the City and presented to the Task Force in September 2018. The Alexandria Commission for the Arts received the report in October 2018.

In March 2016, the Torpedo Factory Art Center Board (TFACB) and the Alexandria Commission for the Arts (ACA) approved the  Torpedo Factory Art Center Report by Cultural Planning Group that had been commissioned by the TFACB. The report outlined four recommendations to align the facility for future success. Since then, the City Manager has received three additional reports:  

  1. Vision for the Torpedo Factory Art Center submitted by Community Members for the Future of the Torpedo Factory

  2. A Discourse of the Recommendations for the Torpedo Factory Art Center submitted by the Executive Committees of the TFACB, the Torpedo Factory Artist Association (TFAA), and the President and CEO of The Art League

  3. Charting a new Course: Steering the Torpedo Factory Art Center Toward a Sustainable Future: The Business Plan for the Torpedo Factory submitted by the TFAA.