Alexandria, VA

Alexandria city staff are proposing that the Torpedo Factory Art Center undergo a transformation. The city, which took over the waterfront attraction in 2016, is looking at a new jurying process for artists, installing pop-up shops and restaurants, a renovated first floor with family-friendly “make-it spaces” and more educational experiences.

The “Action Plan for Vibrancy & Sustainability at Torpedo Factory Art Center” is the culmination of multiple city reports on how to improve the facility, which traditionally sees more than a half a million visitors annually. Staff say that 24- month short-term and five-year long-term plans have been developed to take care of immediate and long-term needs.

“As the Art Center re-imagines itself for the 21st century, it will need to challenge its internal policies, practices, and business model in accordance with best practices and industry standards to become a sustainable organization,” according to the action plan. “Its resources will have to be optimally deployed to maximize the impact of every dollar.”

As for the artists and the jurying process, the report said that the city should:

  • Design and implement an impeccable, credible, artist selection process to determine studio leases. Grounded in best practices, selection is based on art quality, ability to work and interact with the public, working for greater good of Art Center/community, and diversity including media, place in career, and personal background.
  • Similar to current “Post Grad Residency” at the Art Center, establish specific short-term studio residences for specific demographics such as career level or new media.
  • Offer artists professional and business development seminar(s) (open to all).

The Art League school is the largest tenant, and staff would “investigate” moving it to the first floor of the building. The next largest occupant is The Alexandria Archeology Museum, and Ivy Whitlatch, chair of the Alexandria Archaeology Commission wrote City Council asking that the city focus on the art center’s historical background as a munitions factory that built torpedoes during World War II.

“Together, this short-term action plan and long-term plan will combine to shape a 21st Century Art Center ready to successfully and sustainably serve the City of Alexandria and greater community for the next decade,” notes the action plan.

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