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Torpedo Factory Overhaul Heads to City Council Next Month

A plan to reinvigorate the Torpedo Factory is headed to the City Council for review early next month after a quick introduction last Tuesday.

The city took over the Torpedo Factory Art Center in 2016 and relations with the artists in the facility have sometimes been tense, with disagreements over how leases should be handled and some artists expressing frustrations at ongoing rent during the pandemic.

In the upcoming plan for the Torpedo Factory, city staff laid out a strategy they hope will drive up engagement at the facility when tourism slowly crawls back into Old Town when coronavirus has passed.

According to the plan:

Increasing the number of guests and increasing the intensity of their learning and artistic experience will make the Art Center a premier arts destination for the region. Interactive, immersive experiences, family fun, festivals and art fairs are all ways to increase the public engagement and enjoyment of the Art Center. The re-imagined Art Center, with its emphasis on public engagement and alignment with the City’s art and waterfront development plans, will create a new personality and identity for the Art Center. This new identity will need to be marketed to a wider audience.

Part of this plan is to make the Torpedo Factory more events and dining focused, with an emphasis on hosting arts festivals and family-friendly entertainment to get more people in the door.

The new plan also hopes to overhaul the first floor to prioritize hands-on activities for visitors and more “public-facing” features.

The last part of the plan, and the one most behind-the-scenes but also the one that could have the biggest impact on artists in the facility, involves a “re-jurying process to ensure vibrancy and vitality based on new artist selection process.” The plan could involve cycling more artists through the facility with existing artists competing against newer applicants for spaces.

Long term, the city is also planning to bring in a contractor to identify maintenance issues in the building and sort through the building’s infrastructure needs.

The plan is scheduled for a more in-depth discussion at the upcoming March 9 City Council meeting.

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