Alexandria, VA

Morning Notes

Virginia Launches Coronavirus Tracing App — “Virginia is the first state in the nation to launch such an app. It is based on Bluetooth Low Energy technology jointly developed by Apple and Google (Android). Users can download the app from their mobile phone’s app store now. The more people who download and use the app, the more effective it will be in helping reduce the possibility for COVID-19 transmission.” [Alexandria Living]

Beyer Scolds RNC for Trump Candidacy Announcement — Would be an illegal use of taxpayer funds and government property, and one of the most corrupt acts of the Trump era to date. A statement of what their party stands for now?” [Twitter]

Torpedo Factory Opens New Interactive Show — “Melanie Kehoss designed ‘Through the Kitchen Door’ with the idea that her audience would be central to her work. It involves six household scenes from 1790 to the present that viewers can walk through to get a real sense of how America’s history has evolved.” [Zebra]

DASH Reminds Riders to Wear Face Masks — “Masks are required in Virginia, including on DASH buses. #MaskUp to help us protect our operators, riders and community from COVID-19.” [Facebook]

Today’s Weather — “Isolated thunderstorms this evening becoming more widespread overnight. Low 71F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 100%.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Account Executive — “CareClix, a Northern Virginia based company and the world leader in the Telemedicine Space is seeking a few select individuals to join our Resellers and Independent Account Executive salesforce. Successful candidates in this position can expect first year commissions of lower middle to high six figures.” [Indeed]

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Tourism in Alexandria isn’t what it used to be. With local economies devastated by the pandemic, First Lady of Virginia Pamela Northam visited Alexandria on Wednesday (July 22) to promote safe tourism and congratulate the city on winning a $10,000 grant for its Great Walks program.

“In 2018, Virginia tourists spent more than $26 billion here, and this put 235,000 people to work and contributed $1.8 billion in local and state tax revenue,” Northam told a small audience in the Torpedo Factory Art Center. “This year, however, our tourism and hospitality industries have been among the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.”

Northam was joined by State Senator Adam Ebbin, City Councilman John Taylor Chapman, Councilwoman Del Pepper, Rita McClenny of the Virginia Tourism Corporation and Patricia Washington of Visit Alexandria. None of the speakers said they would be taking vacations this summer, but instead would be making small outings and being careful not to contract the virus.

“When you’re ordering out, think about local and how you can support our local stores and restaurants, because they may not be here if we don’t support them,” Northam said.

The officials also praised Visit Alexandria’s ALX Promise program, which they said was important for consumer confidence. More than 300 local businesses have participated in the accreditation system that ensures compliance with health regulations.

Chapman thanked city residents for stepping up to help local businesses and donating time and effort to the city’s nonprofits.

“They are generously donating time and money to our nonprofits, and they are looking out for each other by being smart about masks and social distancing,” Chapman said. “We have 271 years of meeting challenges and overcoming them, and COVID-19 is just the latest and we will overcome this, too.”

McClenny said that promoting safety and tourism is a delicate balancing act.

“We know a revived tourism economy can help spur new economic activity and critical funds back into our Virginia communities,” she said. “Here, we also know that we must proceed responsibly and encourage travel in a safe measured manner.”

Washington said that tourism is essential for the city’s economy.

“Visitors contribute $50 million in hotel, restaurant and retail taxes to our city to help fund for city services,” Washington said. “The tourism sector accounts for 7% of the workforce and it supports our large community of small businesses. Right now this sector is threatened by coronavirus, so I cannot emphasize enough our gratitude to our state and local leaders for recognizing that it is absolutely critical to stand by these businesses so that Virginia’s hospitality sector comes back strong.”

Staff photos by James Cullum

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Tai Hwa Goh had to make her own flowers and plants when she was a kid.

The artist, whose work is premiering tonight with a virtual reception at the Torpedo Factory Art Center’s Target Gallery, was raised in South Korea in an apartment complex without plants, and Goh’s latest work is meant to express the dynamic existing between humanity living within the natural world.

“I didn’t have a garden as a child, and that’s very common in Korea,” Goh told ALXnow. “I want people to understand the relationship between organic growth and human desire. There is a tension, and people like to look at the bright side of my work, but it has a dark side, which is why I introduced industrial qualities, like concrete and plastic.”

Goh’s medium is the printmaking and paper installation of handmade flowers. She uses printed and cut wax paper, and her work was chosen from more than 150 artists in a national search.

The virtual reception is available via facebook.com/targetgallery on Friday (July 10) at 7 p.m., and Goh will provide audiences with a closer look at her work. The show runs until July 26.

Join us tonight for the livestream premiere of our virtual exhibition tour for Tai Hwa Goh and a thoughtful discussion…

Posted by Target Gallery on Friday, July 10, 2020

Photos courtesy Torpedo Factory Art Center

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In years past, the Torpedo Factory Art Center teemed with upward of a half-million visitors every year, but all that changed with the coronavirus. It’s one of Alexandria’s top tourist destinations, and despite the cancellation of all in-person scheduled programs and private facility rentals, the Torpedo Factory Artists’ Association will soon be looking for new artists to participate in its jury process.

The Torpedo Factory, which is owned by the city, is currently open from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Wednesday through Sunday and closed Monday and Tuesday. Visitors are required to wear face masks and observe social distancing. The Target Gallery, for instance, now only allows 10 people at a time.

There are 82 artist studios in the art center. Nine artists ended their leases because of the virus, 41 asked for a temporary reduction in hours and 19 asked for rent deferrals, according to Alexandria’s Communications Director Craig Fifer.

“Artists were eligible for total deferment of rent through June 30 and then a 12-month repayment program, similar to the relief program for business taxes,” Fifer told ALXnow. “Artists with at least two employees were also eligible for the business grant program administered by AEDP (the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership).”

Artist studios take up 70% of the building, and the largest tenant, The Art League school, art supply store, gallery and offices takes up 12% of occupancy and will reopen to the public on July 15. Its next largest occupant is The Alexandria Archeology Museum, which remains closed until further notice.

The Torpedo Factory Artists’ Association (TFAA) is a thriving professional artists community of more than 250 juried…

Posted by Torpedo Factory Artists' Association on Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Staff photo by James Cullum

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The Torpedo Factory Artists Association (TFAA) announced that as part of the city’s phased reopening, the Torpedo Factory is now reopened to the public on weekends, with some precautions.

“The Torpedo Factory is now open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday,” the TFAA said on Facebook. “You can enter through the waterfront entrance and masks are required inside the building. Please come out and enjoy some art.”

According to the Torpedo Factory website:

  • Public hours are limited to 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays only.
  • Capacity is set to 100 visitors at a time. This is not inclusive of artists in studios.
  • Elevator capacity is set to 2.
  • Masks are required for the duration of the visit.
  • Entrances and exits are limited to the designated door on the waterfront side.

The Torpedo Factory website also noted that all scheduled programs and private rentals of the Art Center have been canceled.

During the pandemic, there was some confusion and frustration with the city after artists said they were offered deferred payments rather than a reprieve on rent when the pandemic prevented them from being in the facility.

“Artists will still have working access to their studios during this time and staff will continue to ensure the health and safety of our artists and the building,” the website noted.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Update 10:40 p.m. — City Spokesperson Craig Fifer noted that the city has offered deferred payment of certain businesses taxes until June 30 and offered 12-month payment plans after that, which is the same offer available to the artists. Fifer also said that rent is paid to the city because the city owns and manages the building, with management resumed in 2016. 

Artists can still access their studios and derive value from having a place to work, make online sales, and store their supplies and art.  Because some artists derive more income from walk-in sales than others, it would not make sense to apply a one-size-fits-all approach to studio rent. We notified each of our 119 leaseholders on March 31 that they could request rent relief with just a simple email, and only eight so far have done so.

Fifer also noted that the 35% reduction in rent at Workhouse brings it close to the Torpedo Factory — about $21 and $16 per square foot, respectively — with no deferral or payment plan options.

Earlier: With the Torpedo Factory Art Center closed to the public, local artists are left not only figuring out how to pay their bills but how to maintain rent at an art space they can’t access.

“I’m one of the people who closed,” said Estelle Vernon, a jeweler who worked in a four-person studio for a number of years. “All four of us are high risk. My studio closed as of 13th or 14th of March. I pulled out my things there. I did have to go back over a week later when I realized all the bills are there and then had to pay them.”

Vernon said her business has come to a halt, and she isn’t alone. Several artists said their primary income — showing art at galleries and at the Torpedo Factory — has come to a standstill.

“It’s affecting us all terribly,” Vernon said. “All of our shows are canceled. It’s put a lot of us out of business unless you really have a strong presence online.”

While some at the Torpedo Factory work there as a passion after retiring from other careers, for many artists their art is a primary income.

“I don’t do a lot of shows because the Torpedo Factory affords me an audience,” said ceramic artist Lori Katz. “Right now, I am completely without income and I expect to be without income for many months as the Torpedo Factory is closed down. I have shows that were scheduled for spring which are canceled and two art fairs that are canceled. I have work in two gallery shows — which are up but nobody can see them. I’m probably no different than anyone at the Torpedo Factory, but this is how I make a living.”
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(Updated 1:10 p.m.) As expected, this year’s $753.3 million city government budget will be significantly cut down — with a $46.6 million reduction from the operating budget and $140.6 million in the capital budget put forward in April.

City Manager Mark Jinks called the new document “Budget 2.0,” representing the possibility that its contents are subject to change at next Tuesday’s (April 14) City Council meeting and throughout the budget process. Jinks said the total projected revenue loss for the 2020 and 2021 fiscal year is $92.2 million, and that the sharp reduction in the budget is due to a deferral of the 2 cent tax residential tax increase initially proposed and a steep drop off in commercial tax revenue.

The main meat of the cuts on the capital side is the postponing or elimination of a number of construction projects. The proposed Capital Improvement Project budget has been sharply reduced from $2.1 billion, and while the T.C. expansion at the Minnie Howard campus is delayed, the in-progress plans to renovate MacArthur Elementary School will proceed.

“Capital projects will be deferred, specifically $30.5 million in waterfront park and flood mitigation costs,” said Jinks. “We’re deferring that to fiscal year 2023 as well as deferring, for two years, the $100 million funding of the Minnie Howard campus until 2023.” Read More

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Morning Notes

Police Shooter Bashir Takes Insanity Defense for Alleged Stalking/Arson — “[Kashif] Bashir is charged with felony counts of arson, attempted arson, and making a false statement on a consent form to purchase a firearm, as well as nine counts of misdemeanor stalking, unauthorized use of an electronic tracking device, and possession of a firearm by a person acquitted by reason of insanity.” [WTOP]

Residents Cope With Cabin Fever — “Next week puts a little more pressure on me, because when my kids don’t have structure, then they do a lot of fighting.” [Alex Times]

Del Ray Restaurant Status Update — Among the closed restaurants are Los Tios Grill, Nectar Coffee and Wine Bistro, The Garden, and Live Oak Restaurant. Here’s a list of local eateries that are open for carryout and delivery. [Facebook]

Visit Alexandria Provides Updated Citywide Eatery List — “In case you need a quick reference, here’s a list of Alexandria restaurants open for takeout, curbside pickup, or delivery. For details, go to ALXatHome.com.” [Twitter]

ICYMI: Torpedo Factory Art Center Closed Until Mid May — “Hoping everyone is staying safe and healthy during this time. The Torpedo Factory will be closed till mid May. Please visit our artists through their fb pages, Instagram and websites.” [Facebook]

Bag Tax Bills on Bubble as General Assembly Revisits Budget — “Legislators are currently concerned with the immediate threat of the Coronavirus, its impact on Virginians and on the state budget. The implementation of the bills could take a back seat, for now, to the more immediate healthcare and economic problems stemming from the crisis.” [Gazette]

SCAN of Northern Virginia Gets Grant to Combat Child Abuse — “Unfortunately, we anticipate that incidences of child abuse and neglect will skyrocket because of the COVID-19 epidemic… But we have an opportunity this month–during National Child Abuse Prevention Month–to make sure our community is aware of this threat and empowered to protect children and support parents when they need it most.” [Zebra]

Alexandria Times Raises $975 in FOIA Fund — “During the first quarter of 2020, eight people donated a total of $975 to the Alexandria Times FOIA Fund. The Times made three FOIA requests of the City of Alexandria in the first quarter of 2020.” [Alex Times]

Center for Alexandria’s Children Recognizes ‘National Go Blue Day’ — “Don’t forget to #WearBlue for Child Abuse Prevention Month — and please post your photos and tag The Center for Alexandria’s Children, Inc. Raise awareness for Child Abuse Prevention by showing your BLUE all over social media!” [Facebook]

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A planned screening of a film covering the history of the Torpedo Factory is being turned into an online viewing party tonight.

“A Brush with History” is a film by local director Nora Kubach about the Torpedo Factory’s 100-year history.

“The Art Center is an early example of placemaking in the country,” the Torpedo Factory Art Center said in a Facebook post, “a structure that went from making weapons of war, to now producing meaningful works of art by inspirational artists, and serving its community in a different way.”

The online premiere is tonight (Thursday) at 7 p.m. and will be followed by a live Q&A session with the filmmakers and participants in the movie. The event listing said viewers will be able to write in questions and have them answered during the video chat.

A link to the video page is not available yet but will be posted on the Facebook page.

The Art Center itself, meanwhile, remains closed until at least May 18.

Photo via Torpedo Factory Art Center/Facebook

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While other public locations are closing across town due to coronavirus concerns, the Torpedo Factory Art Center remains open — though not without some degree of controversy across social media.

While the galleries are open, many of the artist studios may be empty after the city and the Torpedo Factory Artists Association (TFAA) said that artists concerned about their health were encouraged to close their studios for the time being.

“We all love art, but we love our artists, their families and our great community more,” the organization said on an Instagram post. “Many artists applied for hardship leave and the length of their absence will depend upon this fluid and evolving situation.”

The Art League, which runs an exhibit space and classes in the Torpedo Factory, announced earlier this week that it will be shutting down classes, galleries and workshops until mid-April.

It seems to be a satisfactory conclusion to a minor rekindling of some long-simmering bitterness between the TFAA and the City of Alexandria.

On Friday, an earlier Instagram post from the TFAA said its artists were being put at risk by city policy.

The City of Alexandria has given the directive that Torpedo Factory artists are to keep their studios open amid the current public health crisis or risk losing their leases in the fall. Artists who fall into one of the high-risk categories or who are caregivers for a high-risk individual are permitted to request a special hardship exeption that will be reviewed and granted on a case-by-case basis. As independent small business owners, many of us are making difficult deisions right now that have the potential to impact our health, our community, our families and our livelihoods.

The post was later deleted, but other posts were flooded by commenters who had seen the message and were concerned. Talk about the city forcing artists to stay in their booths even made its way to the Seminary Road Facebook group.

“Artists at the Torpedo Factory are feeling pressured to man the studios under the threat of expulsion when their contracts are up in November!!!!” one commenter said. “Many of the artists there are high risk! Over 60 and with underlying serious health problems! Why is the art center even open?????”

But Craig Fifer, a spokesperson for the City of Alexandria, said point-blank that the city was not pressuring artists into keeping their studios open and that leaving would not put their leases at risk.

“The City has not mandated that artists maintain their studio hours or risk losing their leases in the fall,” Fifer said in an email. “The safety and well-being of the artists, staff members and visitors is our highest priority.”

Fifer explained that the Alexandria Health Department was not recommending requiring that the Torpedo Factory close because it would put the livelihood at risk for the 160 artists working there — though Fifer said if the pandemic spreads it could be forced to close anyway.

Fifer also said the size of the art center means that it can be visited while still allowing for adequate social distancing and minimizing spread of infection. While two people in Alexandria have been diagnosed with COVID-19, Fifer said there’s currently no evidence of community transmission in Alexandria. Those experiencing coughing and sneezing are still encouraged to remain home.

“The studio lease offers a provision for all tenants, not just those in high-risk categories or caregivers, to allow for unforeseen hardships or unusual circumstances,” Fifer said. “The only requirement is that artists make a written request to alert staff of their leave. They do not have to provide an explanation for the hardship request. Hours missed during this hardship period do not have to be made up to meet the annual hours requirement.”

Emails shared with ALXnow between the TFAA president and city staff show that the TFAA was aware of the policy on Friday morning.

“Each artist studio has an individual lease with the Art Center/City,” Brett John Johnson, Director of the Torpedo Factory Art Center, said in an email. “Therefore, we just need to hear from them individually as we have been doing. In this situation, we are not denying people the right to close studio or gallery when requested.”

ALXnow reached out to the TFAA but received no response. In a comment on the most recent post from the TFAA Instagram account, the organization said “we advocated for ourselves and were able to change the situation. Stay healthy!”

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Annual art exhibition March150 is coming back to the Torpedo Factory Art Center (105 N. Union Street) this Saturday with a celebration of the show’s 10 year anniversary.

The multimedia exhibit in the Target Gallery of the building will feature over 200 works from artists in Alexandria and throughout the D.C. area. An opening reception is scheduled for this coming Saturday, March 14.

“Emerging and established artists are shown together displayed a wide variety of styles and media,” the Torpedo Factory said in a Facebook post. “The only requirement to be on view in the exhibition is that artists use the gallery-supplied 10″ x 10″ panel. All work in the show is priced at $150.”

General admission tickets are $30, or $50 for VIP access.

VIP attendees will get early access, starting at 6 p.m., with the gallery opening for all guests at 7 p.m. Hors d’oeuvres, beer and wine are planned to be served at the party. Activities include an art-themed photobooth, interactive art-making, and a raffle. A “glow in the dark themed” dance party following the gallery is scheduled for 9-10 p.m.

Photo via Torpedo Factory Art Center/Facebook

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Skip the expensive restaurant tabs, avoid the usual bar scene. If you want to take your date somewhere romantic and unique in Alexandria this Valentine’s Day (Friday), below are a few ideas for local outings.

On the more romantic side, there’s Ice & Lights, an ice skating running at Cameron Run (4001 Eisenhower Ave) through the end of February. Access to the rink is $8 and skate rentals are $4. There’s also a nearby retail area and a pizza shop called Slice & Ice.

The Torpedo Factory Art Center is also a go-to for romantic local dates and, as a bonus for cheapskates, is free. In addition to the public art galleries and the Alexandria Archaeology Museum on the top floor, this Valentine’s Day the Torpedo Factory will host a reception for My Queer Valentine, a group exhibit that “offers a poignant look at love and relationships for LGBTQ+-identifying people.”

“There will be special Valentine’s themed reception on Friday, February 14, 7-10 p.m., with juror talk at 8 p.m.” the art center said in an event listing. “The evening features interactive performance art, a photo op at our kissing booth, and DIY art-making activities.”

It’s not for explicitly for Valentine’s Day, but if you and your partner want to “explore the body as a subject” there’s also an opening reception for an art exhibit called Human Condition on Sunday, Feb. 16 at the Athenaeum (201 Prince St). The reception is from 4-6 p.m. and is free to attend.

“This exhibition will be a visual exploration of the human condition, asking artists to capture what is it that makes a person,” the Athenaeum said in an event listing. “From the classic nude to abstract and impressionist treatments, to pieces that touch on the basic concept of humanity — a wide variety of interpretations will be included.”

If you’re the sporty type you and your partner might enjoy the Sportrock (5308 Eisenhower Avenue) rock climbing gym on the west end of the Eisenhower Valley.

While there are Valentine’s Day dinner packages before 9 p.m. at the new laser tag and arcade arena Doyle’s Outpost (4620 Kenmore Avenue), afterward there’s a post-dinner, adults-only arcade night where couples can split a $20 game card.

If you’re a parent and looking for a place to drop the kids off for a date night, a few locations around Alexandria will watch over the children while parents enjoy their evening out.

  • Scramble (5412 Eisenhower Avenue) — an indoor playground across from Sportrock is planning to host children from 5-8 p.m. The session costs $25 and includes dinner.
  • The Little Gym of Alexandria (291 S. Van Dorn Street) — the Little Gym is scheduled to host a “Parents’ Survival Night” from 6-9 p.m. with pizza and gym activities for children. Pricing is $25 for members and $35 for non-members

Lastly, for those who detest the holiday and want to make a stand against it, yarn store fibre space (1319 Prince Street) is hosting an Anti-Valentine’s Party from 6-9 p.m.

“Bring your current work in progress and join us in our second-floor event space,” the store said in a Facebook listing for the event. “We will enjoy chocolates, bubbly and the First Wives Club. Gather at 6 p.m. The movie will go on around 7 p.m.”

Are there other hidden gems around Alexandria that we missed on this list? Feel free to sound off in the comments below.

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