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The Dogs Of Del Ray mural (staff photo by James Cullum)

Here’s a roundup of all the events, live music, and entertainment happening around Alexandria this weekend; enjoy! 

Are you organizing an event? Submit events to ALXnow.

Friday, April 12

Things To Do

Live Music & Entertainment

City of Alexandria

Saturday, April 13

Things To Do

Live Music & Entertainment

City of Alexandria

Sunday, April 14

Things To Do

Live Music & Entertainment

City of Alexandria

  • There are no events or public meetings scheduled.

Ryan Belmore is an award-winning news publisher, editor, and journalist. Born and raised in Rhode Island, he now resides in Alexandria with his wife and two rescue dogs. He was recently appointed to the City of Alexandria’s Board of Zoning Appeals and previously served on the City’s Commission For The Arts. Email listings and events to Ryan at [email protected]. Follow Ryan on Instagram at whatsupalexandria.

The Torpedo Factory Art Center in Old Town (staff photo by James Cullum)

A task force recommended to the City Council at a meeting last week that the Torpedo Factory Art Center (TFAC) be converted (item 9) to a “quasi-public entity.”

The recommendation from the task force, which included representatives from the Torpedo Factory Artists’ Association, The Art League and more, is to transition ownership of the Torpedo Factory to “to a
Quasi-Public entity that has autonomy and authority to run daily operations.”

According to a presentation, the task force said:

  • Any new entity will need to meet defined performance metrics established by the
  • City will likely continue to supplement funding for TFAC operations and capital
    improvements, but the funding expectation of the new entity may increase over
  • The City has developed successful public-private partnerships with Visit Alexandria
    and the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership that may be viable models
    for a new quasi-public entity for TFAC.

The task force said that the transition to a ‘quasi-public entity’ could occur over a two-to-three-year period.

The Torpedo Factory Art Center has a long and tumultuous relationship with the City of Alexandria. Back in 2016, the city stepped in to oversee operations at the Torpedo Factory after studies found maintenance and improvements to the facility would prove costly.

The quasi-public entity could be a middle ground between direct city ownership and the previous complicated relationship where the building was leased to the Torpedo Factory Art Center Board and subleased to the Torpedo Factory Artists’ Association and The Art League.

James Stevens, a principal with consultant ConsultEcon, said the idea would be to run the Torpedo Factory similar to Visit Alexandria and the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership (AEDP), bodies that receive supplemental funding from the city but have a degree of autonomy in their operations.

“We’re going to be bringing information out to stakeholders and other people in the community to get feedback,” said City Manager James Parajon.

Earlier this year, artists expressed concerns about city plans to reduce the amount of rented artist space in the building to make way for other uses, like a cafe or hands-on activities like gloryholes (spaces for reheating glass).

Some on the City Council were skeptical of this plan. Mayor Justin Wilson said he was concerned that the new governance structure would do little to change the Torpedo Factory being a money pit for the city.

“I’m trying to see where this succeeds,” said Wilson. “I remember hearing from members of the previous board that it was set up to fundraise, and there was never a compelling [donate]. They didn’t have anything, so it was hard to fundraise. Nobody was going to donate to nothing.”

The conversation also touched on plans for the Torpedo Factory Art Center’s 50th anniversary event next year.

Diane Ruggiero, deputy director of the Alexandria Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities, said the city will be putting together a committee next month (January) to start planning, with an event ultimately taking place sometime in September.

The Torpedo Factory in Old Town (Staff photo by Jay Westcott)

This weekend marks the 105th anniversary of the Alexandria Torpedo Factory’s ironic origins.

As told in the Office of Historic Alexandria’s This Week in Historic Alexandria newsletter, the contract for constructing the U.S. Naval Torpedo Station was awarded on Oct. 14, 1918. The United States was embroiled in the First World War, but work on the building wouldn’t begin until the day after the war ended.

“Ironically, work on the building began on November 12, 1918, the day after Armistice Day, which marked the official end of World War I,” the Office of Historic Alexandria wrote. “The first torpedo was produced there in November 1920. Once fully operational, the Torpedo Station was responsible for the manufacture and maintenance of torpedoes for the next five years.”

Five years after it started operations, the factory temporarily stopped producing torpedos and became a storage facility until WWII, when production resumed at an intense rate. The Torpedo Factory website said the complex grew to 16 buildings and 5,000 employees, who were notably not segregated, which the website said was uncommon in Virginia at the time.

After the war, the Torpedo Factory briefly manufactured parts for rocket engines before shutting down permanently in 1946. In the 1950s it was used as the Federal Records Center and stored various items, from dinosaur bones to the Nuremberg War Crimes trial records — Alexandria gets a special shoutout at the start of William L. Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.

In 1974, the Alexandria City Council passed a three-year pilot to allow The Art League to set up inside the neglected building. The interior was power-washed, 40 dump trucks of debris were removed, and the Torpedo Factory Art center was born.

Virginia Tech and the Torpedo Factory Art Center are collaborating on a sound installation at the Target Gallery (via City of Alexandria)

Virginia Tech and Alexandria’s Office of the Arts are collaborating on “Innovation and Creativity,” a year-long series of projects at the Torpedo Factory’s Target Gallery.

One of those projects, Sound Horizons, opened Aug. 5 and runs through to Jan. 28. Visitors sit in the tesseract, an array of high-density loudspeakers, and experience an immersive environment of sounds curated for Alexandria by Virginia Tech’s Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT).

Sound Horizons includes four sound installations:

  • “Dear Younger Me,” a project about healing the inner Black girl, which features a series of Black women reading letters to their younger selves
  • “Sonification of Cybersecurity Data,” a music installation that turns cybersecurity data into musical harmony of sounds
  • “Liminal Spaces,” a fixed-media composition inspired by life’s in-between moments
  • “Musical Connection,” a sound installation shedding light on the uncharted neural territories that music traverses when people living with Alzheimer’s disease engage in music-making

“Collaborating with one of the nation’s top innovative universities provides an opportunity to put Alexandria on the cutting edge, proving how art and creativity are a thread that runs deeply through all forms of innovation, be it scientific, cultural, engineering, health, or technological,” Brett John Johnson, the Torpedo Factory’s curator of artistic advancement, said in a statement.

A free grand opening for the latest installation, Synaptic Soiree, will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 16.

According to Virginia Tech:

The performances push the limits of sound and performance; they will explore scored data composed of music exploring infectious diseases, neuroscience, including Atrium, meditation, PTSD, and more, as well as the juxtaposition of new technology and the human body.

A facilitated discussion will follow at the end of the show, so you can listen to the researchers and ask questions about their work.

The series of exhibitions, performances and events will wrap next September, which is just is time for the opening of Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus in Alexandria.

“Virginia Tech, with its Innovation Campus, is pushing the frontier of technology,” said Ben Knapp, executive director of ICAT. “Together with the Office of the Arts, we will be showcasing innovation in all of its forms.”

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Inside of Union Sandwich Co. (image via Andrew Wolfe/Facebook)

Union Sandwich Company (101 N Union Street), a new sandwich shop, is now open in the Torpedo Factory building at the end of King Street.

The shop, from the same team behind Slaters Market, officially opened on Aug. 18 a little under a year after permits were filed. Union Sandwich Company features fresh salads, sandwiches, eclectic wine, beer and more.

The little grab-and-go shop is open daily from 10 a.m.-8 p.m.

Photo via Andrew Wolfe/Facebook

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This week, leaders on both sides of the Torpedo Factory discussion raised the issue of the city’s plans once more ahead of the center’s 50th anniversary.

The Torpedo Factory is celebrating 50 years as an arts center next year, but questions linger about what the long-term future of the building looks like.

The history behind the back and forth over the Torpedo Factory is long. The oversimplified version is: maintaining the Torpedo Factory, much less improving it, is a costly investment and if the city is signing that check, it wants more for its investment than what the Torpedo Factory currently offers.

Back in 2016, the City of Alexandria stepped in to oversee the operation of the Torpedo Factory Art Center. Since then, the city has worked through a process to develop plans to revitalize the Torpedo Factory. Controversially, some of those plans include reducing artist studio space to make way for other uses on the ground floor, like a cafe or maker-space.

Cindy Lowther, President of the Torpedo Factory Artists’ Association (TFAA), said one of the recent flashpoints has been the frequency of artist leases. Last month, the city selected 29 artists to receive three-year studio leases at the Torpedo Factory. The TFAA advocated for a five-year lease for artists, saying three-year leases are too short and the need to prepare for the jury ing process cuts down on the amount of time working on creating new art.

The leasing and space usage all tie into a broader question of whether the city’s plans to make the Torpedo Factory more vibrant will destroy what made the space special or enhance it.

“The TFAA is concerned that the effort to make the Art Center more ‘vibrant’ could result in a significant reduction in rental space available to visual artists,” Lowther wrote. “This would change the character of the Art Center and risk damaging its hard-earned reputation.”

Mayor Justin Wilson, meanwhile, said in his August newsletter that the city’s plans for the Torpedo Factory will make the facility more diverse, financially sustainable, and an overall more successful arts destination.

Wilson also said the Torpedo Factory’s future has been “studied to death” and that controversy around any changes to the facility paralyzed decision-making.

“It has now been seven years since the City took steps to provide stability by assuming caretaker leadership for the Factory,” Wilson wrote. “Since that time, the City provided leases to the existing artist tenants, and has been providing day to day management. I am pleased we are now making decisions and creating a sustainable structure for the governance of the Factory so that it can flourish in the future.”

The Torpedo Factory Art Center in Old Town (staff photo by James Cullum)

City-approved plans for the future of the Torpedo Factory Art Center are drawing serious concern from resident artists.

The Torpedo Factory Artists Association (TFAA) says it’s hopeful the plan will work, but that the city’s vibrancy initiative threatens to reduce rental space available to artists.

TFAA President Cindy Lowther says that the effort to make the art center more vibrant could “could result in a significant reduction in rental space available to visual artists.”

“This would change the character of the Art Center and risk damaging its hard-earned reputation,” Lowther wrote in an opinion piece published today on the TFAA Facebook page.

An estimated half-million people visit the Torpedo Factory on Alexandria’s waterfront every year, according to the city. The art center is home to more than 150 artists working in 82 studios.

In 2021, City Council unanimously endorsed the Action Plan for Vibrancy & Sustainability at Torpedo Factory Art Center. Council also directed the creation of a city-led task force (which includes two artist members) to direct implementation of the plan over the next five-to-ten years. In February, the city put out an open call for artists and announced a new governance structure for the art center. The city also announced three-year lease agreements for new resident artists.

Lowther said lease agreements should be five years instead of three. She also said that public plans to celebrate the art center’s 50th anniversary next year should be presented.

“We also appreciate his (City Manager Jim Parajon) and Council’s desire to fund and orchestrate a 50th anniversary celebration for the Art Center in 2024,” she wrote. ” Concerningly though, no planning process for this has been announced yet. If this is a perfunctory exercise rather than a full out effort by our City, it will miss a wonderful opportunity to introduce the Art Center to new visitors and energize tourism and the economy in Old Town.”

Mayor Justin Wilson wrote in his August newsletter that the discussion over the Torpedo Factory has been exhausted.

“Candidly, the future of the Torpedo Factory has been studied to death,” Wilson wrote. “We have used the divisiveness of this issue as an excuse to avoid making a decision on its future. Unfortunately, inaction is a decision in and of itself.”

Alexandria assumed “caretaker leadership” of the Torpedo Factory seven years ago, and Wilson wrote that the diversity of arts and artists is a priority.

“Since that time, the City provided leases to the existing artist tenants, and has been providing day to day management,” he wrote. “I am pleased we are now making decisions and creating a sustainable structure for the governance of the Factory so that it can flourish in the future.”

Lowther said that more artists need to be involved in the art center’s direction.

“The TFAA agrees that we need a diverse group of artists and more creative programming to increase the vibrancy of the Art Center,” she wrote. “At the same time, unless the new governing entity involves the resident artists/business owners in decisions over such issues as a five-year lease and a specialized marketing plan to promote the Torpedo Factory Art Center, its future will remain in jeopardy.”

The city’s action plan for the art center focuses on these principles:

Re-establish the Art Center’s Identity for a 21st Century Audience

  • Curate a roster of public events/programs to evaluate initiatives of varied offerings to include community favorites, family friendly, media worthy, and new artistic media that promote the core role of the arts in human-wellness and creative expression, as well as championing lifelong learning.
  • Expand the artist studio program to better reflect contemporary best practices, diversity, and public interaction.
  • Expand role and impact of Target Gallery, the Art Center’s critically acclaimed contemporary art gallery the promote the core role of art in human wellness as expressed in Action 1 above.
  • Establish new Art Center attributes towards a refined identity, maintaining an independent and unique marketing strategy and tools within the larger City framework.

Curate the Building, with a Focus on the First Floor, for Improved Visitor Experience and Artist/Studio Program

  • Re-design and evaluate first floor as a space to be a more exciting, interactive, hands on, accessible, and ever-changing experience for visitors.
  • Re-design and evaluate third floor to afford better use of space for a greater audience, more programs, and income potential.
  • Re-design and evaluate building to create opportunities for diversity and increasing the Art Centers role in Waterfront Small Area Plan.

Establish Policies and Procedures that Identify the Art Center as a High Performing Organization and Rebuild the Art Center’s Role as a Leader in the Country

  • Develop a clear and compelling Mission and Vision for the future of the Art Center.
  • Update the Art Center’s policies, procedures, and standards, to fit external facing direction and be in line with a 21st century Art Center and allow for Art Center to operate as an entrepreneurial and fundraising organization to ensure vibrancy and sustainability within the larger City framework.
  • Plan for the next five – ten years.
Alexandria Archeology Museum (image via City of Alexandria)

A new exhibit in the Alexandria Archaeology Museum (on the third floor of the Torpedo Factory, 105 N. Union Street) highlights a “microcosm of the city” on Lee Street.

The new exhibit dives through the layers of history at one site in Old Town, along with glimpses at a few other waterfront sites.

The origins of the exhibit go back to 1997 when a permit to construct an underground garage at the corner of North Lee and Queen Streets opened the floodgates for city archeologists.

“The staff immediately recognized that the project afforded a unique opportunity to study the development of one block within the context of the history of the City and its waterfront,” a staff report from 1999 said.

The report said the excavation became a tourist attraction in its own right.

“Archeological excavations… caught the attention of thousands of people for a six week period in August and September 1997,” the report said. “Long forgotten by most people, very tangible ruins and artifacts were revealed through a systemic archeological excavation as backhoes, shovels and trowels peeled back layers of soil and layers of time. The town’s history was literally unearthed before people’s eyes.”

The new exhibit puts the artifacts discovered by the expedition on permanent display. According to a release from the Office of Historic Alexandria:

On June 9th the Alexandria Archaeology Museum opened a new permanent archaeology exhibit called A Community Digs its Past: The Lee Street Site. Cases and panels display artifacts and reveal the archaeological process and the history of Alexandria as seen through the lens of the Lee Street Site (archaeological site number 44AX180) and several other waterfront sites. The exhibit answers questions like: what is urban archaeology; what did Alexandria look like in the past; and what do archaeologists do? The exhibition was made possible by a grant from Historic Alexandria Foundation and is the cornerstone of the museum.

The Torpedo Factory Art Center in March 2020 (staff photo by James Cullum)

A local organization that cares for the mental health of local LGBTQ teens is hosting its second annual Pride Prom — a prom event focused on making queer teens feel safe.

Safe Space NOVA is hosting Pride Prom at The Torpedo Factory (105 N Union Street) on June 16 from 7-11 p.m.

According to the website:

Pride Prom is an opportunity for gender-diverse and sexual minority high schoolers to attend a prom with pride, dress however they are most comfortable, and dance without fear with whomever they choose! Our LGBTQIA+ Student Ambassadors have selected New York State of Mind as their theme because nothing is more iconic than NYC Pride! From Broadway to Studio 54 to the Rockettes, it’s going to be gay-mazing!

Tickets to the prom are $40. Attendees may also purchase art from resident artists and invited artists during the event, with several opening their studios during the prom with a NYC theme.

The event will also include various door prizes, which can be donated by supporters through a registry.

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101 N Union Street (image via Google Maps)

A new sandwich shop could be coming to the Torpedo Factory building at 101 N. Union Street.

In a new special use permit filed to the City of Alexandria, the Hyndford Street Hospitality LLC said it plans to open a small sandwich shop in the space.

“We expect our patrons will be business people and travelling tourists,” the group said. “We will have approximately and no more than 20 seats, where customers can sit and enjoy their sandwich and drink.”

The permit said an emphasis will be on customers taking their meals off-site to their office, hotel or home. The restaurant is anticipated to serve between 50 to 100 patrons daily.

The restaurant could also offer on and off-site sales of wine and beer.

The hours of operation at the new business will be 9 a.m.-10 p.m., though no name is listed for the new business on the application.

Image via Google Maps


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