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.
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.”
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
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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
For the fifth straight year, Alexandria was named in the top five best small cities in the country in the 2022 Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards.
Alexandria took home the fourth spot this year after placing third the last two years in a row.
- Aspen, Colorado
- Alexandria, Virginia
- Savannah, Georgia
- Greenville, South Carolina
- Key West, Florida
- Santa Rosa Beach, Florida
- Palm Beach, Florida
- Wilmington, North Carolina
According to Condé Nast:
Washingtonians are all in on the secret, but it’s no surprise the rest of the world is catching up: Alexandria, Virginia, the charming, historic city just across the Potomac River from our nation’s capital, draws travelers and would-be residents alike.
Most folks start to imagine moving there immediately after setting foot in Old Town, once they’ve strolled the red-brick sidewalks, clocking street after street of perfectly preserved rowhouses from the 18th and 19th centuries. When you visit, scope out King Street, packed with boutiques, restaurants, and specialty shops; then land at the waterfront, where you can watch the boats bobbing on the water before touring the Torpedo Factory Art Center, a collective of galleries and artists’ studios. End the day at Gadsby’s Tavern, where some of our founding fathers used to drink — don’t mind the actors in colonial garb.
There are a number of ways to volunteer in Alexandria this fall.
Art lovers can get their fix by volunteering as gallery guides at the Torpedo Factory Art Center, and sports enthusiasts can become volunteer sport coaches. The Carlyle House also needs a volunteer tour guide.
There are also a number of tutoring and mentoring positions available, in addition to available food distributor and donation sorting positions.
“We need hundreds of people per week,” Volunteer Alexandria Executive Director Marion Brunken told ALXnow. “More people are in need now than ever.”
Here’s a list of Volunteer Alexandria’s new and upcoming opportunities.
- Teach Kids to Read — “Wright to Read is a literacy tutoring-mentoring program that works to match volunteer tutor-mentors with Alexandria City Public School students who need extra support in their literacy skills. Our goal is not only to help give this child support along their reading journey (including access to books, resources, and a larger reading community), but also a mentor through elementary school and beyond.”
- Distribute Food With ALIVE! — “Volunteers are needed to assist with multiple programs relating to their Food Program, ALIVE! House, and Alexandria Eviction Prevention Partnership Program will distribute food at Mobile Pop-ups and Truck to Trunk events, etc.”
- More opportunities at ALIVE! — The nonprofit also needs drivers, a furniture moving attendant, and warehouse volunteers.
- Theater group needs support — Momentum Collective is looking for a new board member, a costume designer and a set builder.
- Youth Sport Coaches — Preside over team activities including all scheduled practices and games. Adhere to RPCA policies, rules and objectives Responsible for maintaining care of all RPCA Sports equipment. Lead by example among team parents to support the responsibilities of the referee and league leadership. Coach an assigned group of children and focus on skill development, safety, fair, play, sportsmanship and fun.”
- 4-H Youth Development Club Volunteers — “We are currently looking for volunteers that would like to build clubs on any topic of interest, such as, dogs, sewing, robotics, or sports.”
- Food Rescuer — “Food rescuers pick up surplus food from food donors in Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia (businesses, restaurants and grocers) and deliver it directly to receiving agencies (community kitchens, food pantries, etc.) that feed our hungry neighbors. In your own vehicle and on your own time, it usually takes only 30 to 60 minutes to complete this incredibly rewarding and essential mission. Get started on the website and app to see the complete schedule of local food rescue opportunities.”
- Arise outreach volunteer — “ARISE is a new guaranteed income pilot program that plans to give $500 a month to 170 City of Alexandria residents for two years. A research team will evaluate the ARISE program outcomes which will inform future efforts and policy decisions.”
- Sexual Assault Center Hotline Advocate — “Volunteers staff the 24-hour hotline on evenings and weekends. Volunteers provide accompaniment, emotional support, crisis intervention, advocacy, and referrals to empower survivors of sexual violence in person at the hospital/police department or over the phone. Volunteers must attend a 40-hour training.”
- Shelter Supervisors with Alexandria Domestic Violence Program — “As a program that operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, volunteers play a key role in providing services to those affected by domestic violence. Volunteers with our program interact personally with individuals in need–an opportunity that many find extremely fulfilling.”
- Alexandria Library opportunities — The Alexandria Library needs a volunteer to run a games program for seniors, a volunteer with the Trash Trekkers program, a Knit Night volunteer, a computer class volunteer, and gardening support.
- Tour Guide at Carlyle House Historic Park — “Looking for a fun and relaxing volunteer opportunity? Carlyle House Historic Park, a colonial house museum in Old Town Alexandria, seeks volunteer docents to give public tours of this historic building. Carlyle House, built in 1753, interprets the home and family of John Carlyle, a merchant and town founder.”
- Sixth Annual Spooky Science Expo — “The Watergate at Landmark Youth Committee will be holding its sixth annual science event (Spooky Mad Science Expo) for kids and teens (October 15). The event will celebrate science and Halloween… As in every year, we are looking for volunteers to help us plan and run the event.”
- Casa Chirilagua Volunteers — Casa Chirilagua is looking for one-on-one mentoring, their kids club, a volunteer to oversee the teen study hall, help with the high school program, a volunteer for teen bible study, and assistance with their middle school program.
- Dog adoption event needs volunteers — “Lucky Dog Animal Rescue has an adoption event the FIRST Sunday of every month at the Potomac Yard PetSmart – 3351 Richmond Hwy, Alexandria, VA 22305. Come spend the afternoon with a Lucky Dog!”
- Torpedo Factory Gallery Guide — “Gallery Guides must feel comfortable interacting with the public about the work at the exhibition with potentially sensitive content and handling artwork sale inquiries. Gallery Guides must be at least 18 years of age or older.”
- Food and grocery volunteer — “For over 15+ years, as part of its Outreach Ministry, the Meade Memorial Episcopal Church has been committed to the Emergency Food Assistance Ministry, to help transform our community, our neighbors, and ourselves. The church provides lunches to residents from 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. We need help to setup tables and distribute lunches every weekday, except on certain holidays. We are asking all volunteers to arrive at 11: 15 a.m.”
A new exhibit launching this Friday, Aug. 5, highlights some of the newest faces at the Torpedo Factory Art Center.
The exhibition is opening at the Principle Gallery (208 King Street) with an opening reception on Friday from 6-8:30 p.m.
“Artists are the most important part of the Art Center, and we are excited to share their work in one exciting exhibition,” said Brett John Johnson, Director of Torpedo Factory Art Center, in a press release. “Partnering with Principle Gallery gives artists an opportunity to exhibit in a professional gallery while creating a more outward-looking Art Center connecting directly to the community.”
The artists were selected as part of a new jury process, one piece of a controversial new vibrancy plan that advocates say will revitalize the Torpedo Factory. Critics of the plan, however, have expressed concern that the planned changes will slowly push out artists and erode what makes the location special.
There will be work from 38 different Torpedo Factory artists on display in the gallery.
“Now more than ever, it’s important for arts organizations to collaborate in support of the arts, artists, and disseminating culture,” said Clint Mansell, director of the Principle Gallery. “The Torpedo Factory Art Center has been an institution in Old Town for almost 50 years and we are excited to team up for the first time to usher in the new class of artists and a new day
for the institution.”