Monday, August 5, 2013

Summer Travels - Torpedo Factory Art Center

Several local artist friends recommended the Torpedo Factory as a summer “must-see,” and this art center did not disappoint.  We began our trek up Interstate 95 toward northern Virginia on a Thursday morning, just after rush hour.  No traffic jams.  Rain pouring down.  We arrived at 10am just as the doors opened and artists began their daily work.

Torpedo Factory staircase
 art work

The Torpedo Factory Art Center was an actual torpedo factory . . . 

It all began the day after Armistice Day, November 12, 1918, which was the anniversary of the official end of World War I. Ironically, on that day the U.S. Navy began construction on the original building, which became the U.S. Naval Torpedo Station. When fully operational, it was responsible for the manufacture and maintenance of torpedoes for the next five years. Work stopped and the facility served as a munitions storage area until World War II. Production on the Mark XIV, a submarine borne torpedo, and the Mark III aircraft torpedo then resumed at an intense rate; in fact, men and women worked around the clock and were given only two days off a year. Gradually as space was needed, ten additional buildings were added to the complex.

torpedo
 When peace was declared in June of 1945, the furious activity at the torpedo factory came to a grinding halt. Eventually, the U.S. government decided to use the buildings for storage space: the Smithsonian stored art objects and valuable dinosaur bones; Congress stored documents; the military kept German war films and records in sealed vaults.

In 1969, the City of Alexandria bought the complex of buildings from the Federal Government. However, it was several years before an acceptable plan for their use was adopted. Marian Van Landingham proposed a project that would renovate the building into working studio spaces for artists.

The Torpedo Factory building was gutted entirely, including all pipes, electrical units, windows, and flooring. A second floor was constructed. A ventilation system and central air and heating were added as well. The artful spiral staircase and main staircase were both added at this time. The artist studios were built to address the specific water, lighting, and electrical needs of each resident artist. A grand reopening celebration was held on May 20, 1983.  

Today, the Torpedo Factory Art Center is home to over 160 professional artists who work, exhibit, and sell their art. The Center features a wide variety of media including painting, ceramics, photography, jewelry, stained glass, fiber, printmaking, and sculpture. The artists invite visitors to join them in their studios and observe their creative processes.

artist studio

artist studio 
From the Torpedo Factory windows, we looked out over the Potomac waterfront, just as the last raindrops fell.   

raindrops on window overlooking Potomac  walking in the rain Alexandria waterfront 
We enjoyed a cup of coffee and a chocolate croissant from the Cafe by Bread and Chocolate and ventured to Alexandria's beautiful downtown. 

cafe tables 

Alexandria Market Square

These summer adventures are joyous occasions for our family. We laughmostly at ourselves. We eat delicious foodmostly healthy. We exploremostly on foot.  We take picturesmostly to see freshly. And we hold onto these memoriesmostly because summer doesn't last forever.

1 comment:

  1. So nice to see these images: we spent several Springs in Alexandria and I loved exhibiting there. Everybody was so friendly and the terras at the back was my favourite place to sit and stare.

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