The Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria VA was founded in 1974 in an old munitions plant. It became home to the nation’s largest collection of working-artists’ open studios in one building.
As a landmark in Alexandria for over 40 years, the art center has become the highlight of the Potomac Riverfront, bringing in approximately 500,000 visitors every year. You can find a variety of artwork in different media displayed in its 82 artists’ studios. Explore the halls and observe the creative process of each artist. You can even ask them questions and purchase original work for your own collection.
The Art Center has also been used to hold various events as well, with halls that hold weddings, corporate meetings, high school reunions, anniversary parties, and more. The Torpedo Factory Art Center also holds classes and workshops for aspiring artists in the City of Virginia.
Brief History of the Torpedo Factory Art Center Alexandria VA
From its name alone, the Torpedo Factory Art Center was, indeed, once an actual torpedo factory. It was at the end of World War I when the U.S. Navy began to construct the original building, which was the U.S. Naval Torpedo Station. Once it was fully operational, it would be responsible for manufacturing and maintaining the Mark III torpedos for the next five years.
Operations ceased in 1923 and the facility turned into a munitions storage area until 1937 when the production of the Mark XIV began, leading up to World War II. Over time, the complex multiplied into 16 buildings with 5,000 employees.
The Mark XIV green torpedo that’s currently displayed in the main hall was produced in the building in the year 1945. It was painted in bright green so that the Navy would not have a hard time finding it when they tested it out in Piney Point, MD.
When the war ended in 1945, it temporarily manufactured parts for rocket engines before shutting down completely in 1946.
Then, in 1950, the complex was converted into the Federal Records Center in Alexandria. It housed congressional documents, dinosaur bones, German war films, and Nuremberg War Crimes trial records.
In the year 1969, the City of Alexandria purchased the building from the Federal Government for $1.6 million. Four years later, the editor of the Alexandria Journal and chair of the Alexandria Bicentennial Commission, James W. Coldsmith, suggested to the Art Leagues President, Marian Van Landingham, that they convert the old torpedo plant into a property of The Art League. The idea was them pitched to Mayor Charles Beatley Jr., who approved of the request on May 7, 1974.
Work began that spring and the renovation was between the years 1982 and 1983. By the complex’s re-opening ceremony on May 21, 1983, there were 225 artists working on their pieces in the Art Center, including a harpsichord maker.
Current Galleries Held in the Torpedo Factory Art Center as of 2019
The Art League Gallery
Van Landingham Gallery
Multiple Exposures Gallery
Potomac Fiber Arts Gallery
What Other Things Can You Find at the Torpedo Factory Center Alexandria VA?
The Art League School
Discover Graphics Atelier
The Alexandria Archaeology Museum
Are you looking to explore the wonders of art? Check out the works of talented artists in Virginia and learn from them as well when you visit the Torpedo Factory Art Center in the baptist church Alexandria, VA. Hold your own exhibit, celebrate the good times, or simply support your local artists in this place of possibilities and creativity.