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An Art Night on the Town

Art, music, and history come together for a night in Old Town Alexandria.

Old Town Alexandria is definitely full of historical buildings, but the local businesses are trying a modern twist by opening up their facilities for a night of fun. And the Torpedo Factory is lighting the way with a monthly night they like to call Second Thursday.

The Torpedo Factory Art Center is located at 105 North Union St. where it over looks the waterfront of Potomac River. Also, numerous restaurants, art galleries, and retail shops reside within a close walking distance from the art center. With three incredible floors full of "82 artists’ studios, six galleries, two workshops, and the Alexandria Archeology Museum" as their Web site states, the building already offers a lot to the public but they are trying to do more.

Mary Cook the Torpedo Factory’s Target Gallery Director said "I feel like it is just another important event that is not just here at the art center but all of Old Town." Their next up-coming Thursday event is July 10 and the theme is no other than Alive With History.

The building, among other buildings in Old Town Alexandria, has historical value to the community and The Torpedo Factory wants to keep that in mind. The art center was built after World War I to make torpedoes for the U.S. military according to The Torpedo Factory’s Web site, but closed down in 1945 only to reopen as an Art Center in 1947.

In reference to the event, Gloria Logan a resident water color artist at The Torpedo Factory said "I think when they are thinking of history, they are thinking of Alexandria’s history."

The event theme was chosen by The Old Town Business and Professional Association said Tara Zimnick-Calico Director of Special Events and Community Liason at The Torpedo Factory and it is "not something that is meant to be limited." Gloria Logan also went on to share "It is reaching a different audience at night."

"I think the positive part of it is they do not have to buy. It is open just for an event. It brings people in and they see something" said Logan. Francine B. Livadritis a photographer and resident artist at The Torpedo Factory said "Its [a] great night for people to walk around town and have dinner."

The event has "activities" that relate to the theme of that night said Zimnick-Calico. Mary Cook offers "We have wine and cheese usually. There are several other galleries in the building and they will have art openings and they will also have entertainment and reception food." Cook added, "A lot of the time they will have performers. Last month the theme was Dancing in the Streets and they had several dance studios here, giving free dance lessons."

Logan also said that "One night …we all did edible art and we all tried to serve food that looked like art." So there is always something to look forward to.

However this particular Thursday the event will be a little different. Tara Zimnick-Calico shares that they will "not [be] having music that night…to focus more on the [art] studios being open."

But, The Torpedo Factory will be premiering a traveling showcase of Torpedo artists’ works entitled "From Here to There" says Francine B. Livaditis, who also has some of her own works in the show. Mary Cook, who is also in charge of the event, went on to explain "in 2009 it will be our 35th anniversary [of The Torpedo Factory]. And the inspiration behind the show is leading up to that 35th anniversary."

Mary Cook also went on to add "It just so happens that this month was Alive With History. It helps to kick this off for that as well because it is kind of a celebration of the art centers history [The Torpedo Factory]."

Along with activities of that night, Cook said that "We have a juror named Jenine Culligan and she is the senior curator of the Huntington Museum of Art, in Huntington West Virgina, "who chose the art pieces in the art show, and she will be here that evening actually to tell us all about it and [there will be] a slide show of the works."

"We will have a map available at the reception desk so they [visitors] can get a preview before they [the art work] hit road" said Cook in reference to the event.

Tara Zimnick-Calico specified that they are trying to make the Second Thursday event "town wide." She said that they hand out postcards that list which businesses will be open that evening. Matthew Harwood a water color artist at The Torpedo Factory stated "[the] idea is to bring people into Alexandria."

Among the art galleries that participate in event, Twig Murray on The Board of Trustees at The Athenaeum explained that they also will be open for this Thursday event. The Athenaeum is the Home of Northern Virginia Art Association and resides in a historic building that used to be the Bank of the Old Dominion where Robert E. Lee did his banking as The Athenaeum’s website describes.

"We thought, that while the attendance is growing for second Thursday, we would make it more of a destination. So we are doing that" she said.

During their event, Murray said "we will be having the Harley String Band performing. We put up some chairs and the gallery is open. So people can come in and listen to the performance and look at the art."

The artwork which will be on display during the event is called "The Long View" by "Ten Members of The Washington Society of Landscape Painters." Twig said that for their event they "charge a $10 admission." The Northern Virginia Art Association then splits the proceeds with The Songwriters Association of Washington, which helps finds local musicians to perform at these events. She said "we own the building and we fill it with art and music and we try to make it available to the public."

In hopes of uniting local art galleries to bring an entertaining night to the local community, Cook said "We try to do a lot of programming and things for Second Thursday just to have extra fun things for people to do." Murray commented, "We have something fabulous and we are trying to share it."