Letter to the Editor: Uncertainty Hurts Torpedo Factory

Letter to the Editor: Uncertainty Hurts Torpedo Factory

I brought my business to Alexandria because of the supportive and vibrant community I found at the Torpedo Factory Arts Center. It gave me the space and tools to grow my business while creating my art. The opportunity to connect with so many Alexandria residents and people from all over our region and the world through art has been inspiring. Artists, not bureaucrats, built the spirit and draw of this place.

It has been difficult to watch this spirit wither. The current uncertainty of Alexandria’s takeover of the Factory has sunk community morale. The upheaval of this transition is hurting my business. Too many artistic communities have floundered as well-intentioned government and non-profit organizations have stripped their artist stakeholders of agency. I fear watching the Torpedo Factory go the way of Arlington’s now-defunct Artisphere or Washington’s Corcoran Gallery of Art.

With tightening budgets and real issues that need the city’s help, I don’t want — or need — Alexandria to subsidize my business. I want to continue building on the diverse, creative marketplace that our founders envisioned 42 years ago. Alexandria has shown a commitment to maintain an arts presence on the waterfront, but only the Torpedo Factory Artists’ Association has offered a concrete, actionable plan for the center’s future — one that doesn’t cost the city a dime in operational costs. I encourage you to read the details of that plan at factoryartists.org.

Many parts of the artists’ plan can be seen in programs that are already underway. The new revenue-generating, sold-out performances of A Dream Within a Dream: Madness — the artist-sponsored, immersive theater project at the Torpedo Factory — rekindled the vibrancy of the art center. We are building community engagement initiatives like the artist-student collaboration with T.C. Williams High School, where we introduced the Pour Your Art Out public arts project and our 20-year public high school artist-student mentorship program.

Torpedo Factory artists have been attracting people to Alexandria for decades. We did it while opening our doors to the community, near and far, and inviting the community to grow with us. The final decision for our future will fall to City Council. The longer the council takes to make that decision, the more our unique landmark and my business suffer. The artists benefit from our beautiful waterfront home, but as we thrive, so does Alexandria. If you support a more dynamic and self-sustaining Torpedo Factory Arts Center with artists at the heart, join me in urging City Council members to move quickly to approve the transition to an artist-led Torpedo Factory.

Lesley Clarke