Letter to the Editor: Vision for Torpedo Factory

Letter to the Editor: Vision for Torpedo Factory

We appreciate the Gazette’s coverage [“Paint by Numbers,” March 16] of this important new study by the Steve Fuller Institute. We are particularly grateful that the article recognized how the uncertainty of the current governance limbo at the Torpedo Factory Art Center is leaving our artists and their businesses in a precarious position.

Many of the voices cited in the article, however, seem to miss a crucial point of the Fuller Study: that the Art Center is a catalyst for economic growth in Alexandria. The goal of the study was not to canvas all sources of the city’s tourism revenue, as Visit Alexandria’s Patricia Washington seems to imply, but to illuminate how the Art Center contributes to the city’s economic vitality and how we might capitalize on our unique qualities to the benefit of all of Alexandria. Washington is right to recognize the Art Center as a “major attraction” and that now is the time “to make the Torpedo Factory more.” We will continue to work with Visit Alexandria to ensure that Alexandria remains a leading tourist destination.

It is equally misleading to limit any discussion of the city’s management of the building to the past six months. The Torpedo Factory Art Center Board (TFACB), to which the article gives short shrift, was the entity that the City Council created in 2011 to raise money for marketing and capital improvements as part of a larger drive to revitalize the Art Center. That city-sponsored effort floundered — a fact that Washington, who sat on the TFACB, fails to mention when she criticizes that Artists’ Association as a proponent of the status quo. The TFACB struggled to raise money to invest in the Art Center, developed a contentious relationship with the artists it was supposed to champion, and never acknowledged the performance failures of the CEO and of their own shortsighted policy directives.

Given that history, the article’s suggestion that some artists haven’t noticed a change is not surprising. After six years of having the opportunity to lead, the city has yet to provide the vision for the future they claim our artists lack. Still, in spite of great uncertainty, a 15 percent rent increase, and a drop in services, our artists continue to be optimistic, creative, and cooperative.

It is great that a few artists continue to do well in their business under the current environment, but we want to ensure that all artists have the opportunity to thrive. That is why we launched the Artists’ Association Business Plan last September not just for the future of our organization, but for a more dynamic and engaging Torpedo Factory. It remains the only business plan offered with an actionable roadmap to a self-sustaining Art Center. We hope the Gazette can continue to shed light on this issue to propel the conversation forward.

Rachel Kerwin

TFAA President