Proposal Restores Artist-led, Marketplace Approach to Govern Renowned Art Center
The artists of the Torpedo Factory Art Center have presented a comprehensive business plan for governing the nationally recognized Center and ensuring its long-term financial viability. The proposal would restore the marketplace, artist-led framework that guided the Torpedo Factory for most of the 42 years that it has been a landmark destination in Old Town Alexandria.
The plan comes in the wake of the City of Alexandria temporarily taking over the Art Center this summer as it considers how it should be managed in the future. Developed by the Torpedo Factory Artists’ Association (TFAA), which represents more than 275 artists, the plan is the only detailed proposal presented to the city, which owns the building.
The TFAA artists “believe it’s time for the organizational structure and governance model to reconnect with the original marketplace framework,” the plan says. “A reinvigorated marketplace, with substantial changes in operations and in partnership with the City of Alexandria, presents the best scenario for the long-term financial viability.”
TFAA calls for the creation of a new, collaborative Torpedo Factory board comprised of representatives of TFAA, the City of Alexandria, and the Art League, the art education organization. The new board would oversee the Art Center and execute the business plan.
The plan outlines ways to improve the financial strength of the Torpedo Factory and make improvements to the building. It would increase revenue by marketing the Center beyond its walls, increasing event-space rentals, partnering with local businesses, and expanding galleries. New sources of revenue would be secured through corporate partnerships, individual memberships, advertising, and fee-based programming.
“We should embrace a vision for the future that recognizes the original successful concept that the Torpedo Factory is an artisan marketplace,” said TFAA President Don Viehman. “We are a collection of dozens of small businesses working in 82 studios. At the same time, we must pursue new opportunities to expand our community outreach, revenue, and partnerships. But that can only be done through a marketplace framework.”
TFAA shared the plan with city officials last month. It will present it publicly at a September 9 birthday tribute for Marian Van Landingham, the Torpedo Factory’s founder and long-time Virginia Delegate, who still maintains an active artist studio at the Center.
“As artists, we’re thrilled to apply our creativity to a business challenge that affects our livelihoods,” remarked Rachel Kerwin, an artist at the Torpedo Factory. “It’s also exciting to demonstrate that we’re more than just an ‘artist colony’. We’re small businesses committed to making the Torpedo Factory a dynamic marketplace. We all win when that happens.”
In July, the City of Alexandria let a five-year lease to a hybrid board expire and installed city employees in non-artist positions at the Torpedo Factory. Top city officials have said they do not intend to retain permanent control of the Art Center operations. It is unclear how soon Alexandria will make decisions about the Torpedo Factory’s future.
“During this transition period, we must protect the original vision that has made the Torpedo Factory the nation’s largest collection of accessible working-artist studios, while rapidly adopting new approaches to meet the financial challenges of the future,” said Viehman.
To view the plan, please visit torpedofactoryartists.com/plan