“Crazy great”: a report from the Torpedo Factory’s first Art Material Market

Artists always have materials they just can’t use—but they’re hungry for bargains on the things they do need. That was the inspiration for the Art Material Market, Saturday’s collaboration between the Torpedo Factory Art Center, the Torpedo Factory Artists’ Association, and the Art League—a first-of-its-kind event that proved to be a huge success.

According to Richard Johnson, TFAC Director of Operations, around 4,000 people visited the Torpedo Factory during the Art Material Market—one-third more than the crowd on a typical Saturday in August. “It was a happy, convivial day for all,” says TFAA President Tanya Davis. “Great turnout, steady traffic—just fabulous.”

Artists sought out the vendors who set up shop on the main floor—and, thanks to a handy-dandy map, they also tracked down bargains in 20 studios. Pastel sets! Tripods! A light box! A vintage Land camera! Frames! A grab-bag of fabric! One visiting museum curator working on a show about a serigraphy artist got an impromptu printmaking demo—and reportedly found discounted serigraphy tools to take back to her office.

On Facebook, mixed-media artist Wendy Sittner raved about the deals she found, including tubes of Golden paints for 50 cents each. Other local artists who set up a dealer’s table were equally pleased with the day. “It was a well-organized event, with interested consumers the entire time,” says portrait artist LeAnn Kalita. “I sold plenty of items that I no longer have use for, at fire-sale prices. They now have new homes and I have clean shelves—a win-win for everyone!”

It was, above all, an afternoon for outreach. We greeted local artists, from students to professionals, and reminded them that they’re always welcome in our studios—even as their presence reminded us of our responsibility to the larger D.C.-area arts scene. We all made wonderful new connections; Rosemary Covey tells us she chatted with several vendors and plans to follow up with them.

Torpedo Factory jewelry maker Dawn Benedetto, who sold nearly “two carloads of stuff,” called the event “crazy great” and praised the opportunity to donate useful materials to the T.C. Williams and West Potomac High School art programs. “Anything I hadn’t sold and didn’t want to bring home found its way to the donation pile,” she says. “I kept it out of the landfill and out of my basement.”

In tough economic times, the Art Material Market emphasized two truths that every artist knows: It’s always a blast to meet other local artists, and there’s hidden value in everything.

“I sold all the bags of my hand-dyed silk scraps, lots of yarn, a labeling machine, and all of my silkscreen frames,” says fiber and glass artist Cindy Brandt. “I hope this becomes an annual event.”

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