Torpedo Factory Art Center

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Coordinates: 38°48′18″N 77°02′23″W / 38.804869°N 77.039833°W / 38.804869; -77.039833

Torpedo Factory Art Center

Torpedo Factory Art Center is a naval munitions factory that was converted into an art center on the banks of the Potomac River in Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia. The facility is located at 105 N. Union Street, near the eastern end of King Street.

The Torpedo Factory Art Center is home to the largest number of publicly accessible working artist studios in the U.S. Each year, more than a half-million visitors interact with its community of artists. It houses more than 82 artists' studios, seven galleries and two workshops, with some 165 professional visual artists who work in a variety of media, including painting, ceramics, photography, jewelry, stained glass, fiber, printmaking, and sculpture.[1] The Torpedo Factory has become a model of creative placemaking for other communities.[2]


After months of planning, on November 12, 1918—ironically the day after Armistice Day marked the end of World War I—the U.S. Navy began construction of the U.S. Naval Torpedo Station. The factory built torpedoes for five years before becoming munitions storage. With the onset of World War II, the factory produced Mark III torpedoes for aircraft and Mark XIV torpedoes for submarines.

By the war's end in 1945, the complex was converted to government storage for things such as congressional documents, artifacts from the Smithsonian, and Nazi trial records. The City of Alexandria eventually bought the building in 1969.

In 1974, Marian Van Landingham, as president of The Art League, proposed a project to renovate part of the factory into studio spaces for the Alexandria Bicentennial Project. The project was originally approved for only three years. Large-scale renovation began in May 1974 and the new center formally opened on September 15, 1974. From 1982 to 1983, the building underwent further renovation in compliance with the City's waterfront development plan and was entirely gutted and rebuilt with a new ventilation system and central heating. It formally reopened on May 20, 1983. Adjacent industrial facilities were demolished to build the Torpedo Factory Condominiums in 1985.

In the 1990s, the Torpedo Factory Artists’ Association (TFAA),[3] created by artists and The Art League, began managing the Art Center with support from the Friends of the Torpedo Factory.[4] The Torpedo Factory Artists’ Association is the Torpedo Factory's professional artist community of more than 275 juried visual artists. Past presidents include Tanya Davis, and other artists, and the current president is artist Rachel Kerwin.[5]

In 2018, the City of Alexandria took control of all operations of the Torpedo Factory, despite opposition from some artists.[6]


  1. ^ "Overview | Torpedo Factory Art Center". Retrieved 2016-03-01.
  2. ^ Landingham, Marian Van (1999-01-01). On Target: Stories of the Torpedo Factory Art Center's First 25 years. Place of publication not identified: Marian Van Landingham. ISBN 9780967137506.
  3. ^ "Torpedo Factory Artists' Association – Working Artists • Open Studios" (in American English). Retrieved 2019-02-19.
  4. ^ "Torpedo Factory Art Center Frequently Asked Questions". (in American English). Retrieved 2019-02-19.
  5. ^ "Artist News – Torpedo Factory Artists' Association" (in American English). Retrieved 2019-02-19.
  6. ^ Schrott, Missy. "City takes permanent control of Torpedo Factory | Alexandria Times | Alexandria, VA" (in American English). Retrieved 2019-01-17.

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