Mar 28, 2010

The Torpedo Factory

A vibrant art scene is an integral component to any city aspiring to attract the creative movement into their neighborhoods. I have never heard of the Torpedo Factory Art Center before stumbling upon this former torpedo factory located on the the waterfront of Old Town Alexandria. The factory also served as a storage facility for the Federal Government after World War II. This is where the archives of the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials and the dinosaur bones from the Smithsonian were stored after the war. 

The City of Alexandria bought the building in 1969 but didn't occupy it until 1974 when Marian Van Landingham, the founder and and first director of the factory, proposed the conversion of the factory into a gallery of workshops for artists in 1974. It was this grassroots efforts by local artists, city officials and patron of the arts that has resulted into one of the most fascinating art centers I've ever seen in the US. The Torpedo Factory houses eighty-two artist studios, six galleries, The Art League School and Gallery and the Alexandria Archaeology Museum. 

Like a lot of cities around the world, Grand Rapids could benefit from the establishment of a similar facility. The city should ride the success of ArtPrize and push for a multi-use, year round, creative facility to house as many artists and art programs in the metro downtown area. 

Main arcade
James Steele photography
I was struck by the vibrant colors of this Chinatown photograph by James Steele.
Three floors of artist studios
A display of handbags from one of the studios
A collage of Charles Hamilton Houston, an American lawyer credited for killing the Jim Crow laws in America
Abstract artist, Susan Finsen's studio
Hand sinks in the public space
Exterior of the Torpedo Factory
Animal-mache on the second floor
I got a kick out of this wall painting by the entrance


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Scott G. said...

I love the Torpedo Factory. So many amazing artists there. I have family in Old Town so my favorite place to go is The Chart House for dinner.