Torpedo Factory's new temporary city-managed infrastructure.
On the surface of Alexandria’s arts community, but in the depths of city bureaucracy, major changes are underway at the Torpedo Factory, the arts facility right at the heart of Alexandria’s waterfront.
For the last year, administration of the Torpedo Factory has been paralyzed over questions over the center’s future management. At the end of June, the Torpedo Factory Arts Center’s lease with the city expires. The city has set up a three-month extension, but with no clear long- term solution is in sight, the city stepped in to directly take over management until a new government structure can be found.
Under the current structure, the city leases the space to the Torpedo Factory Arts Center Board. The board issues leases to the Torpedo Factory Artists Association and The Art League, who then rent those spaces out to artists. But starting in October, the roles of the Torpedo Factory Arts Center Board and the Torpedo Factory Artists Association will be absorbed into the city. At that point, the leases of the Art League, the artists’ spaces, the galleries, and the Bread and Chocolate Cafe will be dealt with through the city.
For now, the city is working to make sure very little seems to change.
“For the average artist, nothing will change,” said Diane Ruggiero, deputy director of the Office of the Arts. “They will still have a studio, still pay rent, still keep current requirements and have no additional mandates.”
The only noticeable change Ruggiero says will be that anyone with maintenance or management questions will contact the city. All current employees at the Torpedo Factory Arts Center will be absorbed as temporary city employees, so Ruggiero says many of those the artists need to contact will remain the same.
Deputy City Manager Emily Baker emphasized that the city’s takeover for the Torpedo Factory Arts Center is temporary.
“Friction at a board level has created issues that have plagued the Torpedo Factory reform process since the beginning,” said Baker. “We’ve had conversations but no consensus.”
The artist associations within the Torpedo Factory have reacted with cautious optimism. Don Viehman, president of the Artist’s Association, says that right now many within the Torpedo Factory are willing to wait and see how this goes. Viehman says the primary focus is continuing to make sure that artists aren’t excluded from the ultimate decision-making.
Suzanne Bethel, executive director of the Art League, said she hasn’t heard anything so far that leads her to believe the artists are being cut out of the decision-making process.
“Right now, we wait and see,” said Bethel. “We’re cautiously optimistic about the way things are headed.”