There isn’t really a reason to talk about The Torpedo Factory today. It could be tomorrow or next week. But seeing as we’re settling into our studio at The Old American Can Factory, repurposed factories are on our minds.
During the height of WWII, Alexandria, Virginia’s Torpedo Factory ran its workers at capacity, making torpedos 363-days a year. The cigar-shaped, self-propelling missiles made in Alexandria were sent to Piney Point, Maryland where they were shot down river from a torpedo test barge (to test distance and course) before being attached to ships and submarines.
War games and instruments changed, business slowed and after some unoccupied, ambiguous years in the late 1960s, Georgia-born artist and community activist Marian Van Landingham got the City of Alexandria to renovate the building into working studio-retail spaces for artists. That was in 1974.
Since then the Torpedo Factory has consistently been a people-powered, quirky, un-precious place to make art and learn craft. I took many classes here as a teenager, learning to uncover art in unlikely objects, like torpedoes. Today, the Torpedo Factory Art Center is home to over 160 professional artists who work, exhibit, and sell their art. Along with over 1,000 cooperative gallery members and some 2,000 art students.
Look for special LORE ornaments from one of our favorite Torpedo Factory artists in a few months.
(p.s. for our Brooklyn friends, it turns out that Robert Fulton of the illustrious Fulton Mall created the first torpedo The Nautillus.)