The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School


The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School


The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School


Torpedo Factory Turning Towards Change


Nora Malone


The Torpedo Factory has been in Alexandria since 1974 as a place for artists to create and sell their art. It was bought by the city in 1969 and was unused until Martin Van Landingham, President of the Art League, proposed that part of the factory should be renovated to become studio spaces. It officially opened on September 15, 1974, but underwent more renovations from 1982 to 1983 officially reopening on May 20, 1983. In 1990 the Torpedo Factory Artists’ Association (TFAA) began managing the factory; they ran it until 2018 when the city took control, after a unanimous city council decision and mixed opinions from artists.

Recently the city has presented a proposal to update the space to include stores, restaurants, a roof deck, and a demonstration area, for artists to show how they make their art and lead workshops with visitors. They want to improve the visitor experience and increase the number of people coming into the Torpedo Factory.

However, this plan has received some backlash, because it will mean some artists will be removed from the factory. 

M. Alexander Gray, an artist who’s been at the factory since 2014 started a petition on to stop the plan, it currently has 7,129 signatures.

“Their [the city’s] solution is insane, they want to bring in big developers, who are already wealthy, to come in and make this place into something it was never meant to be,” said Gray.

A large portion of the criticism of the plan is that it will change the uniqueness of the Torpedo Factory. A place for artists to work and sell their art, paying rent below market rate and keeping all money they made from selling their art. Many of the comments on Gray’s petition echo this, saying that the Torpedo Factory is a distinctive part of Alexandria and the plan hurts the art community.

“This place [The Torpedo Factory] gives you a shot to be a professional artist.” said Gray “What the city wants to do is to spend millions of dollars to get rid of us and put in something else.”

The city’s current proposal, done by SmithGroup, an architectural consulting firm hired by the city, plans to reduce the studio space by 11,880 square feet, as well as to reduce gallery space and create more demonstration areas for artists, and event spaces.

Square footage proposal breakdown by SmithGroup

“I don’t think the city has given any thought or consideration to how it’s going to affect the artists at all, I think it’s just gonna be what it is […] and they’re basically gonna tell us ‘who cares what you think, we’re gonna do what we’re gonna do anyway’” said Gray.

The city does not currently have a plan for what the artists will do during construction, or after for those whose studio space has been removed. 

According to the FAQ on the Torpedo Factory website, “There are no plans, proposals, or otherwise to close Torpedo Factory Art Center or to evict artists. Currently, artists and organizations have leases until March 31, 2022, and are expected to be extended to September 30, 2022… working artists will continue to be essential to the Torpedo Factory Art Center in all scenarios.”

Gray feels that the city has not respected or communicated with the artists enough. 

“It’s all been, like ‘here what we’re gonna do, here’s the direction we’re going in if you don’t like it, tough.” 

The city has referenced surveys they’ve done in the city about the torpedo factory saying on their FAQ, “Many of these changes were requested by Alexandrians over the past 20 years.”

The plan is still not set in stone, and the city is hosting webinars to allow the public to speak their mind on the proposal. 

“It’s about the seven people on the city council,” said Gray “the opinion of almost 7,000 people around the region should matter to them […] so we’ll see what happens, but I have to try.”

The proposal: 

M Alexander Grays petition: 

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Torpedo Factory Turning Towards Change