By Julia Brouillette
Alexandria’s premier waterfront attraction, the Torpedo Factory Art Center, has opened its doors to the creatively inclined from across the country as part of the Visiting Artists Program.
Now in its fourth year, the program lets artists work in one of the Torpedo Factory’s 82 studios. For the duration of their stay — the program runs through next month — participants keep busy with art-enrichment events, demonstrating and discussing their work.
“[The program] fosters art appreciation,” said Tanya Davis, a member of the Torpedo Factory Artists’ Association. “Appreciation of art requires both the maker and the viewer. In most places … the hand of the maker is not really evident.”
Attracting approximately 500,000 visitors annually, the art center is open to the public and houses more than 165 visual artists who produce work in a wide variety of media, such as: painting, ceramics, photography, jewelry, stained glass, fiber, printmaking and sculpture.
Becoming a visiting artist is a highly competitive process. Applicants must describe the work that they propose to do at the center and provide images of completed art pieces to show their accomplishments and potential.
An independent juror evaluates the submissions and selects the finalists. Maria Karametou, a mixed-media artist and professor at George Mason University, served as this year’s judge.
Selected artists bring a diverse set of skills, techniques and art forms to the Torpedo Factory. The program offers an opportunity to interact with the public and collaborate with other artists.
“It helps us to open our artist community, network and mentor,” Davis said. “So it’s very exciting that people have come from other states to do this.”
Susan Emmerson, a visiting artist from Bloomington, Ill., uses durable paper to create large, elaborate wall hangings. One hanging can take several months to complete and several hours to put up.
“I came here with materials and plans, and I’ve gotten a fair amount done,” she said. “The best part for me has been interacting with other artists and seeing the way other people work.”
Caroline McCatty, an artist from England who resides in Clarksville, Md., creates narrative images and characters — mostly inspired by the Medieval Christian art of Northern Europe — that spring into action with the turn of a crank. She enjoys sharing her artwork with the community and watching how people relate to her characters.
“The stories that the general public has told me are just so wonderful … so many incredible ideas and things that people tell me that I didn’t know,” she said.
An artist and art instructor from Potomac, Md., Martha Spak paints beautiful landscapes and still-life images. She is working on a series of amusement park-themed paintings.
“I love it here. It’s a professional and creative environment,” Spak said. “Everyone exchanges great information.”
Visiting artist demo days are free and let the public meet the Torpedo Factory’s creative guests and learn about their methods, materials and backgrounds. Demo days will occur from noon to 4 p.m. on July 20 and August 17.