Like any building that has seen hard use over an extended period of time, the Torpedo Factory Art Center needs a little tender, loving care.
Built near the close of the Great War, the armament plant alternately supplied the United States’ war machine and served as a federal storage shed before City Hall bought the property in the middle of the last century. Not long after, members of Alexandria’s creative class successfully turned it into an artistic hub.
As the building approaches the centennial of its construction, the Torpedo Factory naturally needs a touch-up. Given that 30 years have passed since the last round of major renovations, that need is significant.
But the situation is not dire. It’s not as if the massive structure is about to slide into the Potomac River, after all.
It should not come as a surprise that the Times supports the city councilors who politely pushed off a request made by the nonprofit art center’s leadership for financial support last month. While all were in agreement the Torpedo Factory is one of Alexandria’s jewels, cutting it a check for about $137,000 outside of annual budget negotiations — which most recently concluded in May — was unreasonable.
But they agreed to reconsider the request in the fall, when budget talks begin again.
Like our city councilors, we are fans of the Torpedo Factory. We want to see it succeed. It would be thrilling if it got a makeover, particularly if a bit of renovation work helps it become even more of a draw on the waterfront.
This, then, is a two-fold call to action: The art center’s leaders must up their game while residents in this cultured and wealthy Beltway community should ponder how they might lend a hand.
The Torpedo Factory’s management team needs a better plan than asking City Hall for a large sum of cash — outside of budget season, no less — to bolster the art center. They also need to draft a backup plan devoid of taxpayer dollars. There’s no guarantee city officials will be able to carve out the money they need next year either.
As for residents, now is the time to get involved. Donating money is an option, but it is not the only one. No doubt more than a few of our readers have experience in fundraising, securing corporate sponsorship, grant writing, marketing and financial planning, not to mention the technical and handyman skills needed in this undertaking.
Though the Torpedo Factory temporarily might be stuck playing the waiting game, that doesn’t mean it is too early to rally around the beloved art center. Comparing it to the Corcoran’s recent troubles would go too far, but we have all seen close up what happens when financial difficulties beset a local cultural institution.
What is art worth to you?