Opinion Your Views — 21 August 2014
Here’s how you can help the Torpedo Factory Art Center

By Eric Wallner, chief executive officer, Torpedo Factory Art Center

To the editor:

In response to the Alexandria Times article and editorial in the July 24 issue (“Alexandria residents, the Torpedo Factory needs you”), I am writing to provide clarification on the Torpedo Factory Art Center’s item that was presented to the Alexandria City Council at their May 24 meeting.

The Torpedo Factory Art Center went before city council to request changes in our board structure and to receive a rebate on the annual rent we pay for the public spaces. As the city owns the building, the Torpedo Factory and its tenants pay almost $400,000 each year in rent and utilities. We proposed forgoing payment on $137,000 of these funds to re-invest into specific and vital projects, including new programming, additional marketing, new signage, architectural services and staffing.

This investment of a mere 27 cents per visitor would let the Torpedo Factory become a vibrant contributor to the city’s plans to revitalize the waterfront.
City councilors did not reject this proposal; they choose not to act on it. We hope they will reconsider it again in the fall. Given the immensely positive economic impact and community legacy of the Torpedo Factory, our request was not only reasonable and modest, but essential to the long term viability of our organization.

A few key facts:

• Based on a city-funded study in 2010, the Torpedo Factory generates $16.2 million annually in direct visitor spending for Alexandria.

• Our building has not been renovated since 1983, more than 30 years ago.

• While admission to our building and public programs remain free to the community, there is no line item in the city budget for the Torpedo Factory.

• Our overhead costs are as low as possible: We spend $2 per visitor as opposed to the national average for museums of $40-50 per visitor.

Let’s be clear — our proposal was not about minor cosmetic repairs but ratherthe ability of the art center to grow and thrive. To do so, we need the support of the community and city government.

Last year, our board completed a strategic roadmap, which laid out plans for growth and new programming. There are exciting developments in progress and we encourage the community to get involved (information is available on our website, www.torpedofactory.org).

You can visit: We’re open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Thursdays until 9 p.m.). Our many events and openings provide multiple reasons to come back to visit our artists.

You can donate: Gifts of any size will help build new programs and continue our mission to foster connections that ignite the creative spirit.
You can volunteer: We always appreciate volunteers to help either on a regular basis or for special events.

We’re grateful to the Alexandria Times for providing valuable coverage on our organization. Together, we can make the Torpedo Factory an even better place to experience art both in person and in progress.

 

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