Artists fight back against proposed renovations to Torpedo Factory


ALEXANDRIA, Va. (WDVM) — The Torpedo Factory Art Center has been home to Alexandria artists since the 1970s, but now with talks of proposed renovations, it has the artists worrying they could lose their studio space for good.

For artist M. Alexander Gray, who grew up in Alexandria, the space has had a special place in his heart since he was a young painter.

“The Torpedo Factory was just this place that I could go, that I aspired to get into,” said Gray.

Fast forward years later, and Gray has achieved that goal, setting up shop in a first-floor studio of the building. But the proposed renovations for the space have him concerned he will have to find space elsewhere.

“I’m not gonna go without a fight. I’m going to make this tough for you,” said Gray.

The artist fought back, creating an online petition that has reached nearly 7,000 signatures. Gray also went a step further and created a new website, called “Save the Torpedo Factory,”which launched on Thursday.

One of the city’s proposed plans suggests placing a restaurant on the first floor, and ultimately, losing square footage for studio space. Artist Charleen Nield says Alexandria doesn’t need any more dining establishments.

“You would think that the city more than ever needs the attraction of the Torpedo Factory to keep continuing to keep brining people down here,” said Nield. “We are the attraction here. We are the performers here.”

However, the City of Alexandria says as of right now, nothing is set in stone.

“These are not plans, so we have not gone through a planning process yet for a potential renovation,” said Diane Ruggiero, Deputy Director at the Office of the Arts

Ruggiero says the proposals were created to get an idea of cost, should the building undergo a renovation. She says it is unclear yet whether the project would be taxpayer or privately funded, should the plans move forward.

“The scenarios that were developed looked at a broad idea of space allocation. We just want to make sure we have an amazing art center for our artists and an amazing art center for our community,” said Ruggiero, who noted that the building — which is 102 years old — was in dire need of repairs.

A community meeting will be held next week to discuss the finances of the proposed renovations. Findings will be presented to the City Council on Dec. 14.

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