Friday, August 01, 2014

The Torpedo Factory and the lucky city of Alexandria

From the Torpedo Factory to the DMV:

To our Community of Torpedo Factory supporters :

In response to the recent press coverage, particularly the article and editorial in last week’s Alexandria Times, I’m writing to provide clarification on the Torpedo Factory Art Center’s presentation before the Alexandria City Council.

On May 24th, the Torpedo Factory Art Center went before Council to request autonomy in selecting our own board members 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 $400K each year in rent and utilities.  We proposed forgoing payment on $137,000 of these funds to re-invest into specific vital projects including new programming, additional marketing, new signage, architectural services and staffing.  This investment of a mere 27 cents per visitor would enable the Torpedo Factory to be a vibrant contributor to the City’s plans to revitalize the waterfront.

Council did not reject this proposal, they choose not to act on it and we hope they will re-consider 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. 

Some key facts: 

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

  • Our building has not been renovated since 1983, over 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 dollars 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, it is about the ability of the Art Center to grow and thrive.  To do so, we need the support of both the Alexandria community and the City government.  Over the course of a year, our Board of Directors (alongside officials from the Art League and the Artists Associate) met nine times and completed a Strategic Road Map to lay out plans for growth and new programming.  There are exciting developments in progress and we encourage the community to get involved in the following ways:

Visit – we’re open seven days a week from 10 AM – 6 PM (Thursdays til 9 PM). Our numerous events and openings provide multiple reasons to come back to visit our artists.

Donate – gifts of any size will help build new programs and continue our mission to foster connections that ignite the creative spirit.

Volunteer – we always appreciate volunteers to help either on a regular schedule or for special events.

We’re grateful for this valuable press coverage and the opportunity to create dialogue on our organizational needs and plans.  Together, we can make the Torpedo Factory an even better place to experience art in person and in progress!

Eric Wallner
Chief Executive Officer
Torpedo Factory Art Center