45 Years Young! Alexandria’s Torpedo Factory Art Center Celebrates Milestone

"We feel like it's been a major contribution to the city, not only in the publicity and the people who are drawn to it from the outside, and of course for the opportunity for the artists to develop and grow," said Marian Van Landingham.  

The Torpedo Factory’s 45th anniversary celebration, Sept. 15, 2019. (Photo: James Cullum)

Alexandria, VA – It seems like the Torpedo Factory has always been an art center, right? Far from it, and on Sunday city leaders congratulated former Delegate Marian Van Landingham (D-45) for spearheading the effort to convert the old Naval Torpedo Plant into a destination point for 500,000 visitors every year.

“It was an amazing effort,” Van Landingham said of opening the Torpedo Factory 45 years ago. “So, we feel like it’s been a major contribution to the city, not only in the publicity and the people who are drawn to it from the outside, and of course for the opportunity for the artists to develop and grow.”
Marian Van Landingham speaks at the Torpedo Factory’s 45th anniversary celebration, Sept. 15, 2019. (Photo: James Cullum)
In 1973, Van Landingham was looking for new space for the Art League’s membership gallery and school. She came across the three blocks of buildings that the city bought from the federal government for $1.6 million in 1969. The city had no definitive plans for the property, except perhaps to demolish the structures and convert it into a park. For years it housed U.S. government records, Nazi and fascist records from World War II, North Korean records, and storage from the Smithsonian Institution.
(Left to right) Alexandria City Councilman Mo Seifeldein, Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th), Mayor Justin Wilson, and Megan Beyer at the Torpedo Factory’s 45th anniversary celebration, Sept. 15, 2019. (Photo: James Cullum) 
Marian Van Landingham speaks at the Torpedo Factory’s 45th anniversary celebration, Sept. 15, 2019. (Photo: James Cullum)
The Torpedo Factory is home to over 165 artists and 82 studios throughout three floors. In recognition of the achievement, The Torpedo Factory Artists’ Association recently renamed Gallery 311 in her honor.
U.S. Rep. Don Beyer speaks at the Torpedo Factory’s 45th anniversary celebration, Sept. 15, 2019. (Photo: James Cullum)
“When you think that this simple idea that she [Van Landingham] had all those years ago, literally the largest publicly, accessible working artist studio under one roof in the country,” said Northern Virginia Congressman Don Beyer (D-8th).
Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson called it the jewel of the city’s waterfront.
“A building that was originally built to manufacture Mark III torpedoes today is the home to publicly accessible working art studios,” Wilson said. “The Torpedo Factory is a landmark around the world and certainly a landmark for our communities. We are an arts community here in the city of Alexandria, and this is our headquarters. The factory today drives visitors to our community and fosters the love of arts in city and beyond.”
Alexandria City Councilman John Chapman said that the Torpedo Factory was an important part of his childhood.
“I think, for me growing up, my mom didn’t have a lot of money and so a place like this was a place that she brought us and allowed us to kind of see more of the world, frankly, because you have artists from all over, that are coming here and producing amazing art,” he said.
Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson speaks at the Torpedo Factory’s 45th anniversary celebration, Sept. 15, 2019. (Photo: James Cullum)
Marian Van Landingham watches as Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson speaks at the Torpedo Factory’s 45th anniversary celebration, Sept. 15, 2019. (Photo: James Cullum)
(Left to right) U.S. Rep. Don Beyer, Mayor Justin Wilson, Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, and City Councilors Canek Aguirre, Amy Jackson, and Mo Seifeldein at the Torpedo Factory’s 45th anniversary celebration, Sept. 15, 2019. (Photo: James Cullum)
The Torpedo Factory’s 45th anniversary celebration, Sept. 15, 2019. (Photo: James Cullum)