Torpedo Factory Art Center records, 1974-1996

A Finding Aid to the Torpedo Factory Art Center Records, 1974-1996, in the Archives of American Art, by Jean Fitzgerald

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Table of Contents:



Historical Information

Construction of the original U.S. Naval Torpedo Station on the Potomac River, in Alexandria, Virginia, began on November 12, 1918. This station was responsible for the manufacture and maintenance of torpedoes for the next five years, when work stopped and the building served as a munitions storage facility until World War II. At this time, round-the-clock production of both submarine-borne and airborne torpedoes resumed, and ten buildings were added to the complex to accommodate the increased activity.

Torpedo production halted in 1945, and eventually the buildings were used for storage by various federal agencies, including Congress and the Smithsonian Institution. In 1969, the City of Alexandria bought the complex of buildings, but an acceptable plan for their use was not found for several years.

Marian Van Landingham, a delegate for the State of Virginia, President of the Alexandria-based Art League, and Projects and Programs Director of the Alexandria Bicentennial Commission, proposed a project to renovate two of the buildings into working studio spaces for artists. Her proposal was endorsed by the Commission in December 1973, and renovations began in May 1974. Artists worked to remove 40 truckloads of debris from the buildings and, after City crews constructed partial studio walls, they painted the interior. The Torpedo Factory Art Center opened to the public in September, 1974. The new complex of artists' studios was filled from a list of juried artists, and Marian Van Landingham became the first Director of the Art Center.

By 1983, the building needed major repairs and improvements. As part of a federal program sale/lease-back agreement, the building was sold to Alexandria Art Center Associates (AACA), leased back from AACA by the City, and subleased to the Torpedo Factory Artists' Association. As part of the sale agreement, the City had a one time repurchase option to be exercised in 1998. On September 1, 1998 the Artists' Association took over all management of the building, and the City now acts as landlord.

In 1998, the Torpedo Factory Art Center boasted of more than eight hundred thousand visitors annually, with eighty-three studios, five cooperative galleries, an art school, and an archaeology laboratory and museum. The artists form the Torpedo Factory Artists Association. The center is also supported by the Friends of the Torpedo Factory.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The Torpedo Factory Art Center records span the years 1974 to 1996, and measure 4.7 linear feet. They consist of organizational records, correspondence, an organization file for Friends of the Torpedo Factory Art Center, business and financial records, lists and directories, reports, event files, printed material, and photographs which document the history, operations, and activities of one of the largest and longest-running artist collaboratives in the United States.

The Organizational Records Series describes the origins and operation policy of the Art Center through brief histories and copies of the constitution and by-laws. It includes minutes of meetings and ballots from elections of area representatives.

The Correspondence Series includes both external and internal memoranda and letters. These communications primarily discuss gallery business and operations of the Art Center and its interaction with the community. Additional correspondence is found in the Organization File for the Friends of the Torpedo Factory Art Center Series and the Event Files Series.

The Organization File for the Friends of the Torpedo Factory Art Center Series contains by-laws, correspondence, and newsletters which illustrate this entity's important role in fund-raising and out-reach teaching programs.

The Business and Financial Records Series contains leasing policy statements, tax records, insurance records, general budget information, payroll ledgers, rent records, dues assessments, information desk accounts, publicity receipts, and miscellaneous receipts which document the varied legal and fiscal procedures required in the operation of a large artist collaborative.

The Notes Series contains lists of artists' names, artist directories, minutes of meetings, ballots from elections of area representatives, responses to various questionnaires and surveys, and miscellaneous notes which support other series with more detailed information.

The Reports Series contains reports which describe the Art Center's interaction with the surrounding community.

The Event Files Series contains correspondence, receipts, notes, and printed material concerning the planning and execution of a wide range of special events from the large annual fund-raising Mardi Gras Costume Ball to the "Art in the Vineyards" competition held between the Art Center's artists.

The Printed Material Series contains clippings, newsletters from both the Art Center and other arts organizations, exhibition announcements and brochures.

The Photographs Series consists of photographs of the Torpedo Factory Art Center, miscellaneous artists, events, and art works.

Arrangement and Series Description

The Torpedo Factory Art Center records are arranged as nine series, based on type of document. Each series has been arranged chronologically.

Subjects and Names

This collection is indexed in the online catalog of the Archives of American Art under the following terms:

Subjects:

  • Torpedo Factory Artists Association

Subjects-Topical:

  • Artists' studios -- Virginia -- Alexandria
  • Art centers -- Virginia -- Alexandria
  • Artists -- Virginia
  • Art, Modern -- 20th century -- Virginia
  • Art galleries, Commercial -- Virginia -- Alexandria

Names:

  • Torpedo Factory Art Center. Friends

Provenance

The collection was donated to the Archives of American Art in 1998 by Penelope C. Barringer for the Torpedo Factory Artists' Association.

How the Collection was Processed

This collection was processed by Jean Fitzgerald in 2001.


How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

The collection is open for research. Use requires an appointment.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The Torpedo Factory Art Center records are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.

How to Cite this Collection

Torpedo Factory Art Center records, 1974-1996. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Organizational Records, 1974-1995
(box 1, 0.9 linear ft.)

This series describes the history, founding, and organizational structure of the Torpedo Factory Art Center.

The files are arranged chronologically

Box
1 Brief histories, 1975-1994
1 Constitution and by-laws, 1977-1990, undated
(2 folders)
1 Minutes of meetings, 1974-1994
(19 folders)
1 Ballots from elections of area representatives, 1988-1990, 1994
(2 folders)
1 Responses to publicity questionnaire, undated
1 Responses to sales questionnaire, 1984
1 Responses to question of an open evening on Aug 12, 1991
1 Responses to question of open evenings on Thursdays, 1991
1 Responses to question of open evenings on Thursdays, 1993
1 National Park Service visitation numbers, 1993
1 Responses to visitors' survey, 1993
1 Results of Visitor Impact Study, 1994
1 Results of Comprehensive Arts Center Survey, 1995
(2 folders)

Series 2: Correspondence, 1974-1995
(boxes 1-2, 1.4 linear ft.)

This series consists of both external and internal communications which discuss the business of the Torpedo Factory Art Center, including legal and financial matters, and the planning of exhibitions, events, and classes. Correspondents include Marian Van Landingham, Margaret Alderson, James Dean, and Betty Rice Seim. Additional correspondence is found in the Organization File for the Friends of the Torpedo Factory Art Center Series and the Event Files Series.

The files are arranged chronologically.

Box
1 Correspondence, undated
1 Correspondence, 1974-1985
(31 folders)
Box
2 Correspondence, 1986-1995
(67 folders)

Series 3: Organization File for Friends of the Torpedo Factory Art Center, 1980-1992
(box 3, 8 folders)

This series includes copies of the Friends of the Torpedo Factory Art Center by-laws, correspondence primarily concerning fund-raising and outreach teaching programs, newsletters, and brochures.

The files are arranged chronologically

Box
3 By-laws and articles of incorporation, 1980
3 Correspondence, 1984-1992
(5 folders)
3 Printed material, 1986-1991
(2 folders)

Series 4: Business and Financial records, 1974-1995
(boxes 3-4, 1.3 linear ft.)

These files document various legal and financial transactions, and include leasing policies, tax records, insurance records, general budget information, payroll ledgers, rent records, dues assessments, information desk accounts, publicity receipts, and miscellaneous receipts. The leasing policies include signed subleasing agreements, 1983. The general budget information includes miscellaneous check registers, income and expense ledgers, cost projections, and a report of net cost analysis.

The files are arranged chronologically.

Box
3 Leasing policies, 1979, 1982-1994
(24 folders)
3 Eviction file, 1984-1993
(9 folders)
3 Tax records, 1976-1990
(14 folders)
3 Insurance records, 1983-1984
3 General budget information, 1974-1986
(11 folders)
Box
4 General budget information (see also sol 6), 1987-1994
(9 folders)
4 Payroll ledgers, 1980-1989
4 Rent records (see also sol 6), 1983-1985
4 Dues assessments, 1990-1993
4 Information desk ledger, 1988-1989
4 Miscellaneous information desk accounts, 1989-1994
4 Publicity receipts, 1990-1994
(6 folders)
4 Miscellaneous receipts, 1976-1995
(6 folders)

Series 5: Lists and Directories, 1975-1996
(box 4, 8 folders)

This series consists of listings of artists' names, results of miscellaneous questionnaires and surveys, and miscellaneous notes.

The files are arranged chronologically.

Box
4 Lists of artists, 1975-1978
(3 folders)
4 Artist directories, 1985-1996
(4 folders)
4 Miscellaneous notes, undated

Series 6: Reports, 1986-1994
(box 4, 5 folders)

This series consists of reports on the operations and management strategy of the Art Center and the cultural plans of the City of Alexandria.

The files are arranged chronologically.

Box
4 "A Cultural Assessment of the City of Alexandria," 1992
4 "Final Report of the Torpedo Factory Art Center Working Group," 1994
4 "The Alexandria Cultural Plan," 1994
4 "The Management of Strategy Evaluation" by Marcia Guttentag, circa 1986
4 "Letters to the Conference" by Robert Ashley, Leslie Fiedler, Ann Hawley, Thulani Davis, Howard Klein, Mary Macarthur Griffin, Owen Kelly, Ursula Von Rydingsvard, Jim Pomeroy, Ruby Lerner, Martha Rosler, 1986

Series 7: Event Files, 1979-1995
(box 4, 0.3 linear ft.)

This series contains correspondence, reports, receipts, notes, and printed material concerning the planning of special events, including the annual Mardi Gras Costume Ball, and the "Art in the Vineyards" competition.

The files are arranged chronologically.

Box
4 Mardi Gras Costume Ball announcement and report, 1986
4 Mardi Gras Costume Ball report, 1987
4 Mardi Gras Costume Ball report, list of expenses, and photographs, 1988
4 Mardi Gras Costume Ball correspondence, 1988-Feb., 1989
(3 folders)
4 Mardi Gras Costume Ball lists of expenses, 1989
4 Mardi Gras Costume Ball receipts, 1988-1989
(2 folders)
4 Mardi Gras Costume Ball letters and notes concerning mask-making, 1988-1989
4 Mardi Gras Costume Ball notes and clippings concerning musical groups for hire, 1988-1989
4 Mardi Gras Costume Ball notes and brochures concerning decorations, 1989
4 Mardi Gras Costume Ball notes concerning food and drink, 1988-1989
4 Mardi Gras Costume Ball notes and press releases concerning publicity, 1989
4 Mardi Gras Costume Ball miscellaneous notes, 1989
4 Mardi Gras Costume Ball miscellaneous committee reports, 1989
4 Mardi Gras Costume Ball clippings, 1988-1989
4 Mardi Gras Costume Ball announcements and tickets, 1989
4 Mardi Gras Costume Ball miscellaneous printed material, 1989-1991
4 Mardi Gras Costume Ball photographs by Betty Anderson, 1989
4 Mardi Gras Costume Ball photographs by Nina Tisara, 1989
(3 folders)
4 Fifteen Years exhibition, 1989
4 Art in the Vineyards competition correspondence and printed material, 1989
4 Art in the Vineyards competition photographs of artists, 1989
4 Art in the Vineyards competition correspondence and printed material, 1990
4 Art in the Vineyards competition correspondence and printed material, 1991
4 First Waterfront Wedding Show receipts, notes, and printed material, 1994
4 Miscellaneous musical groups available for events, 1979-1995
(2 folders)

Series 8: Printed Material, 1975-1995
(box 5, 24 folders)

This series consists of clippings, newsletters, exhibition announcements, brochures, and schedules of classes.

The files are arranged chronologically.

Box
5 (hol) Clippings, 1975-1995
(9 folders)
5 (hol) Newsletter: Arts Washington, 1988-1990
(3 folders)
5 (hol) Newsletter: Factory Facts, 1988-1989
5 (hol) Newsletter: Alexandria Commission on the Arts News, 1986, 1988-1992
(6 folders)
5 (hol) Newsletter: The Art League Tidings, 1987-1994
5 (hol) Exhibition announcements, 1988-1989, undated
5 (hol) Brochures about the Torpedo Factory Art Center, undated
5 (hol) Brochure about the Virginia Commission for the Arts, 1986-1989
5 (hol) Schedule of classes for The Art League, 1987-1993

Series 9: Photographs, 1983-1989
(box 5, sol 6, 10 folders)

For oversized photographs in several of these categories, see sol 6.

Box
5 (hol) Photographs of the Torpedo Factory Art Center, [1988-1989]
5 (hol) Photographs of miscellaneous events and buildings, [1983-1989]
5 (hol) Photograph of Carol Levin, undated
5 (hol) Photographs of miscellaneous artists, 1988-1989
5 (hol) Contact sheets of unidentified artists, [1988-1989]
(3 folders)
5 (hol) Color transparencies of an unidentified artist, [1988-1989]
5 (hol) Color transparency of painting Southern Storm by Ellen Glasgow, 1983
5 (hol) Photographs of an unidentified exhibition, 1989