A Visit to the Torpedo Factory | The Washington Center

A Visit to the Torpedo Factory

Can thin pancakes still be fluffy? Can you get lost in a former torpedo factory? Is it possible to get to Old Town Alexandria during single tracking on the Metro?


Yes, yes, and... Maybe, but I didn't wait around to find out. I had pancakes and bacon to eat, and an art center to explore!


Today I took a trip out to Alexandria to meet a friend for brunch at Daniel O'Connell's Irish Restaurant and Bar and a stroll through the Torpedo Factory Art Center. After struggling to get onto a blue line Metro train for way too long, I decided to give up and Uber to Old Town - because while an Uber is money, time is also money, and I did not have the time to wait for my train to arrive at Metro Center station. Lesson learned: be prepared, be very early and avoid single tracking with 20-25 minute Metro intervals like the devil.


I only had a mug of Earl Grey and pancakes with bacon at O'Connell's, but I was full and happy for almost the entire day! To my surprise, it turns out that even thin pancakes can be fluffy and filling. And as someone that sides on the crispy side of the eternal bacon texture debate, I was delighted with the snap of the bacon I bit into this morning. However, while brunch was great, the best part of my afternoon was definitely walking through the Torpedo Factory Art Center.


Artwork in the halls of the Torpedo Factory Art Center.


If there's something I love as much as old buildings, architecture and cities, it's art. I wouldn't call myself an artist, but I enjoy doodling, photography and crafting, and have spent a good percentage of my life in art studios, art classrooms and art galleries. So, what more perfect place to take an artsy nerd like me than an art center that used to be a naval munitions factory? The Torpedo Factory Art Center is an art center housing dozens of studios and numerous art galleries, although when it was constructed in 1918, it was designed and served for many years as a torpedo factory. Despite the initial bewilderment that one might have at hearing the name of this art center, it really is exactly what the name says it is. However, the interior of the building has definitely been spruced up since its days as a torpedo factory - colorful artwork covers every surface from studio walls to staircases to pillars. Windows allow for natural lighting to pour in and for artwork to be seen at its best. The layout of the building is open and bright, industrial yet quirky, and packed with studios, galleries and artwork that anyone could easily get lost in. Everywhere I turned, I could see artwork in various mediums from glasswork to paintings to papier-mâché.


A torpedo displayed along with information about the history of the Torpedo Factory Art Center.


Around every corner and in every niche, I found pieces of art. I also found artists, hard at work in their studios, with doors wide open for people to walk in and explore. If you have never been to an art center or visited an artist's studio, it is a wonderful experience that injects an appreciation of art and the process of creation straight into your veins. When you can hear the hum of a large-scale photo printer, see the sparks of an artist sculpting glass and smell a painter's paint, you gain a new appreciation for art. At the Torpedo Factory Art Center, you don't just stumble across a pretty piece of art, you see the people and the work and the tools that went into creating it. You meet the human element of a woven tapestry face-to-face and touch the lumps in a papier-mâché ostrich that someone spent unfathomable amounts of time constructing. It's an immersive experience and before I knew it, I had spent hours ducking through the labyrinth of studios on every floor of the Torpedo Factory Art Center simply staring, touching and feeling.

Artwork tucked away into the staircase of the Torpedo Factory Art Center.


Much like the National Museum of the Marine Corps which I visited last week, the Torpedo Factory Art Center is slightly out of the way for a TWC student living at the RAF - it's about a 45 minute trek by Metro, with one transfer, and some walking to boot. Since I was fed up with the Metro on this particular day, I ended up taking an Uber from Metro Center which set me back a tiny amount financially speaking, but it was definitely worth it. Visiting the Torpedo Factory Art Center is free, and I highly recommend visiting it (even if it is a slight hike from the RAF).


Until next week,

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