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Former Bomb Factory Turned Art Space In VA

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By Michael Pope

For years, the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, Virginia, made bombs. Now it's an art center where artists perform their craft in public for visitors. But some are concerned proposed changes could blow it up.

Potential changes include closing the south half of the first floor to create a new gallery that would keep later hours and opening a restaurant. Now, the Alexandria City Council has created a new governing board that will take operational control away from the artists, which hasn't met universal approval.

"With 150 artists, there's always different viewpoints," says Penny Berringer, president of the artists' association. "It goes from, like any group, from very, very conservative to very liberal and let's change everything."

Some are concerned that closing half the first floor for a gallery and restaurant would intrude into an important common space that's currently rented out for events. Others say the art center would benefit from better marketing.

Jim Steele is among those who welcome potential changes.

"They have decisions that they're going to have to make," he says. "Hopefully they'll make them in conjunction with us. I'm not sitting here afraid of the future of the Torpedo Factory."

Members of the new governing board are expected to be appointed as early as September.

Michael Pope also reports for Northern Virginia's Connection Newspapers.

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