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Torpedo Factory Braces For Change

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By Michael Pope

For years, the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, Virginia, made munitions. Now it's an art center where many artists work in public for visitors. But some are concerned proposed changes could affect that mission.

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," she says.

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. Hopefully they'll make them in conjunction with us. I'm not sitting here afraid of the future of the Torpedo Factory," says Steele.

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

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