Art League History
For The Art League’s 60th anniversary in 2014, we went through six decades’ worth of archives to create a huge timeline, displayed on the second floor of the Torpedo Factory.
The timeline takes us through each decade of The Art League’s history, touching on important people and events up through the present day. It also includes lots of interesting tidbits you might not have known about The Art League — like the reason ceramics enrollment skyrocketed in the 1990s or the incident behind the Gallery’s ban on artwork with living things.
1950s: A New Endeavor
The Art League, with a membership of 72 artists, holds its first exhibit at a Barnes & Kimel furniture store in Clarendon.
The first issue of Tidings, The Art League’s monthly newsletter, is mailed out. Postage is three cents.
Did you know...
From 1959-1962, the League sponsored juried members’ shows at the Hecht Co. store in Arlington, where paintings were displayed on the walls throughout the store along with merchanise.
1960s: Moving on UP
At 10 years old, the League as 300 members, two annual juried exhibits and several outdoor exhibitions per year, and a permanent collection hanging at the Arlington County Historical Society.
First annual Patrons’ Show is held. Tickets are $25. 103 artworks are donated. The first choice goes to William Tennant, who chooses the painting Nine Eggs by Louise Craven.
“I am a better artist today in that I am obviously a better teacher. Whether I am teaching or making art, the process is fundamentally the same: I am creating.”
– Sam Gilliam, influental American painter and former Art League instructor
Members of The Art League of Northern Virginia vote to move the gallery space in Arlington to a converted tobacco warehouse in Old Town Alexandria. The Cameron Street Annex at 315 Cameron Street is born.
Today, our gallery resides in Studio 21 on the first floor of the Torpedo Factory Art Center.
1970s: A New Home for the Arts
The Art League expands again, leasing upstairs space for an expanded workshop schedule with classes by artists including Washington Color School painters Gene Davis, Paul Reed, Leon Berkowitz, and Lou Stovall.
“The Washington color community did influence art of the 60s, no doubt… It was like a breath of fresh air… we provided an alternative.”
– Gene Davis, major figure in 20th-century American painting and former Art League faculty member.
Danni Dawson joins the workshop (now the School) as an instructor.
Lou Stovall and Paul Reed lead a seminar discussion on the effects of today’s and tomorrow’s culture on design, and vice versa, entitled “Design Encounter: A Prophecy for the 70s”
“Do everything as if it’s the last thing that you’re going to be doing.”
– Lou Stovall
The owners of a store adjacent to The Art League on Cameron Street provide outdoor garden space for a sculpture garden. Works by sculptors are continually displayed in the space.
“Northern Virginia” is dropped and “The Art League, Inc.” receives its first donation since receiving nonprofit tax status: a $100 check used to buy materials for the silkscreen laboratory in the Annex.
Paul Richard, Art Critic for The Washington Post from 1967-2009, presents an Art Lecture & Artist Visit Series for League students.
In search of a new home, The Art League and its president, Marian Van Landingham, lead the drive to create an arts center in Alexandria out of an unused torpedo factory.
The idea is floated in an issue of Tidings: “The Torpedo Factory Center will exist for at least 3 to 4 years during the Bicentennial era &, if it works well, possibly for much longer.”
Geri Gordon is named School Director. During her 22-year tenure, Geri make the School more accessible to disadvantaged students, awarding numerous scholarships. Today’s Geri Gordon Scholarship Fund continues that effort.
1980s: Putting Down Some Roots
The first travel workshop departs for Greece! Over the years, workshops have journeyed to locations including Turkey, Tunisia, Ireland, New Orleans, the Canadian Rockies, and Georgia O’Keeffe’s home in Abiquiu, New Mexico.
Funds raised from the Patrons’ Show allow the League to buy its first computer.
“All of you who gave so generously to the Patrons’ Show are invited to come in and pat the computer.”
Acclaimed sculptor Bruno Lucchesi (L), teaches a figure sculpture workshop. Bruno’s son, celebrated artist Paul Lucchesi (R), continues the family tradition by teaching figure sculpture workshops for the League.
1990s: The Growth of the School
The Patrons’ Show Fundraiser is featured in Washingtonian as “What a Deal!” and the Gallery is flooded with phone calls. The $75 tickets to the event sell out in an hour.
Did you know...
Following the release of “Ghost” in 1990 starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore, registration in Art League ceramics classes almost doubled! (We’re not kidding.)
The Art League Board seeks input to create new rules for exhibiting digital art.
The School welcomes Dr. Duke Williams from the National Institute of Arts at Bamako, Mali, West Africa to lead a Metalsmithing Workshop in the Jewelry Studio.
theartleague.org goes live! The Art League can be reached by email for the first time at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today, The Art League averages 1,100+ emails a day and 17,500 visits to theartleague.org per month.
By the end of the 1990s, class registration had doubled to 2,000 students per term!
Today, the school fills 10,000+ class seats a year!
Did you know...
In 1997, while the movie “Deep Impact” was filming in the DC area, set director Carl Catanese (a former Art League student) came by the gallery and selected work by 17 Art League artists to appear in the film. Marsha Staiger, the gallery director, and the artists were invited to visit a movie set on Eisenhower Avenue in July, where they watched filming and got a tour.
2000s: The League Expands its Reach
The Art League formally opens the Duke Street Annex and expands the Madison Annex, providing more space for a fast-growing student body.
…we also revisit our relationship with Alexandria’s pigeon population.
The Art League & Alexandria’s Court Services Unit partner to develop A Space of Her Own (SOHO), an art-based mentoring program serving low-income, at-risk middle-school-aged girls in Alexandria.
Hurricane Isabel blows through the DC area, causing the Potomac to rise nine feet above mean water level. Water seeps into the Torpedo Factory & The Art League Gallery to a six-inch depth, causing extensive damage.
To meet the growing needs of our community, The Art League creates a new Development Office to fundraise throughout the year.
The League celebrates is 50th Anniversary with celebrations and events throughout the year, including the popular “Art Doesn’t Need to Match Your Sofa” exhibit, curated by retired executive director Cora Rupp.
A special Student Show is held at the historic Athenaeum on Prince Street. The Athenaeum is a museum of fine arts & home to the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Association.
The first Art in the City Hall exhibit is held in partnership with Del Ray Artisans, Springwater Fiber Workshop, the Torpedo Factory Artists Association, & the Alexandria Commission for the Arts.
The League launches “Paint” Alexandria, a two-day, all-media, plein-air event, where artists & novices are invited to try their hand at capturing the beautiful and artistically inspiring City of Alexandria.
13 muralist painters from Denmark join master trompe l’oeil painter & Art League instructor Patrick Kirwin, for an international collaboration as they transform a wall in the Duke Street Annex into one of Kirwin’s masterful artistic illusions.
The League hosts world-renowned Japanese ceramic artists Ken Matsusaki for a sold-out pottery workshop & lecture, drawing 175+ attendees from across the country.
The League launches a corporate retreat program offering experiential art activities that explore the line between art & its creators. Clients have included: Assoc. of Elementary school Principals, AT&T, Booz Allen Hamilton, ExxonMobil, Hanley Wood, Shell, Society for Human Resource Management, Spring, & U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The year of many advances in technology!
The League take the plunge into online advertising.
The first Art League blog is launched.
The Art League joins Facebook.
Tidings is emailed rather than postal-mailed for the first itme.
The School embraces new technology & unconventional materials such as MDF, PMC, Hydrocal, toy cameras, digital mixed media and animation, while preserving classical artforms through new courses in encaustic, tapestry, and fiber-spinning.
The League holds its first holiday open house, ArtFest (now called ArtFête), at the Madison Annex. Art Fest showcases the breadth of classes that take place at Madison, & debuts the newly expanded fiber arts department, created when the League stepped forward to support the educational mission & artists of the closing non-profit, Springwater Fiber Workshop.
The Art League joins Twitter.
theartleague.org is relaunched with a new design and more user-friendly experience. The site breaks the 50,000 mark for online transactions.
The Gallery hosts its first online exhibit: the focus is photographic artwork coinciding with Fotoweek DC. The Gallery also launches a new Lecture Series. In conjunction with the first digital show, the topic is copyrights for artists.
SOHO is nationally recognized as a 2009 Coming Up Taller Semifinalist by the President’s Committee on the Arts & Humanities & its partner agencies.
The League opens a temporary satellite gallery across the river at National Harbor, MD, which predominantly features faculty works. The Student Show is held at this location in 2009. The Gallery draws a new audience & attracts more Marylanders across the Potomac to the League.
2010s: A Thriving & Evolving Community
The League is one of 70 outstanding nonprofits selected for the 2010/2011 Catalogue For Philanthropy: Greater Washingtons.
The League is also honored with the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce Champion of the Arts Award, the Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington Tony Taylor Award, the LFI Northern Virginia Leadership Award, & the United Way of the National Capital Area Eureka! Award.
Guest instructors including milliner Jan Wutkowski & jewelers Dennis Nahabetian & Carol Webb taught workshops for the School.
Virginia Tech’s College of Architecture & Urban Studies initiates a partnership with The Art League to the graduate students at their Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center.
The Art League celebbrates SOHO’s 10th Anniversary! Of the 148 girls that have graduates, 98% have not become court-involved & many have maintained long-term mentoring relationships.
An exhibit of the girls’ darkroom photography is held in the Gallery for the first time.
The Art League holds its first National Ceramics Exhibit: Tea. The Tea Association of the United States of America is a sponsor.
Did you know...
A newly expanded Madison Annex opens, housing most of the School under one roof. Funds are raised through the “30-Something” campaign, a fundraising initiative encouraging everyone in The Art League community to “Join the Flock” & donate $30 to the build-out project.
The League partners with Refugee & Immigrant Services of the National Capital Area to provide scholarships to recent refugees. To date, scholarships have been offered to Iraqi children & adults from Somalia.
The School launches a new course of study where artists can create interactive installations & kinetic sculptures by incorporating motion, light & sound to achieve artwork that responds to environmental changes.
Your help is needed to support The Art League’s future!
Your support of The Art League reflects where you envision the world of creativity will take us tomorrow. Are you ready to map the future for your — and your community’s — creative life?