Visit to Workhouse Arts Center in Honor of Their 10-Year Anniversary
ArtTable members travelled to Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, Virginia, where they toured the facilities and attended an artist talk. Ava Spece, president and CEO of Workhouse, summarized the rich history of the site and the nonprofit founded in 2008. As an arts foundation, the space celebrates a 10-year history, but was founded as a self-sustaining property housing prisoners serving for low offense-level crimes. In 1917, suffragettes protesting for the right to vote were arrested and brought there, which made the space popular enough to land on the Historic Registry in 2006, five years after the prison had closed. Other notable prisoners included Noam Chomsky and Norman Mailer, imprisoned for civil rights protests.
Ava spoke of Workhouse’s mission to grow and support its vibrant arts center. The large campus has numerous buildings, many of which are occupied by artist’s studios and exhibition spaces. Workhouse hosts many community events; there are 100 exhibitions and 300 performances a year in the multi-discipline arts center. They serve as an integral part of the economy of the region. Ava led the charge to unite multiple counties in a designated NOVA Arts Cultural District. She believes that this bipartisan decision shows that “barriers that run between us are often the things that unite us.” Although the site sees 100,000 visitors every year, Ava said that Workhouse wants to expand its programming and renovate more of its buildings in the future.
After the tour, Hanna Vogel gave an artist’s talk about her current show, “The Weight of Air,” curated by executive committee fellowship chair Jaynelle Clarke Hazard, speaking of the corporeal experience of living within a human body in relation to the world around us. She also spoke about her fascination with the idea of entropy. Drawing on architecture, she used mixed media to create mesmerizing formations, often suspended in a captivating interaction with the surrounding space.