What do you do when an old prison closes? in Northern Virginia
former jail cells will soon open as artist studios. Where prisoners may have written graffiti on the walls or counted down the days until their release you will find studios filled with artists who specialize in ceramic, glass, fiber and oil painting to name a few.
With great planning by Fairfax County in 2002 many of the original prison buildings, many which were constructed by prisoners making bricks right on the grounds, have been saved and renovated to accommodate the Lorton Workhouse Arts Center.
With its grand opening looming workers are moving at full speed to make sure that everything is ready. During the Occoquan River Festival over 400 people toured some of the finished empty spaces to give local residents a sense of what is to come. Last year Mikhail Baryshnikov toured the facility and received an honor Doctorate degree from Shenandoah University.
The grand opening event will run from September 19-27th and will include a number of events including performances by concert-pianist Pedja Muzijevic, performances of Alexander and the Terrible for the kids and the gala event on the September 27th with Tony Award winning singer Barbara Cook. Tours of the new studios with the arts will take place throughout the week and other exhibits will be in place as well.
The Lorton Workhouse Arts Foundation is a non-profit group which has been working diligently for years to make the new Lorton Workhouse Arts Center a reality. In addition to the arts center there will be additional commercial space to include shops and restaurants. Watching the transformation of the area has been amazing. Seeing buildings being saved, even if their history is dubious, has been refreshing from the usual bulldoze it to the ground mentality.
Everyone is looking forward to the newest member of the Lorton community making its official debut in September.