By Rena Malai
Creativity takes courage, according to Henri Matisse, the renowned French painter. During the course of Matisse’s career from the early 1900s, art was largely assumed to be a male-dominated area where regular art instruction — or indeed exposure to it — was not easily attainable for the masses.
Fast forward to the future, and Matisse would likely approve of the ARTfactory’s mission to be a community enriched throughthe creative arts, where everyone is welcome to explore their creative side, without even leaving Prince William.
“The ARTfactory is a place for you to explore your creative interests and your point of view,” says ARTfactory Executive Director Beverly Hess. “We work with everyone individually, and whether they’re interested in our visual art, dance or theatre art offerings, we find a place for them.”
Situated in a former candy factory, the ARTfactory is a space in the heart of Manassas offering classes in art, dance and theatre, art exhibitions and theatre performances, and is also a community within a community for professional artists and novices alike.
Art’s All In
Hess says the ARTfactory has it all under one roof — whether someone wants to do theatre or art, they cover it all. “Most places tend to be either an art shop, or a theatre company, or an art school, but we have everything here,” Hess said.
From drawing to painting to digital arts, they offer a wide range of art instruction, says ARTfactory Education Director Candace Penders.
“We have a very customized approach,” Penders said. “If someone isn’t quite sure what kind of art they’re interested in or what kind of class they should join, we will assist them in finding the class or area of art that best suits them creatively.”
The courses offered are for personal enrichment, Penders says, and students of all ages can choose from art classes like charcoal drawing, watercolor and plein air painting, which occurs outdoors at Windy Knoll Farm in Nokesville.
Besides learning art, the ARTfactory’s Caton Merchant Family Gallery showcases buyable works from local and regional artists. Each art exhibit is professionally executed, complete with an artist’s reception to connect artists to the community, and vice versa.
“The gallery is free and open to the public,” said ARTfactory Gallery Director Jordan Exum. “If artists are interested in having their work showcased, we encourage them to submit exhibit proposals for consideration.”
The gallery opened in 2002, Exum adds, and is possible due to the space the facility now has.
ARTfactory also offers volunteers and students real world practice — such as assisting instructors, attending workshops on matting and classes in portfolio development — for those hoping to pursue a professional career in art.
“They have the chance to work with professional artists and better envision a future in the arts,” Penders said.
Each theatre group at the ARTfactory is specific to an age range. Children from 8 years of age to senior citizens can flex their drama muscles and have the chance to perform in productions throughout the year in front of a live audience. Shows include well known favorites like Aladdin, Sweeney Todd and Fiddler on the Roof. According to Hess, it’s not just about putting on a great act, but about community and the unique creative energy surrounding each show.
“We’ve had children in the Pied Piper group grow up and later come back to ARTfactory to be directors. They come back to give back,” Hess said. “This type of community offers a special platform, so a hobby becomes an enriching life-long endeavor.”
Through the instrumental efforts of Anne Ridgeway, who recently retired as ARTfactory’s theatre director, Hess says the legacy of Ridgeway’s 30-year career will always be remembered through the award-winning Pied Piper Theatre.
“She created Pied Piper and made it into what it is today,” Hess said. “The philosophy is the process and journey are more important than the product.”
Theatre goers can look forward to ARTfactory productions in locations such as Windy Knoll Farm and the Hylton Performing Arts Center.
Planning a Visit
The ARTfactory is located directly across the street from the Manassas Virginia Railway Express station, allowing easy access for everyone.
Whether folks are interested in learning, buying art or simply curious about what they are all about, Hess says the ARTfactory welcomes everyone looking to add a little art and creativity to their lives.
“Come over and experience what we have,” Hess says. “We’re open every Monday to Friday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.”
The ARTfactory regularly posts schedules of theatre productions, exhibits and classes online, but people are welcome to also call and ask if they’d like more information or have any questions. “We are happy to talk to anyone if they need some help deciding what the right class would be for them, artwork for sale or anything else,” Exum said.
The ARTfactory, founded in 1984 by a group of artists and art lovers, is a nonprofit organization. The ARTfactory relocated to Manassas in 2002 and is located at 9419 Battle Street. They give special thanks to the Merchant family, who donated the Hopkins Candy Factory building to the City of Manassas, where
ARTfactory now resides.
“We can’t thank the Merchants enough for allowing us the opportunity to be in this wonderful location in the heart of Manassas,” Hess says.
Visit virginiaartfactory.org or call 703-330-2787 for more information.
Rena Malai is a freelance writer. She has covered a variety of topics ranging from national news to food, to technology. She lives in Prince William and is a native Washingtonian.