ARTfactory: Keeping Life Colorful During the Pandemic

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By Emily Carter

Located on Battle Street in Manassas, in the old Hopkins Candy Factory, ARTfactory is making some sweet
creations — but not of the candy variety.

Art History

Originally known as the Center for the Arts of Greater Manassas/Prince William County, ARTfactory was founded in 1984 by artists and lovers of art who wanted a place to congregate and express themselves. They started with a few visual art classes, added dance classes and theatre classes and now have an art gallery on the first floor of their building.

“I think the biggest thing is that at the ARTfactory, we are open and welcoming to anyone and everyone. And that vibe is what we try to put out in the community,” said ARTfactory Executive Director Beverly Hess. “Our mission is to provide a safe haven for creative expression and discovery. When you come to the
ARTfactory, and people come from wherever they are in their life at that point in time, it’s a place to come in and explore whatever it is you want to try next.”

In March 2020, ARTfactory rebranded themselves. They changed their name and redesigned their website by adding bright colors that pay homage to the candy factory. The official rebranding date was Friday, March 13.

Art Classes

ARTfactory has classes for everyone, no matter their interest. Classes and workshops are offered for everyone age 5 and up.

Visual art classes teach students graphic design, drawing and sculpture making. People of all ages can act in ARTfactory’s three theatre companies. Students from 8 to 18 can perform in the Pied Piper Theatre. Rooftop Productions features the work from adults in the community, and Past Time Prime Time Players teaches classes to and features performances from senior members. To get the blood flowing, ARTfactory offers ballroom dance classes and line dance.

In the summer, ARTfactory has summer camps for children and teenagers that educate them in theatre and visual arts. At the end of the camp, family and friends can attend a performance put on by the camp members or a reception featuring the art created in the visual art camp. At the Harris Pavilion, free concerts are offered all summer long featuring musical artists from around the state. In the past, they’ve had jazz, bluegrass and Argentinian Latin Tango groups perform.

If you still need to quench your global thirst, visit ARTfactory’s Caton Merchant Family Gallery that has featured art from around the world, as well as from local artists.

ARTfactory has also developed an educational outreach program to help students in school, Arts on the Go™. To improve students’ SOL scores, Arts on the Go™ uses STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) modules to help students retain information they are learning in their classes. Each module
stays at a school for two weeks before rotating to another school. In order to give their students the best art education they can get, ARTfactory hires professionals from all branches of the art world. This way students are learning techniques and skills from people who have dedicated their careers to their craft.

“(Our instructors) are professionals. They come to us from a variety of places, but they each bring a variety of specialties that they offer. When you take a class, you’re getting someone who’s really knowledgeable in the art form that they’re teaching.” Hess said. “Likewise for our theater programs. Our directors, our choreographers, our music directors are all professionals. When a young person auditions to be in a Pied Piper Theatre show, they’re auditioning to work with professionals. We try to hire the greatest talent we can out there so that the theater participants really get an enriched experience.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ARTfactory has had to undergo some changes, but they haven’t completely shut down. Nothing is getting in the way of art.

ARTfactory, oil painting

ARTfactory hires professionals from all branches of the art world. This way students are learning techniques and skills from people who have dedicated their careers to their craft.

Visual art classes are still being offered in person, but they’re also being offered online. Their online classes have become very popular, and ARTfactory plans to continue offering them after the pandemic is over. Dance classes are still happening, but everyone who attends must stay in their “boxes,” which ARTfactory has created 10 feet apart from other dancers.

Even though ARTfactory doesn’t plan on having any  performances anytime soon, they are still offering theatre classes. In order to keep students safe, everyone entering ARTfactory for classes must wash their hands and wear a mask.

Art Matters

ARTfactory has no intention of closing and preventing students from having a creative outlet. Hess thinks art has many benefits and creating should never stop.

“Art is your way of discovering who you are and expressing what you want to express. The process is as important as the product and many times more important than the product,” Hess said. “It is that experience of learning something new, working the right and the left side of the brain simultaneously. Many people come to us who need an outlet for expression. And they want to hone their skills, but the process is what’s so important to them.”

Hess was in a meeting and heard someone describe ARTfactory as a place “where people find their people.” No matter people’s age or background, they all come to the ARTfactory to learn and relax. And they end up finding people who love appreciating and making art as much as they do.

For more information, visit virginiaartfactory.org.

Emily Carter is a senior at Virginia Tech majoring in Multimedia Journalism. She is currently the Lifestyles Editor at Virginia Tech’s student-run paper, the Collegiate Times. When she is not writing, she is either dancing alone to Taylor Swift or cooking herself a giant bowl of pasta.

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