Workhouse Arts Center

Workhouse Arts Center photo
Michael O'Sullivan/The Washington Post

VMFA Lecture Series: Buddhist Art and Pilgrimage

A lecture on Buddhist art and architecture.

Ballroom Social Dance

A lesson precedes the dance, which starts at 8.

The Beads of Courage Bead Challenge

Guests are invited to learn more about the mission of Beads of Courage and watch bead artists as they turn rods of glass into art.
10/4 - 10/5

Cabaret Series: Cabaret Macabre!

Tunes connected to Broadway villains make up the soundtrack for the show.
Through 10/5

Wilkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome!

Hand-crafted heirloom baskets by Mary Pendergrass, multimedia paintings, collages, sculptures by Mijung Kim and still life and landscape paintings by Lura Bovee.
Through 10/5

You're Such an Animal

Gloria Benedetto displays her paintings of the animals she loves in this solo exhibition. At the Studio 5 Gallery.
Through 10/6

You're Such An Animal

An exhibition featuring a cats, dogs, camels, buffalo and other animals presented by artist Gloria Benedetto.
9/19 - 10/12

Edgar Allan Poe's Nevermore

The writer's life is examined by setting his poetry to music.
Through 10/19

Earth and Fire

Features works by 35 ceramic artists from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar.
Through 10/19

Earth and Fire

An exhibition featuring the works of 35 ceramic artists from nine nations: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar.
Through 10/25

40 Years of Potomac Valley Watercolorists

The Potomac Valley Watercolorists celebrates 40 years as a juried group of watercolorists with an exhibition of 100 paintings from its members. At the McGuireWoods Gallery.
10/17 - 11/1

Rocky Horror Show

The musical about an unsuspecting couple who stumble upon a gender-bending party is staged by the Unquiet Theatre Company.
11/1 - 11/2

Cabaret Series: Heroes Cabaret!

Songs that center on heroes and antiheroes are the theme of the cabaret.
12/6 - 12/7

Cabaret Series: Holiday Magic

The cabaret features songs with a holiday theme.
7/1/15 - 9/30/15

Glass Unpolished: Explorations of Time, Nature and Technology

Artists from Virginia and Maryland used glass to interpret the nature of discovery.

Editorial Review

Little remains to hint that the Workhouse Arts Center was once part of the Lorton Correctional Complex.

In one corner of the center's 55-acre campus stand three watchtowers, but that is about it for prison reminders. The insides of buildings that until 2001 were used as prisoner dormitories have been given fresh coats of white paint with splashes of bright oranges and blues.

The 30 red-brick buildings of the former D.C. Workhouse and Reformatory, with their graceful arches and high ceilings, could be mistaken for a boarding school. If the style seems familiar, it might be because former D.C. municipal architects Snowden Ashford and Albert Harris designed them. Eight of the 10 buildings house galleries and studios; one is a performing arts building and one holds offices. The buildings' open floor plan, with galleries and studios on either side of a central walkway, makes it easy to forget the structures' original use. Until, that is, you realize that yellow lines painted on the floors were once used to herd prisoners through the rows of bunk beds.

"We celebrate that, we really do," Tina Leone, chief executive of the Lorton Arts Foundation, says of the buildings' history.

There is plenty to see and do at the Workhouse to make an afternoon of a visit. Begin at the gallery building and pick up a pamphlet that tells the history of the buildings and what is in each. Much like the Torpedo Factory's in Alexandria, the atmosphere is meant to be inviting and allow the community to talk to local artists and watch them work. The buildings will offer space for every genre of art.

Besides the facilities for painters and sculptors, there are studios for glass workers, photographers, weavers, jewelry makers and yoga enthusiasts. If you love ceramics you could spend half an hour just wandering through a building dedicated to that medium, talk with a potter and walk out with a new vase. In the pastoral surroundings, you can round out an afternoon with a picnic and walk among an outdoor exhibition of sculpture by artists Pattie Porter Firestone, Craig R. Schaffer and Mike Shaffer. The exhibition marks the first anniversary of Workhouse's opening and runs through Nov. 28. On Sept. 19, the center is hosting an anniversary celebration from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. with a free concert, artist demonstrations, workshops and children's activities.