Workhouse Arts Center

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

National Broadway Chorus

National Broadway Chorus presents an evening of gospel and Broadway songs in a program called "Rise Up Singing!"

Haunted Ballroom Social Dance

A lesson precedes the dance, which starts at 8.
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.
Through 10/31

Featured Associate Artist: Joyce Watkins

Works by Watkins, who began painting seven years ago, are on view.
Through 10/31

Light Transfigured

An exhibition of works by David Barnes focuses on the ability of art glass to transfigure, transmit and reflect light.
10/24 - 11/1

Haunted Trail

Visitors can walk a spooky outdoor trail.
10/24 - 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.
Through 11/2

Guiding Lights

An exhibition of works by Nancy Hannans based on the theme of helping and nurturing others.
Through 11/9

Water and Rock: Recent Paintings by Jeff Gorrell

Panoramic and intimate watercolor paintings by Gorrell explore the flow of water around and over rock to reveal the relationship between the two.
12/6 - 12/7

Cabaret Series: Holiday Magic

The cabaret features songs with a holiday theme.
11/8 - 12/13

Second Saturday Art Walk

Guests can tour seven unique studio buildings, mingle with artists, buy art and more.
10/25 - 1/19/15

Dada Re-Discovered

This exhibition features sound, video, performance and other visual mixed media to explore how contemporary media and ideas can filter past Dada concepts and artwork.
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.