Workhouse Arts Center

Workhouse Arts Center photo
Michael O'Sullivan/The Washington Post
Through 11/30

Jazz Envisioned: A Collaborative Musical/Art Evening

Paintings by music structuralist Britt Conley are displayed while her original musical compositions are played.
Through 11/30

Ply Upon Ply

Artist Sue Grace applies layers of paint in expressionistic paintings of the mountains hereabouts.
12/6 - 12/7

Cabaret Series: Holiday Magic

The cabaret features songs with a holiday theme.

Second Saturday Art Walk

Guests can tour seven studio buildings, mingle with artists, buy art and more.
12/3 - 12/14

Snow Day

A young boy named Skip wakes up to find his entire neighborhood covered in a dazzling blanket of white snow. A playful winter elf shows him all of the fun one can have on a snow day. Presented by Arts on the Horizon. Best for ages 2 to 6.
Through 12/15

FCPS Art Teachers Exhibition

An exhibition that showcases the talents and artistic achievements of these Fairfax County public school teachers.
12/20 - 1/11/15

Workhouse Education Student and Teacher Exhibition

This annual exhibition features watercolors, pastels, ceramics, glass works and more by Workhouse teachers and students.
Through 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.