A few miles south of where I live there’s an old DC prison complex which used to be known as Lorton Reformatory. Several years ago they shut the place down and transformed a few of the larger buildings into a new “Arts Center” where painters, sculptors, and other creative folks can rent studio space and teach classes.
But the new Arts Center seems to be faltering. The parking lot is usually 90% empty, even on a beautiful weekend like this past one. It’s a shame. It seemed like good idea to re-purpose the prison in a way that would promote the arts and provide a community asset. But the place always seems vacant and lifeless. People — the magic ingredient in any succesful public place – are conspicuously absent.
In the vast overgrown space beyond the Arts Center, many of the other prison buildings have languished and been invaded by pear saplings and honeysuckle.
Here there is real magic.