A balcony view of the new Studio Two Three space. (photo by Harry Kollatz Jr.)
“It’s like Christmas every day,” Ashley Hawkins exclaimed, describing her experience as executive director of Studio Two Three, a nonprofit arts organization that on Sunday celebrated its move from Main Street to West Clay in Scott’s Addition.
A well-attended grand opening featured live music, DJs, print demonstrations and a photo booth/room — sadly, I didn’t get a picture of myself wearing a unicorn head. I kept busy roaming the expanse, peering into studios, enjoying the dramatic mezzanine balcony view and dropping into conversations. The energy and enthusiasm were contagious.
The 7,000-square-foot space doubled Two Three’s size. And just in time. “When we left there, we were basically tripping over each other,” Hawkins says of the Main Street location.
A defining difference of Studio Two Three from other workshop spaces is that it provides members with 24-hour access, and now has room to offer 20 individual studios. In a 2014 article in Richmond magazine, Hawkins described the guiding philosophy behind the studios as “a gym membership for artists.”
While the focus is print and printmaking, Studio Two Three features a computer lab, photography darkroom and a place for presentations. The latter includes a film series, run by volunteer darkroom manager Natalie Kohlhepp. The next double-feature is set for Thursday, July 16, beginning at 7 p.m. with Buffalo ’66 and Run Lola Run. The suggested donation is $2. And they are likely to have some of the coolest posters promoting these screenings.
When The Hat spoke with Hawkins this morning about that Christmasy feeling, she said, with a big laugh, “More like the day after Christmas.”
While on Main Street, Hawkins had consulted with architect Mary Lorino, of LoCh design, about renovation possibilities for the Main Street space. “And given all that we’d have to do, it just made more sense to find more space.”
A recurring theme in the Studio Two Three story has been growth. It started in 2008 with Hawkins and friends Sarah Moore, Tyler Dawkins and Emily Gannon, recent graduates of Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts, in a single small studio at Plant Zero. They moved to Main Street in 2010, and now, Scott’s Addition.
Making this largest leap work involved the addition of 20 studio spaces to pay the overhead, but it was an arrangement that required investment on the studio’s part. The owners put in about $300,000 to take care of the basic build-out. Two Three was to put in $50,000 for specific renovation needs; about half was built into the lease. “But we had to come up with another $25,000 just to get in the door,” Hawkins says. By using an IndieGoGo campaign that raised $15,685, paired with $30,000 in contributions by friends of the studio, a home was assured.
“This was our first and biggest capital campaign, and it was for the semi-private studio walls, moving two tons of printing equipment and all the expenses associated with getting us from Main Street to Scott’s Addition.“ Studio Two Three engaged Richmond’s branding and design firm Campfire & Co. to custom design tables for a multi-functional print shop. “Our event space is efficiently laid out; most of the time we have two big T-shirt presses sitting in there, but we can move them away for events like the movies.”
During most of this process, Hawkins was pregnant. Son Max, now 15 months old, came to many meetings with board members and architects and even wore a hard hat. “It kind of fit until he threw it off,” she chuckles.
Thus, this has been two births at once. “I don’t think think we’ll have a year as crazy as this one anytime soon,” Hawkins says.
On Sept. 10 and 11, there’ll be a two-night launch party in collaboration with the newly relocated Ghostprint Gallery, and going forward, there’ll be a Second Thursday Scott’s Addition art evening. Attendees will receive printed passports to get stamped on their visits, earning them credit when visiting the galleries, or businesses like the Ardent Craft Ales.
Coming to Scott’s Addition and being part of establishing an arts presence there is exciting for Hawkins, who regularly attends the neighborhood association meetings. “With all the new residents coming in, our events and others provide something for them to do in the community and helps give Scott’s Addition an identity. It’s been a vibrant, exciting place to be these past few months. The people here are fundamentally interested in making things happen.”