Photo by Rosemary Jesionowski, courtesy of Studio Two Three
At the RVA MakerFest in September, Studio Two Three used a steamroller to print big maps of Richmond.
Ashley Hawkins, co-founder and executive director of Richmond’s Studio Two Three, likens participation in her nonprofit studio and community print shop to a gym membership for artists and artists in the making.
“Our mission is to inspire innovation in printmaking through artist residency, workshops and exhibitions,” she says. Add to that art classes for adults and children, specialized movie series (like last year’s “Females and the Frame,” celebrating femme filmmakers), and “semignars” that teach the effective selling and marketing of original work, and you’ve got a busy creative beehive that provides local artists and craftspeople with an affordable production and commercial resource.
“You don’t have to go to New York” is the guiding aesthetic behind Studio Two Three, says Hawkins, a longtime Richmond resident who earned her painting-and-printmaking and nonprofit management degrees from Virginia Commonwealth University.
The space, which was originally a private studio shared with fellow artists Sarah Moore, Emily Gannon and Tyler Dawkins, now provides 24-hour access for printmakers who pay a monthly rate and share the cost of expensive and cumbersome equipment. “They can come in and use the studio night and day,” she says. More than 25 working artists and photographers are currently affiliated, creating works in printmaking, screen printing, lithography and black-and-white photography. The 3,400-square-foot space at 1617 W. Main St. recently acquired a digital arts lab as well, thanks to a grant from CultureWorks.
The latest news is that Studio Two Three will relocate to Scott’s Addition in December or January. “We’re moving in with Ross Trimmer of Sure Hand Signs,” Hawkins says. “We’ll be almost doubling the size of the studio.” That means more artists, more tools and more potential. She’s launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund the cost of the move and renovations.
“The people who come here range from high-school age to older people, and we are all comfortable,” says Alyssa Salomon, one of the studio renters. “It’s one of the few places I can go as a practicing artist where I feel total permission to enjoy what I’m doing and to experiment.” Richmond has many art collectives — what makes this one so special? “You mean besides the fact that I can use fluorescent orange and hot pink without people grousing at me?” Salomon answers with a laugh. “It is comfortable here, and you have everything you need, and Ashley is this amazing facilitator … she makes you believe you can do anything.”
Studio Two Three’s forthcoming offerings range from adult workshops on screen-printing basics, with instructors from the local Triple Stamp Press (Nov. 8), to the secrets of do-it-yourself, low-cost framing (Nov. 19), to the art of hand lettering (Dec. 6). The studio’s annual Winter Print Fair, slated for Dec. 5 to 7, will offer handcrafted cards, T-shirts and other seasonal delights from studio regulars; Hawkins is also readying another “semignar” series to help such creators navigate commercial waters. “Making money from your art is a challenge,” she explains. “We’re conditioned as artists to accept that it’s not going to work. And that’s because the branding and marketing world is often separate from what the art makers are used to.”
You might know Studio Two Three from Hawkins’ appearances at last year’s RVA Street Art Festival and September’s Fall Line Fest. When it comes to screen printing, she thinks local and big — big as in steamroller-size. The sight of Hawkins manning the controls of a giant steamroller and pressing out a series of limited-edition 7- or 8-foot square maps of Richmond was certainly eye-grabbing, and her demonstrations have become an ongoing event that showcases the art of large-scale screen printing to mainstream audiences. This year’s RVA maps are being sold through the studio’s website (printrva.org) at $500 each (smaller versions are currently being sold at The Valentine) and she’s currently readying a 2015 version.
It’s all to create awareness of what’s happening at the studio. “Richmond has got a ton of printmakers, and I think it’s because of the people coming out of VCU’s School of the Arts. We really want to provide another reason for people to stay here after they graduate. I think that having spaces outside of the university environment that are low-cost and have open accessibility is really crucial for maintaining cultural life in the city.”