What are the spaces in Richmond that make you feel welcomed, cared for and creative? Studio Two Three – a local print shop, artist studio, and community event space – has been this place for hundreds of Richmond artists for more than fourteen years.
During a storm in 2022, Studio Two Three’s skylight lifted off its Scott’s Addition building and torrential rain poured in. Staff members were off for the weekend, so studio artists formed a soaking wet assembly line, rushing to protect each other’s work and tools from the rain. As the rain continued to come down, two members safely climbed onto the roof and covered the hole with a tarp.
When Ashley Hawkins, a co-founder and the executive director of Studio Two Three, arrived to address the crisis, she thanked the members and asked them not to put themselves at risk for the studio. “It’s our community,” one of them responded, “and we take care of our community.”
Studio Two Three began as a small shared studio space in the Plant Zero building in Manchester founded by four women who aspired to make Richmond a place for artists to stay, rather than a gateway to larger cities.
Since its inception in 2009, Studio Two Three has offered round-the-clock access to member artists. With a staff of three, this requires a great deal of trust in the power of community. Instead of monitoring cameras or tracking who uses the space, the studio relies on a shared sense of ownership. This ownership is a direct result of feeling welcomed, cared for, and creatively engaged. These are precious resources in a city that faces a soaring housing market, rising food costs, and a dwindling number of what Hawkins refers to as third places – places outside your home or workspace that inspire a sense of place and civic belonging.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned through Studio Two Three, it’s that radical, beautiful, and powerful things can happen when we cultivate spaces for trust and belonging,” says Hawkins. “Art can unbind our collective imagination and bring us together to build healthier, more just, communities.”
Today, Studio Two Three’s programming reaches more than 20,000 Richmonders annually. The studio is home to more than 150 artists with 24/7 access to printing presses, a digital lab, communal workspace, and individual studios to support art-making for personal and social change. The space hosts hundreds of classes and school field trips each year, both on-site and with S23 To-Go, Studio Two Three’s mobile print truck. Studio Two Three hosts several artist vendor markets each year, generating over $200,000 in revenue for local artists.
The nonprofit uses the power of printmaking in powerful ways – sewing 10,000 masks for frontline workers in the first months of the pandemic, raising more than $60,000 for mutual aid and racial justice initiatives in 2020, and providing studio space, fiscal sponsorship, and technical support for other small arts and culture organizations.
“We are in a truly exciting place as an organization, having come through the past three years stronger than we’ve ever been,” Hawkins says. “We are focused in a powerful way on what we do best – supporting artists and art-making for positive change in our community.”
In November 2022, Studio Two Three purchased a permanent home, the former Dogtown Dance Theatre building in Manchester, the community in which the organization got its start fourteen years ago. Studio Two Three worked with LoCh Designs and Marvel Designs to create a plan that honors the historic nature of the building while embracing the beautiful chaos, pops of color, and creativity that are innate to Studio Two Three. After a year of renovations, Studio Two Three relocated to its permanent home in September.
The building features a 3,000-square foot event space, an artist residency suite, and three print studios (one for traditional printmaking techniques, one for screen printing, and another for bookmaking and risograph printing), as well as private artist studios and flexible co-working space.
“Studio Two Three has always been committed to opening their space broadly to the community, and will continue this commitment in our new building, offering meeting and programming space for mission-aligned groups and organizations,” says Hawkins.
How to Get Involved with Studio Two Three
- Shop Studio Two Three’s Winter Market, 109 W 15th Street, Richmond 23224, forhandmade art and gifts from scores of local artists. Saturday, November 25 through Sunday, December 24, open 11 a.m to 5 p.m daily, and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays. [Winter Market]
- Spread the word about Studio Two Three’s classes, vendor markets, community events, and artist studio space! Consider giving classes as a gift this holiday season. Look into that at studiotwothree.org.
- Donate to Studio Two Three. In the final stages of a capital campaign to put the finishing touches on the new building in Manchester, donations are greatly appreciated. Support a community garden and green space, artist equipment, and custom furniture for the new studio and event spaces. Visit studiotwothree.org to make a contribution.