After graduating from VCU with an art degree, Ashley Hawkins and a group of other recent grads needed a place to do their work where they weren’t isolated and could feed off each other's creativity. Studio Two Three was born with the goal of creating an artists community and an incubator for creativity, and it’s done just that - and more - since its inception in 2009.
Check out our Happy Hour interview with S23 Founder, Ashley Hawkins, to find out more about their new location, current projects and exciting events coming up soon.
Interview: Ashley Hawkins
How has Studio Two Three grown since it started in 2009?
It started as an idea between Sarah Moore, Tyler Dawkins, Emily Gannon and myself just needing studio space to do our artwork after college. We started at PlantZero with just 600 square feet, and quickly realized there just wasn’t enough space, so we moved to our Main Street location in 2010. That’s where we became a nonprofit, recruited our first board of directors and and upgraded to 3,400 square feet, but by 2014 even that wasn’t enough space. So in May of 2015 we opened our current location in Scott’s Addition where we have 7,000 square feet of space for our artists, interns and classes. From the very beginning I was researching other shops, and my goal was always to have a space for classes, exhibition space, etc.
So how many artists are residing at S23 right now?
We have 20 private studio spaces, plus a community space and a dark room. Right now we’re hosting about 85 artists and we have a waiting list of at least 20 artists who need studio space. We also have 12 interns who get to use the studio in exchange for helping us with presentations, posters, proposals, making koozies - fun stuff! They do have to do some cleaning, but we try to make it meaningful and not treat them like janitorial staff.
Why Scott’s Addition?
Everyone is really excited to be here, making the neighborhood even better. The neighborhood association is super supportive of us and there’s this real sense of shared invention and experimentation. Plus there’s actually parking, it’s easy to get around, and there are more and more places popping up so there’s always somewhere new to go and check out.
What are people at S23 working on right now?
It really runs the gamut, but the commonality is that everyone is doing really intense, focused work. People come here as serious artists who are building their career or experimenting with new techniques. Everyone here is trusted to make good work and work on their own and have their own direction. We don’t babysit anyone - I think that’s important for the artists to feel ownership.
Although we brand ourselves as a print shop, there’s definitely some flux and everyone is doing their own thing including textiles, photography, you name it. We’re currently hosting Michael Broth, Ross Trimmer, Betty Clicker Photography and even Catalyst wedding magazine, just to name a few. It’s a super diverse group and we try to stay responsive to what they need, which keeps it interesting, especially since I’m the only full time person here. Everyone is always super helpful, though.
What role does community play at S23?
Friendships, mentorships, and career partnerships all take off here. Sometimes it’s people reconnecting, and sometimes it’s people making brand new connections. The new interns connect to one another, they make work together and become friends outside of work. There’s tons of overlap and collaboration which is fueled by everyone being very respectful and open to sharing.
What kind of events can we look forward to at S23 this year?
Some events that we are looking forward to are the Makerfest, the Street Art Festival, Culture Xpo, and hopefully the Richmond Folk Fest this year also. We’re working on a proposal for a “print mobile” 18-foot step van that will house a printing and photo development studio. The whole truck is a camera obscura so you can take photos of what’s around you. The other side of it will be retail - it should be really fun and exciting and allow S23 to leave our own walls.
As far as what we’re doing - we just opened our retail space on February 5th, which is exciting. We also just did a Galentine’s Day dance on February 13th that Patty Conway with “Girls Rock” DJ’ed.
We will also have our annual auction in the fall. This year’s theme is “by the campfire.” There will be prints and photography and it’s just $25/ticket so it’s accessible to new and young collectors. We are working on converting the exterior of our space into a public event space for movie screenings and other events along with a community garden space. We’re hoping to have this open by May for lawn chair movie nights this summer.
What are the Studio happy hours of choice?
Lunch & Supper and Ardent. People also just hang out here and drink in the evenings. The recycling bins are always full of various bottles and cans by morning . . . .
Photography by Kate Magee