Milan Brewster, Contributing Writer
A summer of protests in Richmond has allowed arts organization Studio Two Three to use its screen printing abilities and social media platforms to advocate for change, executive director Ashley Hawkins said, with the help of community events and local artists.
The studio held several free community print days at Marcus-David Peters Circle, where they screenprint different slogans of activism. At one event, they printed the phrase “Defend Black Lives” on T-shirts, posters and banners for event attendees.
“The concept of community centers of power emerged during the Civil Rights Movement: They are spaces that are of, by, and
for the people,” Studio Two Three stated in an Instagram post. “Celebrate this new sacred space; it’s a real thing of beauty.”
The studio debuted a series of commemorative prints over the summer and utilized photos from the Richmond community to document ongoing social justice protests.
Many of the commemorative prints depict people around Marcus-David Peters Circle and the graffitied Robert E. Lee statue.
“We do a limited edition of the commemorative print for free in our newspaper box outside of Studio Two Three for our community members,” Hawkins said. “We have been selling editions of 100 of each image and all of the proceeds from the sales go to the artist who made the image.”
The series has highlighted local photographers such as Alex Matzke, who captured the reflection of a kissing couple beneath the spray-painted words “Say His Name,” a phrase used frequently during protests sparked by the death of George Floyd.
Studio Two Three raised approximately $35,000 in August from its Black Lives Matter T-shirt and print sales. They donated the money to contributing artists and programs such as Marsha P. Johnson Institute, the Richmond Community Bail Fund and the COVID-19 Artist Relief.
Hawkins said the studio, which has been around for 10 years, is home to more than 100 artists with 24-hour access to studio spaces and equipment.
“For the past 10 years, we have worked at the epicenter of art and activism. It isn’t something new to the organization,” Hawkins said. “It is clear in our mission statement that we do take a stance and have an active role in the community.”