Art studio receives grant to raise vaccine awareness in Richmond community

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A group of artists work in the screen printing studio space. Photo by Lily Doshi

Mikayla Heightshoe, Contributing author

The incomparable smell of ink invades the nose when entering through the glass door of Studio Two Three. Up ahead, artists smooth vibrant shades of orange, pink, and red onto dies, transferring them to paper or fabric, soon to be merchandise, prints, and banners.

The Center for Disease Control Foundation announced in December 2021 that it was awarding Studio Two Three $75,000 to use the print to promote immunization within the Richmond community, according to Studio Two Three co-founder and executive director Ashley Hawkins. .

“The idea is to make an impression on location with food, drink and music,” Hawkins said. “Bring in printouts and distribute zines with accurate information on vaccinations and reminders from trusted members of the community.”

Studio Two Three’s zines are self-published booklets that are mass-produced with a “high-volume, low-cost method of printing using a risograph duplicator, which is a type of copier that produces prints with a look similar to screen printing,” Hawkins said.

The studio and 30 other art-based community organizations nationwide received a total of $2.5 million in grants on Jan. 6 from the CDC to advocate and “build confidence in the COVID-19 vaccine,” according to the CDC Foundation website.

Studio Two Three began in 2009 when Hawkins and three of his peers from VCU’s painting and printmaking program wanted to create an affordable and accessible space for new artists. The studio operates as a community art space with individual and community studios, classes, workshops and an artist residency program, according to Hawkins.

In addition to equipping local artists with the necessary tools and assistance, Studio Two Three intends to maintain a healthy and diverse organization that reflects the Richmond community and to use printmaking as a tool for civic engagement, according to the studio’s website.

Hawkins said that due to the nature of the etching and the studio’s community efforts, the CDC reached out to her and Studio Two Three Partnership Director Kate Fowler about a vaccination initiative for children and adults. their families.

“In the most direct way, we just hope to get our community vaccinated. That’s our number one goal, to establish that vaccination can help protect families,” Fowler said. “The outermost goal is to challenge myth-building. So a lot of the work we do shows how we can bring data to a community with more play.”

Hawkins said she “immediately” approached Richmond Public Schools about the project, agreeing with RPS that it was “an excellent choice” and a helpful way to provide up-to-date vaccine information.

The studio will approach this project in three ways: producing and distributing 25,000 zines for RPS students, 10 community print days spread across the city for RPS students and families, and five sets of large-scale banners to install around from various community sites, Hawkins said.

“His [printmaking] one of the most democratic artistic mediums you can create. Instead of one painting, you can make hundreds of impressions,” Hawkins said. “It’s always been a way to spread information and share resources and really get messages out and get involved in the community in a big way.”

According to studio director KB Brown, pop-up burn and burn events are a great tool for reaching people.

“It’s always kind of like that magical ‘Aha’ moment when someone sees a screen print bend. And it’s the delivery of information that’s really important there – that you can create this really cool interaction between someone who has never seen burning happen before,” Brown said.

A big part of the community initiative includes Studio Two Three producing zines with accurate COVID-19 vaccine information and reminders for RPS students. The studio will create a set of zines specifically for elementary school students and their parents, and another for middle and high school students, according to Hawkins.

Additionally, the studio will produce pop-up events in conjunction with the distribution of zines at Arthur Ashe Junior Athletic Center vaccine clinics, but their schedule has been delayed due to the new COVID-19 Omicron variant, according to the Advocacy Director. and awareness. for RPS Matthew Stanley.

“There’s going to be a lot of ongoing vaccine education because of the variant boosters and different age groups, so there’s a lot of information for people to digest,” Stanley said. “And it just feels like a way to make it kind of fun and friendly rather than like the sterile CDC page.”

The CDC grant will also cover Studio Two Three’s plan to design and install large vinyl banners promoting vaccinations around Richmond, primarily in high-traffic areas that organizers have yet to determine, according to Stanley.

Studio Two Three and RPS hope to hold the community events by March and eventually move those events from vaccination clinics to school premises, according to Stanley.

“We really appreciate the connection to advocacy at Studio Two Three and how they use this partnership to advocate for our community,” Stanley said. “By people printing a poster, it talks about vaccines and educates about vaccines. This is a plea for our community.

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