Make it Rain(bow) - our first annual summer shindig, fundraiser, party to celebrate the stories of Studio Two Three - was a hit. But more than that, it was a reminder why we are here, why we do what we do, and why it matters. Studio Two Three provides a home for a creative community - a home that is made possible through gifts from generous individuals and grant funding from the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Free Egunfemi shared her story of founding Untold RVA and printing her first-ever t-shirts at Studio Two Three. Nikko Dennis shared his story of starting fashion brand Chilalay to his now full-time gig making and selling fashion. Sophie Treppendahl shared her story of moving to Richmond, finding a home at Studio Two Three, and actually quitting her day job to become a full time artist. Connie Shumaker - aka Connie Troversial - shared her story of finding a safe space, a family and artistic support as an intern turned member.
I have written and re-written my version of the night a few times, and then realized, let me just turn it over to a real writer - member Jackie Ann Ruiz - and her Studio Two Three story, because she says it better than me:
Before I became a mom, I was a writer, illustrator and storyteller in the New York Alt Comedy scene. I lived in a studio apartment in deeeeep Brooklyn where I grew up, not cool Brooklyn with fun stuff. It was basically me and the old Russian couples, and it was still EXPENSIVE, so I was well below the poverty line, but I had the space and time to do the work I was trying to do, so that worked for me then.
One of the privileges of being born a white woman is that you’ve been taught to have a drive; and so you feel a little safer taking risks to make a career happen than if you were a woman of color. I just want to acknowledge that privilege here in front of a group of mostly white women; let’s feel our feelings in a safe space LOL. The acknowledgement of privilege and search for true equity is one of the things I love most about being a part of the Studio Two Three community and why I’m proud to call Ashley one of my best friends.
I fled New York and most of my career and creative community when my daughter Rocket was 7 months old; nooo one helps you carry a giant stroller up the subway steps, and a life where we had to rent a car to drive to the good grocery store was not the life for me. It was at a time when all of my friends in New York were getting famous and landing TV pilot deals, and all of my friends in Richmond were having babies. So we moved and for a few years I pretended that I wasn’t an artist anymore, mostly out of necessity. This didn’t work and I got very cranky when I realized that the new life I had created left very little space for me. My husband and I are both cycle-breakers, and so we don’t have our families in our lives. We literally parent in a bubble. All of the time.
I sold my book proposal to Random House last summer and was given nine months to write and illustrate it. My writing partner is the creator of Reductress.com (which is basically The Onion for women and if you don’t know it, please do yourself a favor and visit it because it will be the new light in your life). She’s also a mom, and her FT editor-in-chief job is unpaid; again, her privilege. That’s basically where we are at, as women. The privilege to be unpaid. ANYWAY She had full-time daycare already set up, and I had none, but now I had a deadline. I took my first book check and did two things immediately; I hired my first babysitter and I paid for a year of private studio space at 23. I felt like a baller.
Virginia Woolf said that a woman needs two things to write fiction, money and a room of one’s own. My book is a satirical feminist version of What To Expect When You’re Expecting, not fiction, but that’s what I needed too. We are currently in final edits for a book that I really think can change the world for women, and I could not have written it, if not for Studio Two Three. My FORMER babysitter was part time, and not at all reliable. I worked whenever I could; sometimes surrounded by artists during the day, and sometimes my studio light was the only one on. in a big dark calm warehouse. Those are my favorite times, because I am a lone wolf, but in retrospect I am so glad that I had the option to come and work surrounded by other people doing their work, it sustained me when I got so tired and there was so much more work to do. BOOKS ARE LONG AND BABIES ARE A LOT and community has never been more important than it is now, for so many reasons.
When I needed to draw a picture of a woman farting on her husband during childbirth class, I came downstairs and asked another studio resident if I could use his face as the reference. When I needed coffee, someone had usually already made it. When I needed to bounce my ideas off of someone different than me, all I needed to do was look around and pick one. Studio Two Three is a rainbow of artists, writers, community advocates, mothers, fathers, newly-graduated artists, people of color, supporters, kids tromping through on field trips where they might learn for the first time that being creative can be a job and a way of life. I certainly didn’t learn that at home; I learned it in an 8-hour figure drawing class I took on Sundays which I paid for with stolen money out of my mom’s purse.
23 is the closest thing I’ve got to a tribe, something we are sorely missing in this world. It’s a tribe supporting creativity in all people, supporting empowerment and equity for the oppressed, elevating the voices of those who deserve to be heard and have their work seen and have space left for them and it has GENDERLESS bathrooms; this radical and inclusive detail is a great indicator of the human rights focus at the forefront of everything Studio Two Three does.
The truth is you’re just another group of kids tromping through on a field trip, so If you’re creative already, if you’ve always wanted to be, if you feel like your life doesn’t leave enough space for you to even decide what you’d most like to create, or if you’re just looking to be a part of an exciting and positive organization that’s doing all of these things for people in your community; there’s space for you here.
- Jackie Ann Ruiz
Author, Artist, Mother, Badass