By day, Torie Topor is the ink master of downtown print shop The Mark-It, and spends her time screen printing designs on Water Street. But by night, she’s recently begun doing the same work, only pro bono to facilitate her new project: Print-ual Aid.
Print-ual Aid is an online fundraiser to benefit service industry workers struggling during the pandemic using sales from limited edition, original art donated by Valley creatives.
“It just came from wanting to help people,” Topor said. “The people who are probably suffering the most from all this are people who can’t or aren’t making the same wages they were because they can’t. People aren’t coming out to their restaurant anymore.”
Each participating design is being reproduced as 15 prints for sale at $20 each, and Topor is donating back 10 prints from each artist to sell themselves as a “full-circle” fundraiser. As of Wednesday, six artists have prints available for purchase on Topor’s website. When casting the call for donations, Topor said she only placed limitations on size and number of colors. Some of the featured work is dark, others bright, but each are uniquely characteristic of the participating creators.
Wonder Records shop owner Elliot Downs submitted a pop art style piece titled ”Senses.” Alley Cat Tattoo artist Andrew Conner infuses several themes from American Traditional tattoo style into his submission “Love Thy Neighbor.” As prints sell out, Topor will post the next group of products in the coming weeks, including work from poets and musicians.
Amberlee Carlson is a visual artist and co-owner of the recently opened business on the north end of downtown, Sage Bird Ciderworks. Carlson often focuses on Virginia flora in her illustrations, so her contribution to the Print-ual Aid titled “Home” aptly includes Virginia dogwoods, lavender, mountain laurel, cone flower and chain fern neatly stowed within a diamond shape and centered by an ampersand.
The ampersand, Carlson said, holds a special meaning to her and is a tattoo she shares with her husband.
“I am always an ‘and’ now. I always have to take in, consult my husband in my decision making. I’m not my own self anymore. He’s a big part of that, so I thought that idea would fit very well into connecting with the community,” she said. “It’s Harrisonburg and us. We’re the other end of the ampersand.”
Topor said she chose the local peer support agency Strength in Peers to handle the distribution of finances because it has no overhead and runs several community healing programs, so the organization’s team will pair people with resources.
“I’m doing this fundraiser specifically to raise funds for service industry workers who were affected negatively by the pandemic and losing their income or not being able to pay their bills,” Topor said. “Strength in Peers will make sure that money gets to them, specifically.”
During the pandemic, Strength in Peers has allocated funds from the city and county’s coronavirus relief foundations and CARES Act money to directly assist people in need based on federal income levels. Fadley said the food and drink service industries employ some of the people hit hardest by the pandemic.
“We had a lot of success both in helping people struggling financially and providing them information on our services and other services in the community to look to for help,” Fadley said. “As soon as the fundraiser is over and the money is ready for donations, that’s when we’ll step in and do our side, which will be to market and help people in the food service industry.”
Fadley said those in need of support navigating financial hardship can go to Strength in Peers to talk about breaking down issues into accessible steps like budgeting toward recovery.
“We also offer people a review of their needs to get a full picture of what people or households are struggling with,” she said. “We don’t just give people financial assistance. We pair it up with financial education.”
Print-ual Aid is running through the end of April and 100% of funds will help alleviate financial stress for service industry workers with reduced work or unemployed as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For this theme of community connectedness and neighborly love, it’s interesting how each artist has taken who they are and what that means to them and their craft,” Carlson said. “It’s like a by the people, for the people kind of thing.”