Student-Led Research Project Aims to Drive Harm Reduction through Art

4 mins read
Photo courtesy of Rosine 2.0 Association

Swarthmore’s latest student-led research project, Rosine 2.0, is a forward-looking arts collective that traces its roots to a Quaker past. According to Sophia Becker ’24, one of the group’s leaders, Rosine 2.0 is inspired by the original Rosine Association — co-founded in 1847 by Philadelphia-based Quaker activist Mira Sharpless Townsend. 

Townsend envisioned the organization as a women-led support network for women engaged in substance use, sex work, or facing physical abuse and exploitation.

“The original association served predominantly white, cisgender women,” said Becker in an email to The Phoenix. “Rosine 2.0 seeks to expand beyond its predecessor by emphasizing women, trans, and non-binary people and continually working to de-center whiteness in the project.” 

Rosine 2.0, which is funded by the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, plans to use Townsend’s papers, which were acquired by the Friends Historical Library in 2019, to guide their ongoing work. According to Becker, the organization is focusing on using artwork to drive harm reduction for marginalized groups in Philadelphia — particularly those involved in drug use and sex work. 

“Socially engaged works will serve as a lens through which others can seek to understand their neighbors,” said Becker.

Rosine 2.0’s mission is to facilitate harm reduction for Philadelphians from marginalized communities involved in street economies, particularly sex work and drug use. This will occur through the development of new artistic works and a community-based archive, which the project’s leaders hope will encourage empathy and open a dialogue around supporting individuals from historically oppressed backgrounds. 

The collective currently has two student research assistants, Becker and Olivia Marotte ’24, who are responsible for coordinating outreach to the student community and conducting research. Rosine 2.0 has previously held artistic exhibitions and worked to engage students across disciplines in reflecting on how the artwork may connect with their course materials. 

“Rosine is hoping to get more students engaged in the collective,” said Becker. “Our programming allows students to learn more about harm reduction, advocacy, and problem-solving in their own lives.” 

On Tuesday, March 22, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., the collective plans to hold an opening reception for their exhibition entitled Reimagining Histories: Rosine Association Casebook Discoveries. According to Becker, the exhibition will provide an opportunity for students to learn more about Rosine 2.0 and its mission from staff members. 

Additionally, the organization will host a virtual workshop, “Cross-Movement Organizing: Sex Work Advocacy, Harm Reduction, and You!” on March 23 from 2:30 to 6:00 p.m., which will focus on how sex work decriminalization intersects with other critical issues. 

A Rosine 2.0 member and artist also plans to lead a community discussion and interactive game on March 30 from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. focused on student housing at Swarthmore during breaks. 

“Students should consider getting involved with Rosine 2.0 because it is a chance to better 

understand community members in nearby Philadelphia,” said Becker. “The topics we engage with are also important for learning and reflecting on how to be better advocates for our communities and for questioning common norms about sex work and drug use.” 

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Students interested in learning more about Rosine 2.0 or their programming can email raronow1@swarthmore.edu. Staff members will also be tabling in the Science Center Commons on Friday, March 18, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and at Crumb Cafe on Monday, March 21, from 9:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

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