|Headquarters||Providence, Rhode Island, United States|
|Umberto Crenca, Susan Clauson|
AS220 is a non-profit community arts center located at 115 Empire Street in Downtown, Providence, Rhode Island, United States. AS220 maintains four dozen artist live/work studios, around a dozen individual work studios, four rotating exhibition spaces, a performance space, a black box theatre, a dance studio, a print shop, a community darkroom and digital media lab, a high-tech fabrication lab, an organization-run bar and restaurant, a recording studio, and a youth program, AS220 Youth (formerly named the Broad Street Studio). Its mission is to provide a forum and home for the arts and the creative population of Rhode Island. The facilities and services are made available to all artists who need a place to exhibit, perform, or create their original artwork, especially those who cannot obtain space to exhibit or perform from traditional sources because of financial or other limitations. They also provide a Youth Studio which offers classes to young people in a variety of genres. Exhibitions and performances are unjuried, uncensored, and open to all ages.
AS220 was founded in 1985 by Umberto Crenca, Susan Clausen, and Scott Seabolt as a space for artists and performers in the realms of visual art, music, dance, and writing to exhibit their work and be experimental. They sought to create a forum without the pretension or curatorial constraints of the traditional art world. AS220 began as a collection of seven studios, a gallery, and a performing center on Weybosset St. and Richmond St. in Providence. In 1992, AS220 acquired its own 21,000 square foot building on 95-121 Empire Street, which it renovated in order to create a space for a mixed-use arts complex including resident artists, Groundwerx Dance Company, and the Perishable Theater. Additionally, this was a large step in the creation of an Arts and Entertainment District in Providence. In the 1990s, AS220 operated a public access TV show named TV 220.
In 2000, AS220 established the Broad Street Studio. Between 2003 and 2006, they launched a Capital Campaign which raised $2 million to improve the Empire Street Complex, including the creation of the AS220 Bar and Restaurant. In 2006, AS220 purchased the Dreyfus Hotel, on the corner of Washington and Mathewson Street in downtown Providence, from Johnson & Wales University. By May 2007, the 24,000 square foot building was fully restored and occupied. Today, it is home to fourteen residential studios and four work rental studios, as well as the AS220 administrative offices. The building's first floor commercial spaces are occupied by Local 121, an upscale farm-to-table restaurant, and the AS220 Project Space Gallery.
In 2008, AS220 purchased the Mercantile Block, its third downtown building, located at 131 Washington Street. The building, which has four stories and a basement, totals 50,000 square feet. The historic Mercantile Block is used for arts-related offices, work and live studios, and unique local retail and commercial spaces. Clark the Locksmith and The Stable bar, continue to operate on the renovated first floor, as well as local restaurant Viva Mexico!. The AS220 Labs and Printshop also relocated to the Mercantile Block, with expanded bi-level spaces which has introduced digital photography, studio lighting, and photo finishing to AS220 Photo.
- In 1992, Green Day performed at AS220 as part of Poor Richard's Mammothon.
- In 1992, AS220 released an eponymous entitled compilation album, with songs mostly recorded at AS220 in order to raise money for the organization.
- In 1991, Bikini Kill performed with The Nation of Ulysses and Born Against.
- In 1996, Pansy Division, a queercore band known for its openly gay themes and members, played at AS220.
- In 1996, Ed Sanders, poet, singer, activist, and longtime member of The Fugs performed at AS220.
- Performances in the 2000s have included Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, Sunn O))), Deer Tick, Health, The Mae Shi, Battles, Deerhunter, Yeasayer, and of Montreal.
- AS220's Foo Fest has featured Andrew W.K., Warpaint, Sun Ra, and Lightning Bolt.
- In 2011, AS220 Youth's ZuKrewe performance group releases their 15 track album "Enter The Zu" on the Free Music Archive, host to over 300 original tracks
- In 2010, contemporary artist Shepard Fairey received the first AS220 Free Culture award.
- In 2011, AS220 hosted a talk with artist Pippi Zornoza & Guggenheim curator Lauren Hinkson celebrating the release of Zornoza's Hex Drawing with AS220 through the Printshop's Editions Project.
Other Cultural Talks
- The late writer/actor Spalding Gray performed a monologue at a 1993 benefit to over 600 individuals.
- In 2010, activist, academic, and author Lawrence Lessig participated in a forum on free culture, copyright, and public art.
- In 1995, poet and former White Panther Party leader John Sinclair performed at AS220.
Buildings and Programs
AS220 offers a variety of performance, learning, residential, studio, and gallery spaces for the community.
The Empire Street complex at AS220 draws in an estimated 50,000 people per year. It houses the AS220 Performance Space, AS220 Bar, AS220 Foo(d), AS220 Youth, Paul Krot Community Darkroom, three gallery spaces, and twenty resident/work studios for artists.
The Performance Space at AS220 showcases eight to twelve events each week, and features live music, performance art, poetry slams, fashion shows, figure drawing, film series featuring art house cinema, cultural performances, and more. It has an open booking policy which provides an uncensored and unjuried space for artists.
AS220 Youth provides a free arts education to individuals aged 14–21, with a special focus on youth under the care of the state. It strives to engage youth in a creative process which leads to positive education, vocational, and social futures. The youth studio works with the Rhode Island Training School and also provides mentoring and receives support from the AmeriCorps*VISTA program. There are workshops in creative writing, dance, music, visual arts, and photography. Approximately two dozen classes are offered weekly and free of charge.
Empire Street houses three galleries, the Main Gallery, Open Window, and the Youth Gallery.
Since August 1994, when the Paul Krot Darkroom was established at 115 Empire Street, AS220’s photography programs have grown to embrace both digital and traditional B&W photography, added studio lighting, and camera rentals, as well as resources for photo finishing, digital editing and large-format printing. In 2012, they announced their intention to expand the photography program to a Media Arts program that supported complementary analog and digital mediums such as: film, video, audio, and computer/web applications.
Between 2006 and 2007, The Dreyfus, an old hotel in downtown Providence, was purchased, renovated, and restored by AS220 to hold the AS220 Main Office and Development Office, fourteen work and residential artist studios, and AS220's Project Space art gallery. The Project Space gallery rotates shows on a monthly basis primarily houses three-dimensional or installation-based art.
In 2008, AS220 purchased The Mercantile Block building at 131 Washington Street in downtown Providence, transforming the building into a space for the AS220 Industries (comprising the AS220 Community Printshop, AS220 Labs, and AS220 Media Arts), live and work studios for artists, office space for local non-profits, and street level retail space for locally-grown businesses. The building officially opened on June 13, 2011.
Every summer, AS220 throws an annual block party, "Foo Fest" (previously known as the "Fool's Ball"). Foo Fest now features 12 hours of entertainment with two dozen local and regional bands and musicians, a nationally-known headliner, interactive art installations and experiences, and local food and drink. Upwards of 4,000 people come to Foo Fest every year.
- Cicione, Maryleen. The Echo, December 1988.
- The Providence Journal. September 3, 1993. "AS220 arts center to make it official today"
- The Johnson & Wales University Campus Herald. October 25, 1993. Angela Livingston. "A Bright Future for AS220"
- The Quix Quarterly. Winter 1993, Robert Owen Jones, "The architecture column walking down AS220 boulevard"
- "The College Hill Independent" November 14, 1996. Lynn True. "Unlimited Expression"
- "The Empire Street Complex"(2008-03-06). Retrieved 2012-1-13.
- "The Dreyfus". Retrieved 2012-1-13.
- "The Mercantile Block". Retrieved 2012-1-13.
- "Membership Drive". Retrieved 2012-5-17.
- The Providence Sunday Journal. December 6, 1992. Andy Smith. "AS220 releases compilation album"
- King,H. (1993). "Alternative Space: A new Home for AS220", Issues Monthly, 23(1).
- The Providence Journal. April 5, 1996. Andy Smith. "Pansy Division marches gayly ahead"
- The Providence Phoenix. May 17, 1996. Michael Caito. "Phrases and stages."
- "Concerts at AS220". Retrieved 2012-3-19.
- "". Retrieved 2012-4-10.
- "". Retrieved 2-14-2012
- "". Retrieved 2012-4-10.
- The Providence Journal. June 4, 1993. William Gale and Andy Smith. "Spalding Gray to top bill at AS220 benefit"
- Salmons, C. (1995). "Hear him roar", The Providence Phoenix.
- "YouthMaster". Retrieved 2012-1-26.
- "The Dreyfus". Retrieved 2012-1-26.