AS220 Does Community Development

AS220 is an organization that means a lot of things to a lot of different people with the overall mission of community development, empowerment and equity.  It  was founded in 1985 on the principle that freedom of expression is crucial for the development of strong communities and individual spirits. Founded in a one-room rental above the Providence Performing Arts Center in 1985 with a budget of $800, AS220 now owns three buildings in downtown Providence, representing an investment of $25 million. AS220 now employs a staff of 60+, and are looked upon internationally as a model of sustainability in the non-profit arts sector. As impressive as all that sounds, what counts is that it has stayed true to its original mission as Rhode Island’s unjuried, uncensored, and all-ages forum and home for the arts, serving thousands of artists and reaching an audience of more than 40,000 each year.

To some AS220 is…

…a free arts education program for young people ages 14-21, with a special focus on those in the care and custody of the state. They have workshops in 3 locations catering to different and at need populations, the downtown Studio, the Rhode Island Training School (RITS) and the Urban Collaborative Accelerated Program (UCAP).

To others it is…

…a home, a cooperative living environment driven by the artistic energy of its inhabitants.  AS220 offers 60 live and work studios, of which 80% are designated affordable housing. This makes AS220 the leading provider of affordable housing in downtown Providence.

…a theatre and dance studio comprised of the Empire Black Box, two multipurpose spaces, and a dance studio- a learning space and performance space.

…a restaurant and bar that offers quality, locally-sourced seasonal products at the fairest possible price.

…a gallery, or many galleries, where every resident of Rhode Island has the opportunity to exhibit original creative work.  These galleries like all of AS220 are unjuried and uncensored.

…a maker space consisting of media arts, a printshop and the labs.  The public-access printmaking studio offers intaglio etching, traditional stone lithography, letterpress, silkscreen, and offset facilities.  The AS220 Labs is a community engineering and fabrication studio, part of an international network of  Fab(rication) Labs.  Media Arts has both digital and traditional B&W photography, added studio lighting, and camera rentals, as well as resources for photofinishing, digital editing and large-format printing.

…a stage.  It is an uncensored and unjuried forum, offering every artist residing in this small state an opportunity to perform or exhibit their original work.  It hosts eight to ten events each week!

…for the community and by the community with an intention of engagement, revitalization and forward progress. Each year, AS220 serves over 1,000 artists and is destination for upwards of 93,000 people.  It has recently completed its 3rd, award-winning historic restoration project with a total of 100,00 square feet of lively, mixed-use space.  The AS220 Community has had a catalytic role in transforming downtown Providence.

With all of this in mind, you’re invited to BUILDING AS220: PAST. PRESENT. FUTURE. on Monday, March 24th, at Trinity Repertory Company! Doors open at 5:30, the event begins at 6pm.

AS220 is asking for your participation as it continues BUILDING AS220 to serve the community for the next 30 years, and beyond. More art. Expanded access. Greater equity. Learn how AS220 and the City of Providence have come so far from such humble beginnings! Discover the innermost workings of AS220, revealed to you live on stage, and find out how you can become involved! Behold our vision for the future: BUILDING AS220 and how we can all co-create it!

After, please join AS220 at 115 Empire St for a casual talkback and meet / greet with food and drink available.

by Emily McKenna, VISTA Leader, AS220

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