Building AS220

by Sarah Melton
August 27, 2014

Sarah Melton '16 is an intern at AS220 through the iProv Summer Internship Program.

The plastic pipes of AS220’s Richmond St. location were spray-painted the color of copper to appear to meet regulations.There was no heat, and they could barely keep the pipes from freezing.

After being kicked out of the first location at 220 Weybosset street, Bert Crenca, at 35 years old, moved himself and his vision for an unjuried and uncensored art space to live and dwell illegally at a new location on Richmond street. They eventually moved from this location as well, and today the organization has expanded far beyond a single room. AS220 now owns three buildings, and operate four dozen live and work studios, spaces for artists to live affordably and develop as artists. It offers extensive youth programming as well as classes and workshops. It has five galleries, a public-access printshop, a restaurant and a bar with a performance stage that constantly hosts arts events and programming. 

This story, a story of incredible growth and presence, is what I have been engulfed in this summer as an intern at AS220. Through interviews, reading, and exploring the organization I have learned about what AS220 stands for and how they function, but more significantly, I have also felt it.

I have learned about AS220’s approach to enabling creative development and expression by being one more person who has stumbled into the organization and been given incredible opportunities. AS220 is not about dictating what needs to be made, it’s about making equipment, tools, and space accessible to the community, and allowing the community to do what they will with them. 

Even with my internship, I spent most of my time doing video production and editing, with incredible creative freedom. They would set me up with some video tutorials and let me sit and actually learn how to use new software and do different things with that software. I was given time for learning and skill development, and given caring and helpful mentors to help me out along the way.

Beyond having time to practice and create, I interviewed, talked and became friends with artists within and outside the organization who have had similar experiences with AS220. I was able to connect and be inspired and encouraged by people who years ago came to AS220 to practice, create, connect and be inspired. In the same way that it would be impossible to describe the many functions and roles AS220 plays for artists and the larger Providence community, it is impossible for me to describe the many ways in which AS220 has done so much for me.