Creatives on Empire Street
No organization embodies Providence’s moniker, “The Creative Capital”, more than AS220. Founded in 1985, this organization supports artists by providing housing, studio, exhibit, and performance space in downtown Providence. AS220 began in one room above the Providence Performing Arts Center at 220 Weybosset Street, when Umberto Crenca and friends decided Providence needed a space dedicated to supporting artists and artistic expression. “AS” stands for artists space or alternative space and 220 honors the room at PPAC where it all began.
Since those humble beginnings, AS220 has purchased, renovated, and is actively operating three mixed-used buildings - the Empire Street complex (1993), the Dreyfus (2007), and the Mercantile (2010), totaling about 100,000 square feet in the heart of downtown. Founded on the belief in providing an “unjuried, uncensored” space for artistic expression, AS220 has been a major catalyst in reviving downtown. Its growth is credited with bringing life back to Empire Street and cultivating the strong artistic community present in Providence today. In 2016, President Barack Obama honored Crenca for “his work on building a collaborative community committed to supporting exchange of knowledge between innovative makers and creative thinkers.”
Today, AS220 houses four rotating gallery spaces, a performance stage, a black box theater, a print shop, a darkroom and media arts lab, a fabrication and electronics lab, a dance studio, a youth program, 47 affordable live/work studios for artists, a bar and restaurant, and is a destination for over 51,000 people each year.