“Art and Community Empowerment”

On Wednesday, March 22, Rhode Island College’s Dialogue on Diversity Spring Lecture will feature Umberto “Bert” Crenca ’81, artist and founder of AS220.

Titled “Art and Community Empowerment: Inclusion and Opportunity,” Crenca’s multimedia presentation will cover the birth of AS220 as an alternative community arts space and the philosophy of “unjuried, uncensored creative expression” as it relates to community empowerment and education.

Co-sponsored by the Dialogue on Diversity Committee and RIC’s Youth Development Program, refreshments will be provided at noon, followed by Crenca’s lecture from 12:30-2 p.m. in Sapinsley Hall. This event is free and open to the public.

AS220, a nonprofit community arts center, was founded in 1985 to provide a local, unjuried and uncensored forum for the arts. Its facilities and services are available to any artist who needs a place to exhibit, perform or create original work and is founded on the principle that “freedom of expression is crucial for the development of strong communities and individual spirits.”

Embracing the full spectrum of the arts, AS220 supports: theatre, dance, poetry, photography, music, printmaking, creative “hacking,” painting, puppetry and more. Its facilities include four rotating gallery spaces, a performance space, a youth program, a recording studio, a print shop, a darkroom, a media arts and electronics lab, plus an AS220-owned-and-operated bar and restaurant.

“More than 30 years ago, Bert Crenca graduated from RIC with a studio art degree and ended up transforming the Providence art scene in unexpected ways, leaving it vibrant, transformed and accessible,” said Antoinette Gomes, co-chair of the Dialogue on Diversity Committee and director of RIC’s Unity Center. “AS220 serves as a nationally recognized model for how opportunity and inclusion can lead to prolific creativity across artistic disciplines. And Bert is an amazing artist in his own right whose works have been digitally archived at Rhode Island College’s James P. Adams Library.”

Commending AS220’s youth program, Corinne McKamey, co-director of RIC’s Youth Development Program, noted how AS220 “uses artmaking to inspire and connect young people with each other and to their community. AS220 provides mentorship and leadership opportunities to at-risk youth so that they can creatively envision and construct their post-secondary lives. It is an exemplary youth development organization in Rhode Island and beyond.”

Since its inception, AS220 has established a powerful presence in the Downtown Arts and Entertainment District. The organization has been recognized for its catalytic role in the revival of that district and is credited as a national model for urban revitalization. In 2016 the White House honored Crenca and nine other individuals from across the country as “White House Champions of Change for Making.”