For a 33-year-old organization with many significant years under its belt, AS220 managed to make 2018 yet another big one, with plans for 2019 to follow suit. The group, whose mission is to foster the creative potential in all individuals, supports multiple educational and arts programs, non-juried art galleries, black box theater, performance stage, darkroom, print shop, media arts lab, dance studio, youth program, and more.
In 2018, AS220 started to fundraise for a $5 million renovation to their current downtown location that they’ve occupied for 25 years. As part of their All Access Campaign, Managing Director Shauna Duffy explains that they began to examine what “access” really means: “If people don’t think [something’s] accessible, they won’t try,” she says. The discussion was springboarded by the building’s lack of access for individuals with disabilities, like an elevator. From there, the conversation snowballed into how AS220 could make their space more approachable in other ways, like adding additional gallery space, gender neutral bathrooms with changing tables, and a potential raise for staff.
The reno will “reconfigure the space for sense and flow,” adds Communications Director Dave Dvorchak. Right now, he says, areas are segmented; there’s no easy movement between the galleries, bar, restaurant, stage, and theater. The goal is to make changes that are intentional in supporting the AS220 – and its potential – community, modeled after the success and growth of their AS220 Youth program, headed by Anjel Newmann.
“We go into spaces that do not have access or equal access to the arts,” says Newmann. This program first started as a class held at the Rhode Island juvenile detention facility, but expanded to share resources with any young person facing barriers, from incarceration to mental health troubles, pregnancy, and other social inequalities. “[The] arts can be a bridge to self-liberation,” she says. Newmann hopes that the new plans for the building will also encourage more kids to take advantage of the opportunities AS220 offers.
All three believe that with these new conversations and construction in 2019, AS220 is laying the groundwork for its next 25 years downtown.
Get a chance to meet the members of AS220 and celebrate with RI's leading trailblazers at the first great event of the year; Providence Monthly's Who to Watch Party on January 16 at Skyline at Waterplace! Click here to reserve your ticket to this can't-miss event.
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