Investing in the unconventional pays off

For some in Providence, it might be hard to imagine a time before AS220, the multi-faceted forum for the arts located downtown. In 1982, the “manifesto” for AS220 was first developed by a group of artists who envisioned a more vital, democratic, and public interpretation of the arts, without the pretensions or hierarchies of the traditional art world. “Unjuried and uncensored” became the group’s unofficial motto, and the organization promised that anyone who wanted to show work, or perform, would find a venue at AS220.

At the Rhode Island Foundation, we have always invested in the arts – not only because of our donors’ interests, but also for our own understanding of how the arts can build and sustain communities. Beyond the focus on growing the arts downtown, AS220 presented an alternative to conventional arts institutions, which could seem inaccessible to many. The idea that opportunities for making art, sharing it, and discussing the issues raised by artwork should be available to everyone was one that we – as a community foundation – recognized as important to our mission of serving the breadth and diversity of our state.

In the decades since its founding, we have been proud to support AS220 as it grew from an informal collective of artists to an organization that is recognized nationally for an innovative model and which has been credited with catalyzing downtown revitalization. AS220 now owns three properties, offering a range of presenting venues, live-work spaces, and labs for a wide range of visual and performing arts, as well as design and creative making.

Founding Artistic Director Umberto Crenca often speaks of the critical role the Foundation has had in AS220’s development – from programmatic and operating support to the range of services and resources provided through our Initiative for Nonprofit Excellence. We recognize that when organizations take new or untested approaches, investing in them presents risk. But we also know that measured risks on efforts that highlight the resources and assets in our own communities are ones we are more willing to take.


One Union Station
Providence, RI 02903


(401) 274-4564

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