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Unjuried/Uncensored: Making AS220, is a feature length documentary about AS220, which was formed in 1985 to provide a venue for Rhode Island artists of all stripes. From its humble beginnings on the third floor of the Ocean State Theater (now Providence Performing Arts Center), through today, AS220 has remained steadfast in its mission to provide an unjuried and uncensored outlet for all. Its current holdings represent an investment of more than 25 million dollars in Downtown Providence, owning three buildings totaling over 100,000 square feet of space, providing low-income housing including 45 artist studios, 6 commercial tenants, serving over 70,000 people per year and is one of the most successful developers in the downtown area. After more than 30 years, the organization has gained global recognition as a model of creative placemaking, a term that describes the integration of artistic and cultural communities to revitalize neighborhoods, towns and cities.
The documentary currently is in pre-production. It will chart the history of the organization and delve into the hearts and minds of its principal players. We will follow Umberto Crenca, the charismatic founding artistic director and driving force, from his early life growing up in Rhode Island to the myriad challenges of starting and supporting an organization in a forlorn city, which was at the time known to many as, “the armpit of New England.”
After over 30 years Crenca stepped down from daily involvement in running AS220 to make art full time. To replace him, a unique dual directorship was formed between two young women: Sheyla Rivera, who, in her own words, “stalked AS220” from her home in Puerto Rico before moving to Providence to join the organization, and Shauna Duffy, who as a young teenager frequented AS220’s shows and developed a sense of belonging. With Rivera as Artistic Director and Duffy as Managing Director, the co-directors find themselves stewards of a thriving and complex organization, as well as prominent leaders in a community grappling with the rising volatility of the global political landscape.
Clearly the time is ripe to document the extraordinary arc of AS220 and the people who give it its heart, soul and fire, and to contemplate its future. This is a story of determination and drive, of leadership and trust, and about staying true to a purpose larger than oneself.
Richard Goulis is a multimedia artist and filmmaker who has worked, performed and maintained a studio at AS220 since the 1980s. He founded non-profit arts organizations in Worcester, MA and Albuquerque NM and is the producer, director and editor of NetWorks Rhode Island, a series of video portraits of select RI visual artists, broadcast on Rhode Island PBS. Richard earned a BFA in Film, Video and Animation from the Rhode Island School of Design.
Sheryl Kopel is a Providence, RI native and a fan of AS220 since the early days. While always involved in various creative projects, her full time occupation has been in health psychology research. In 2014 she began to focus more intensively on the arts and since that time has moonlighted as an artist manager and creative producer. Sheryl holds undergraduate and post-graduate degrees in psychology from Rhode Island College and the University of Exeter (UK).