Saturday I made a long overdue trip to a major cultural hub here in Providence, the many spaces of AS220. Established as a small artists space (Hence the “AS”) in 1985, AS220 has grown to be one of major leaders of Providence’s artistic cultural identity. It’s a music venue, performance space, multiple art galleries, workshop, artist living space, and restaurant and bar (and probably more)! I’ve been to AS220 many times over the years for many different reasons, so it seems quite silly that I haven’t yet discussed here their art spaces.
At the main gallery space, which surrounds their performance space, is 100 Ways an Old Artist Can Die, a collaborative exhibition organized by John Kotula, who’s also a Hera Member. On this a most rainy night, the space was packed with people out in support of John and his participating artists in contemplating mortality and more specifically his own. He put a challenge out to the participating artists (run through his Facebook Group) to guess how he will depart from this earth with the winner receiving $2500 from his estate (excluding his wife, who had her own theory). John described all the ways in which people have guessed and presented this otherwise morbid pondering with such humor and amusement that you can’t help but feel positive about his ultimate demise. Participating artists include Pop Icon, Munko McFunko, Wayne Quackenbush, Casey Weibust, Raymond Beausejour, Mariellen Dodge Davey Langworthy, Rich Ferri, Debby Drew, Amber Kelley Collins, Janice Bray, Jesse Golding, Greg Barnes, Peter Harvey, Em Flynn, Ricky Gagnon, Natalie Elephante, Sophie Ahava, Ari Ahava, Grace Davey, Kim Baker, Stephen Brownell, Jackie Lemmon Art, Artwork by Leander, and others.
I wandered over to the AS220 Project Space and Reading Room as the fire alarm hustled everyone out of the 95 Empire space. I wasn’t sure what was going on there, but I made my way over just the same and was pleasantly surprised to see the work of Michelle Benoit in the Reading Room. I was first introduced to Michelle’s work in the last juried exhibition at Hera, but was pleased to see her painted objects as a full, collective series. These mixed media and/or gouache on reclaimed acrylic resin are objects of sheer color! They seem almost confectionary in nature. On display as well in the Project Space is Where are We Going: New Work by Julia Gandrud with an A-Z line up of small paintings of animals.
AS220 has a different line up of artists at every space every month with openings on the first Saturday from 5-7 (unless it’s a holiday weekend like the 4th of July). I’ve missed out on the last few, but I try to make it down whenever I can. It’s a space that gives the artist a lot of freedom to do what works, such as painting the walls, covering them with quilted fabric, or any thing else that the artist deems possible.