AS220 at 25

By GREG COOK  |  August 13, 2010
JILL COLINAN, former AS220 resident and café manager, on the performance troupe Frodus: Shawn [Wallace] and Neal [Walsh] came out with signs that said, "Save the goldfish." On the tables, everybody had a little Dixie cup full of water. Then Matt Lowe came out and had a tank full of goldfish and really angrily reached into the tank and just started throwing goldfish out into the audience, live goldfish. And then the whole room, everybody gasped. Then the whole room kind of got quiet and just started working on saving the goldfish.

CLAUSEN: The Foo Fest started as the Fools Ball [in 1995]. It actually started as the Marathon Cabaret [in 1989], which we'd run 12 hours of performances and bands just to raise money. And we had this ad-hoc band. We'd just be, "Show up with some thing that makes noise or an instrument and some crazy outfit." And then we just had renegade parades. We'd drop everyone off from the pickup truck on Thayer Street and march through the East Side and the colleges.

GEOFF ADAMS, former AS220 board president, on developing the Empire Street building in 1992: The pattern that was well-known to everybody was that artists come in and break new ground in an urban neighborhood, and then they get quickly priced out by developers. So the artists make it a place to be, and then the developers make it a place to be for people who are priced way above what artists can afford. AS220 didn't want that to happen. So the idea to buy a building would be one of creating permanence in the city.

LUCIE SEARLE, AS220's building developer: Empire Street cost a little over a million dollars to buy the building and fix it up. There were no frills whatsoever. The goal was simply to meet code and make sure that the building was safe. AS220 raised approximately $300,000 through a bazillion different things, through the Building Box [Portfolio, a collection of prints by local artists], through grants, special events, fund-raisers. The city of Providence made us a loan of approximately $200,000. So we ended up borrowing a little over $500,000. We could not get a loan from any one bank. They would not take the risk. So we had been pitching this to the Providence Company, which was made up at that time of banks like Fleet, Citizens, Hospital Trust. And we really weren't getting anywhere. So finally there was a man named Jim Dodge, who was the head of Providence Gas, and he happened to be the president of the Providence Foundation [which oversaw the Providence Company]. He was rather impressed with AS220 and Bert and myself and the pitch we were making. And he saw that we were not getting anywhere. So he convened a meeting at the Turks Head Building, at the top floor, at the Turks Head Club. We had about 15 people around the table, all representing these different banks, someone from the city, our lawyers, Bert, myself, I was the only woman at the table. We made our presentation. And Jim Dodge said to the group, "This is not a lot of money that they're looking for. I think they can do it. How can we work together with them?" And that broke the logjam. So we ended up with a participatory loan, and it involved three banks, Fleet, Citizens and Hospital Trust. Those three banks loaned us $528,000.

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