AS220 at 25

By GREG COOK  |  August 13, 2010

So I came, I got a tour of the whole AS220, the breakdance studio, the lounge room, the photography studio. Then I got a membership and I signed up for classes.Everybody's around the same age. A lot of people are going through the same problems. I've been kicked out of the house. And I've had family issues. Fights. Not me exactly starting fights, but just being in them. You might think that's bad, but a lot of the people here have been through worse. I don't know everybody's business, so I can't tell you specifically. But a lot of people they'll say it in their music. Sometimes they'll talk about it like when you're having a friend-to-friend conversation and they'll just tell you what's going on in their home. A lot of kids they're in group homes. A lot of kids they're just coming out of the Training School.

They put me on my feet. I wanted to start somewhere with my music. I didn't know where I should go. If you come to AS220, they help you every step of the way.

CRENCA, on winning the 2010 Pell Award for Excellence In the Arts: In my little [Pell Award] talk I read a couple of lines from [Channing Gray's] review of my show in '82 that started this whole thing in motion. Then I read a couple lines from [Steven Emma's] op-ed. And I mentioned at the thing that I agree more with [Gray] than with the op-ed that was a defense of me. And [Gray] was there. So he got to experience that. And I have in the past credited him . . . If he hadn't written a poignant and critical review of my exhibit, the whole thing would not have been set in motion.

[At the Pell Awards,] I said that it would be really amiss of me if I didn't quote something from the original manifesto. I quoted the section that the winning of awards or the getting of awards or any of that stuff doesn't mean anything. And everybody was like, "Oh. What is he doing?" And then I went to another line in the manifesto: "In spite of the unyielding belief that an artist has in him or herself, they need the support of the public." So I juxtaposed those two quotes and then I said, "I think tonight we're doing a little of both."

What keeps people coming back to AS220? It's the idea of AS220, it's what it professes to be, and in most cases what it demonstrates, most of the time — [you've] got to leave some room for fucking up. Most people's experiences have been that of being on the receiving end of what AS220 has to offer: access to a stage, access to a gallery wall, access to interesting performances, access to healthy food, access to affordable drinks, access to classes, access to in some cases counseling, access to cool living space in the middle of downtown, access to a community of like-minded people. My whole personal mission in life is to provide ways for people to liberate themselves and allow themselves to conceive of themselves in whatever way they want. We're the maker of our own stories. A lot of people don't realize that they have choices and that they can create that story in any way that they want. And AS220 is kind of a forum for people to be able to create their own story about who they are, about how they want to be seen.

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