Umberto Crenca (photo: Pam Murray)
Umberto Crenca is the Artistic Director and Co-Founder of AS220, a nonprofit center for the arts in Providence, Rhode Island. AS220 was established in 1985 to provide a local, unjuried, and uncensored home for the arts. The organization maintains three buildings, providing: fifty eight artist live and/or work spaces, four exhibition spaces, a print shop, two darkrooms, a technology lab, a stage, a recording studio, a black box theater, a dance studio, and a popular bar and restaurant. AS220's permanent establishment in the City's downtown is widely recognized as one of the first significant steps in the creation of the Providence Arts and Entertainment District.
Umberto Crenca remains committed to the revitalization of Providence's historic downtown, and plays an important role in community efforts across the region. He served on Providence Mayor Cicilline's Arts Culture and Tourism Advisory Board and on the steering committee for the department's Creative Providence cultural assessment and planning initiative. Crenca also served on the Providence School Board from January 2005 to December 2008 and is an active member of the Providence Downtown Improvement District (DID) Board. Crenca also acted an advisor to the LINC initiative, a national effort to create better support systems for individual artists.
In the past three decades, Crenca has been a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), The Urban Institute, The Ford Foundation, LEF Foundation, Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, Massachusetts Cultural Council, Connecticut Commission on the Arts (CCA), the New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) Artist Trust, and the Creative Cities Summit. He was a guest speaker and mentor for the CCA's Urban Artist Initiative, and was a fellow both in the Rhode Island Foundation and the Pew Civic Entrepreneur Initiative (PCEI) of the Pew Partnership for Civic Change. In July 2003, Crenca was awarded a full scholarship to attend the Strategic Perspectives in Non-Profit Management course at Harvard Business School.
An accomplished educator, Crenca has spearheaded efforts to bring more meaningful arts experiences to incarcerated youth. Crenca was a visual art instructor at the Rhode Island Training School (RITS), the state's juvenile detention facility from 1998-2004. In 1999, Crenca established AS220's youth program, Broad Street Studio, on Providence's south side. Today, the organization continues to serve and support youth in and transitioning out of state care at AS220's Empire Street complex and the RITS under the banner AS220 Youth. Crenca taught visual art to youth aged twelve to eighteen at Urban Collaborative Accelerated Program (UCAP) and New Pride School, two Providence alternative schools, and served as a mentor for The Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center (The Met School), an inner city Providence school district and local education agency, from 1995-2000. Crenca was the instructor for Art and Community Building, a course offered during Winter Session 2000 at Rhode Island School of Design.
In 2010, Umberto Crenca received a Rhode Island Pell Award For Excellence in the Arts. The same year, he was honored with a Charles B Willard Professional Achievement Award from Rhode Island College. Rhode Island Monthly magazine included Crenca as one of the region's most influential individuals in their feature "Who Really Runs This State: The 28 Most Influential Rhode Islanders in 2010".
In 2011, Crenca was mentioned in Fast Company's Fast Cities feature "United States of Innovation", which listed bold ideas and brilliant urbanites who are helping to build the cities of America's future. The article applauds his role in economic and cultural development, "Crenca has shown how an arts not-for-profit can be a keystone of urban renewal. AS220's studio space, artist housing, and café/bar have helped boost a once-seedy area and lift property values." (FastCompany.com). During the same year, Crenca received the Rhode Island Foundation’s 2011 Community Service Award.
Crenca is a visual artist, performance artist, and musician with a long exhibition and performance history. He has been both artist in residence and an exhibiting artist at the New England Center for Contemporary Art in Brooklyn, CT. Crenca's solo exhibitions include the Galleria Del Corso, Latina, Italy and the Newport Art Museum, Newport, RI as well as four solo shows at the AS220 Galleries. Crenca has participated in two-person and group shows at Rhode Island's Newport Art Museum and Bristol Art Museum, the Museum of Art at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), the New York Cultural Center, and Real Art Ways of Hartford, CT, among others. His work is in the permanent collection of both the RISD Museum of Art and the Newport Art Museum. In 2001, Crenca performed in the 2001 Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland as a member of HisPanic Band.
Crenca has traveled extensively throughout Europe, Cuba, and Bali. He is a resident of Providence, where he maintains a studio and exhibition space with his wife, Susan Clausen, a visual artist and musician.
A biographical article. The Education of Umberto Crenca by Jon Margolis, can be downloaded here.