AS220 Youth is the longest-running arts program within a juvenile detention center in the United States.  We provide 8-12 weekly classes in the visual arts, music, photography, graphic design and 3D design throughout the year.  AS220 Youth believes that participation in the arts can promote a young person’s social, emotional, academic and creative development.  Through art-making and relationship-building, participants increase their technical and social skills. These skills can open up new opportunities for young people when they’re released and return to the community.

To view work from the Training School, see our Galleries.

Program Offerings

AS220 Youth offers the following classes at the RITS:

  • Painting
  • Drawing
  • Graphic design
  • Photography
  • Improv
  • Beatmaking
  • Songwriting
  • Piano
  • Studio engineering
  • Creative writing

We celebrate youth and their art work as often as possible! Twice a year, AS220 hosts Family Nights at the Training School. Youth exhibit and perform their work for friends and family. In addition, we publish their work in the Hidden Truth, our literary magazine.

Art gives me a voice. In everyday life, I don’t have a voice because I am a child. But when I make art, I find my voice.

– Alexandria

Transitional Services

If youth want to continue their creative work at AS220, they are invited to become members of the studio. They sign up for classes at our Empire Street location and can begin participation immediately after release.

For young adults ages 17-21, we offer an Apprentice Program. Apprenticeships are stipended positions in one of the four areas: graphic design, murals, studio engineering, and photography.

Apprentices work 12-20 hours a week at Empire Street for 14 weeks. During this time, they complete a minimum of 20 hours of job skills training. The training includes professional behavior, resume and cover letter writing, financial literacy, and long-term career planning. At the end of the training, youth receive a “Certificate of Work Readiness.”

AS220 dedicates one-third of its summer jobs for youth in or exiting State care. In addition, AS220’s restaurant, FooD, hires youth to work in the kitchen as dishwashers and prep cooks.

Staff advisors provide RITS youth with social, educational, and vocational supports. We help youth access public benefits, housing, and other community resources.

If AS220 wasn’t at the RITS it’d be empty, boring, lifeless. Because AS220 is here I have more motivation to look forward to the next day. I look forward to the days I have AS220, those are the highlights of my week.

– Dyquan

History

AS220’s relationship with the Rhode Island Training School began in 1998 when principal Dr. Arlene Chorney and superintendent Warren Hurlbut invited local artists and writers to work with residents at the facility.

Damien Yettaw, a poet from Providence, was one of the first instructors. He energized after-school programming at the RITS and gave youth an introduction to creative process.  His students’ work was so impressive that it caused a buzz in the community and sparked the interest of Bert Crenca, AS220’s Artistic Director.  Bert soon began offering weekly drawing classes on-site.

The effect of arts education Training School students was transformative, but Dr. Chorney, Bert and other instructors saw the potential for an even more impacting program.  They recognized that youth needed an outlet while incarcerated – but also needed opportunities in the community.

The team put their heads together and envisioned a physical space where youth could go after release to continue making art, music and poetry. Youth would be able to maintain relationships with instructors and establish a creative community for teens

  In 2001, AS220 received a small grant from the Lila Wallace Foundation and used the funds to rent a large garage on Broad Street in South Providence. The space became known as Broad Street Studio and quickly became a hub for creative teens with a passion for hiphop, visual art, photography, and writing/publishing.   Bert, along with staff Sam Seidel, Laura Rubin and Adam Reich designed and provided programming in the new space.

Over the last 15 years, the relationship between AS220, DCYF, and the Rhode Island Training School has strengthened.  Funding from the RI Department of Education has allowed the organization to expand and enhance programming, so we now provide programming to more than 50% of the building’s residents.