AS220 is a multi-faceted Providence arts organization that supports a range of artists, arts activities and arts-based businesses. The main location on Empire Street includes a black box theatre (95 Empire), a bar (The Bar at AS220) and a restaurant (Foo(d), 105 Empire) and a gallery / performance space (115 Empire) as well as artist studios and live/work housing (second and third floors, 95 - 115 Empire).
The Mercantile Block, a second location on Washington Street, hosts AS220 Industries, including "maker" studios, media production studios and other arts-based businesses. Street-level spaces host independent businesses Viva Mexico (restaurant), The Stable (bar) and long-standing Providence institution Clark the Locksmith, established 1901.
AS220 is notable for promoting two unique artistic philosophies, both in word and in action.
The first is a founding principle: unjuried and uncensored. AS220 does not curate or censor the art that it exhibits or the artists to whom it provides studio space; the organization works strictly on a list-based system. Thus visitors should be prepared to interact with any manner of artistic expression. That said, the institution's reputation has created what might be called a system of de facto curation; few fledglings would want to bring on themselves the high level of scrutiny exhibition at AS220 would create.
The second unique philosophy came somewhat after the organization became well-known and was created after an unhappy encounter with a well-known, copyright-enforcing company. No rights-controlled art of any kind can be displayed or performed at AS220 except by the rights-holders themselves. In practice, this means that 100% of recorded and live music heard at this venue represents an original composition by the performers. Even the best-disguised cover versions of songs played by bands in the 115 Empire performance space will become known to management and bring about a lifetime ban.
In 2010, AS220's Action Speaks series of public events discussions brought together Shepard Fairey, a RISD alum whose Andre the Giant has a Posse (aka Obey) campaign began in Providence, with copyright-reform advocate Lawrence Lessig. At the time, Fairey was being sued by the Associated Press for his use of one of their photographers' images of Barrack Obama in Fairey's popular "Hope" poster, which he donated to Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.