Art can 'solve world's problems'

CREATIVE IMPULSE: Artist, performer and educator Umberto Crenca believes the world can bail itself out of its current troubles through nurturing art and creativity. The founder of the AS220 arts centre in America spoke at Puke Ariki yesterday.
CREATIVE IMPULSE: Artist, performer and educator Umberto Crenca believes the world can bail itself out of its current troubles through nurturing art and creativity. The founder of the AS220 arts centre in America spoke at Puke Ariki yesterday.

American artistic director Umberto Crenca knows first hand how art can benefit youth and communities.

The charismatic artist, founder of AS220, a non-profit arts centre in Providence, Rhode Island, USA, was at New Plymouth's Puke Ariki yesterday preaching the message of solving the world's problems through art and creativity.

An artist and performer, Crenca believes everyone is born creative and inquisitive, but creativity was often repressed through the education system.

"It humours me when people tell me they aren't creative."

Things as simple as cooking, or dressing yourself in the morning could be classed as creative, he said.

"My goal is to liberate that creativity in everybody."

Crenca said the world was in trouble, and the thing that would bail it out was creative thinking.

"We need to nurture that, not limit it. I think art in the community is critical.

"Artists need to be at the table and involved in every conversation.

"Who are the people who see value where others don't? It's always the artists. They take people's trash and turn it into jewellery."

While in New Zealand, he had often been asked for advice on how to engage the different cultures , and this question baffled him.

"I do wonder how much the New Zealand culture engages in risk taking. I think there's a solid feeling of conservatism here."

He said there were a lot of creative people in the country who needed to be heard.

"I wonder why you're not getting on with it, it seems there are less obstacles here compared with other places."

While working with a diverse range of people, Crenca's AS220 organisation adopted a youth programme that welcomed disengaged individuals who had often come from juvenile prisons.

Crenca said the environment at AS220 was uncensored and taught individuals to perform and express themselves as they wished, which had a huge impact on self-esteem.

"Anything and everything goes," he said.

"In the past their narrative has been shaped by social conditions and they feel they need to change their stories.

"We think their stories are valuable and want to hear them, so we provide tools to help them tell their stories."

Crenca said this encouraged and gave confidence to individuals, which often resulted in their success.

Since its inception, AS220 has become a major institution, with 58 artist living and work spaces, a print shop, two darkrooms, a technology lab, a recording studio, a theatre and a bar and restaurant.

Taranaki Daily News