Everyone in the creative economy needs SPACE; places to meet, network, collaborate, create, perform, exhibit, and sell.  Hear about some innovative solutions to transforming former mill buildings into new venues for art, entertainment and enterprises. The panel will include Jen Faigel (Urban Idea Lab), Umberto Crenca (AS220), Seth Lepore (Easthampton Co Lab), and Evan Plotkin (NAI Plotkin).

Topics will include overcoming the obstacles of conventional performance and work space, new thoughts about shared workspace, creative solutions in the restoration and re-purposing of historic mill buildings, zoning and legal issues, and ways that local government encourage private investment and create job in gateway cities.



Aaron Vega, State RepresentativeAaron Vega
City of Holyoke

Aaron Vega represents Massachusetts’ Fifth Hampden District. Aaron was born in South Holyoke, attended Morgan Elementary School and eventually followed his parents’ footsteps by attending Holyoke Community College. He graduated from Keene State College with a dual bachelor degree in film and psychology. Aaron soon became a film editor, working on projects for Ken Burns, PBS, TLC, and HBO. After living in New York City and New Hampshire for a number of year, Aaron moved back to Holyoke with his wife Debra. Together they opened Vega Yoga and Movement Arts, a small business in downtown Holyoke that has quickly become one of the most successful yoga studios in the region.

In 2009, Aaron was elected one of Holyoke’s first Latino at-large councilors. I his first term he worked to keep his commitment to improve quality of life for all Holyoke residents by strengthening ordinances while giving city departments and citizens the tools they need to address the many issues facing Holyoke. In 2011, Aaron was elected to a second term.

Aaron has served on the boards of Holyoke Health Center, Homework House, The Carlos Vega Funds for Social Justice, Morgan School turnaround team, and the Connections Afterschool Program. He is also a member of the Holyoke Taxpayers Association, the Holyoke Community Land Trust , Friends of the Holyoke Public Library, Holyoke Unites, Friends of the Council on Aging, and the Rotary Club of Holyoke.

In addition to being a small business owner with Aaron, his wife Debra performed as a New York City Rockette for over four years and has taught dance at Mt Holyoke College, Williston School, and Elms College. The recently bought their first home, a historic row house in downtown Holyoke. Aaron has three daughters, two of them whom are the third generation in the family to go to Holyoke Community College.




Umberto Crenca, Founder and Artistic Director
AS220Umberto Crenca

Umberto, or Bert, 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 have included 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 School of Design (RISD), the New York Cultural Center, and Real Art Ways of Hartford, CT. 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 Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland as a member of The Panic Band. Crenca has traveled extensively throughout Europe Cube, Bali, and New Zealand. He is a resident of Providence, where he maintains a studio and exhibition space with his wife, Susan Clausen, a visual artist and musician. Presently, both Umberto and Susan are members of the experimental music ensemble Monkee Head. Umberto Crenca is the Artistic Director and Founder of AS220, Rhode Island’s unjuried, uncensored, and all-ages forum and home for the arts, located in Providence. Now in its 29th year, As220 is looked upon as an international model for access, equity, and sustainability in the non-profits world.


Kerry Dietz, Founder and Owner
Dietz & Co. Architects

Kerry DietzMajor influence: the design of my parents’ house while I was in high school. Seeing the translation of my parents’ wishes presented on paper, and then watching it actually being built, was amazing. After getting off the bus from school, still wearing my school clothes, I’d get down and do some of the physical work involved in building it. I got a real education in construction.

Volunteering as a construction industry arbitrator has also informed my practice in many, many ways. I’ve learned important things about scheduling the construction of complex projects, the value of good coordination between architect and the consultants, and the important of being clear in all communications.

She received a Master of Architecture from University of Michigan, a Bachelor of Science, Architecture from Kent State University and has Continuing Education in Real Estate, Business Management, Risk Reduction, Building Science and Technology, NFPA Life Safety Code, Arbitration and Mediation. She is licensed in MA, CT, ME, RI, NH, and NC. She is a Construction Industry Arbitrator.

Dietz & Co. Architects  


Seth Lepore, Founder, Performance Artist, and Teacher Seth Lepore
CoLab in Easthampton

Seth Lepore travels around the United States doing various solo and collaborative performances. He is a writer and musician as well. In all the he does, Seth walks “The fine line of earnest sincerity and mischievous irony.”

Easthampton CoLab


Evan Plotkin, President, Properties and Facilities Management
NAI PlotkinEvan Plotkin

As President of NAI Plotkin, A Springfield based Real Estate Brokerage and Management Company that has been in business in the local area half a century, Evan Plotkin has extensive experience in all aspects of real estate brokerage and property management, including commercial office buildings, medical office buildings, industrial buildings, shopping centers, and condominium/ residential management.

Serving on the NAI Global Asset Services Council along with 30 other esteemed members globally, Evan is directly involved with the sharing of collective wealth of knowledge, including best practices and new technology for effective property management. Recently, NAI Plotkin was awarded a property management assignment for the largest office supply retailer in the world. Through the NAI network we are servicing this client nationwide.

While NAI Plotkin has global capabilities and recognition, locally the firm is recognized as one of the largest full service real estate organization in the region. Evan’s portfolio currently includes the managements of over six million square feet of commercial and retail space and approximately two million square feet of residential units. Clients range from institutional to regional in scope and include such entities as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts State Office Building, the U.S. Postal Service and Staple, Inc.

Locally, we have represented the City of Springfield and the Springfield Redevelopment Authority in a consulting capacity and have managed multiple city owned tax title and surplus commercial and industrial properties as directed by the Office of Planning and Economic Development. In addition, we have acted as Construction/Asset Manager on behalf of the Massachusetts Finance Agency for 150,000 square for Class A office building. We presently manage three State Office Building, including the Governor’s office in Western Massachusetts, on behalf of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Division of Capital Asset Management.

Evan is a member of the Springfield business Improvement District, Center for Human Development, Springfield Chamber of Commerce, Homeless Employment and Training, Forest Park Zoological Society, Somers Educational Foundation, Springfield Library and Museum Association, City Stage and Symphony Hall, and Human Service Forum. He also is a part of the Hoop City Jazz Festival, Arts & Soles, James Kitchen Public Art Initiative, City Fantastique, and has created a no-cost UMass Gallery and Studio Space at 1350 Main Street in Springfield which displays the work of the John Simpson’s Commonwealth Honors Art Students.