Eight arts and culture organizations in New Bedford have a 2022 resolution: to use creativity to create a healthier, more connected community. Already, members of the new Creating Connection cohort have held virtual workshops to collaborate and take action.
“I think we speak a language through the arts,” says Peter Walker of 3rd EyE Youth Empowerment, and a member of the group. “All voices are welcome. We’re not just creating space for like-minded people…because we have to find a way to get back to that healthy form of public discourse.
Developed by Arts Midwest and Metropolitan Group, Creating Connection is a research and messaging initiative that helps creative organizations connect their efforts to existing community values. The overall goals of the program are to make creative expression, arts and culture a recognized, valued and expected part of everyday life. In late 2021, New Bedford was selected as the host city for the program’s first location-based pilot in the state.
“New Bedford individuals and organizations have developed a strong practice of constructive interaction and partnership to accomplish creative things,” remarks David Prentiss of the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra and another member of the cohort. “I also think we have a culture of learning – learning from each other and from our own experiences.”
The organizations went through a competitive process to be among the eight finalists chosen to participate in the project. The eight accomplished nonprofits representing New Bedford in the Creating Connection cohort are 3rd EyE Youth Empowerment, Buy Black New Bedford, New Bedford Art Museum/ArtWorks!, DATMA (Massachusetts Design Art & Technology Institute), New Bedford Historical Society, New Bedford Symphony Orchestra, Cape Verdean Association of New Bedford and the Co-Creative Center.
Dena Haden of the Co-Creative Center believes that Connecting within the group and with the city as a whole will provide New Bedford with an opportunity to move forward “by allowing the art to be a common thread and a resource for our region and our community”.
“The inspiring work of New Bedford artists and cultural pioneers is recognized by the Barr Foundation, and now Arts Midwest, for their ability to positively impact and transform the city,” says New Bedford Creative Strategist Margo Saulnier, the main partner of the project.
The Barr Foundation funds Creating Connection as part of its investment in the city’s arts and culture sector. New Bedford Creative is funded by the city’s Arts, Culture and Tourism Fund, with additional support from Bristol County Savings Bank, the Mass Cultural Council and MassDevelopment’s ‘TDI Creative Cities Initiative’. It is hosted at the New Bedford Economic Development Council (NBEDC).
“I think in New Bedford the arts are tangible and we’ve created a lot of human connections that overall create a state of well-being,” said Lindsay Miś of DATMA. “To me, it reminds me of the way you interact with a family — and I always think of New Bedford as one big family — and I feel like the arts are our vehicle for human connection.”
Indeed, that’s why Arts Midwest brought Creating Connection to New Bedford. They believe this city can use its creativity to create a healthier, more connected community.
New Bedford Creative will share the cohort’s journey throughout the year. Follow NewBedfordCreative.org for all arts and culture updates.
New Bedford Creative is housed at the New Bedford Economic Development Council and tasked with implementing the city’s first-ever arts and culture strategic plan, released in December 2018. The vision of the plan is: “In New Bedford, the creative community is an engaged and powerful community. partner, inspiring social, economic and cultural growth. In this authentic port city, everyone has the opportunity to discover a diversity of cultures.
Art is everywhere, encouraging pleasure, provoking thought and nourishing the soul. Funding is provided by the New Bedford Arts, Culture and Tourism Fund, proposed by Mayor Jon Mitchell in the spring of 2016 and signed into law by Governor Baker in January 2017. The purpose of the fund is to create a dedicated revenue stream for additional capacity planning, programming and administration to enable the City of New Bedford to take full advantage of its cultural and tourism assets and to catalyze and manage the growth of the cultural and tourism sectors. The New Bedford Economic Development Council has a three-year agreement to manage the fund for the city.
This work is led by the Creative Strategist, a 24-member volunteer creative consortium, with support from NBEDC staff and the Departments of Urban Planning, Tourism and Marketing, Parks, Recreation and Beaches and the Office of the mayor. Additional funding is provided by the Barr Foundation, Bristol County Savings Bank, Mass Cultural Council, MassDevelopment/TDI and the New England Foundation for the Arts. For more information, visit newbedfordcreative.org.
Barr Foundation: The mission of the Barr Foundation is to invest in human, natural and creative potential, serving as thoughtful stewards and catalysts. Based in Boston, Barr is regionally focused and selectively nationally engaged, working in partnership with nonprofits, foundations, the public sector, and civic and business leaders to elevate the arts, make advancing climate change solutions and connecting all students to success in high school and beyond. Founded in 1997, Barr now has assets of over $3 billion and has donated over $1 billion to charitable causes. For more information, visit barrfoundation.org or follow @BarrFdn.
Arts Midwest believes that creativity has the power to inspire and unite humanity. Based in Minneapolis, Arts Midwest supports creative organizations and communities in a nine-state Midwest region and nationally. The history of Arts Midwest, one of six regional nonprofit arts organizations in the United States, spans more than 30 years. For more information, visit artsmidwest.org.