15 years of design by mediumstudio has rebranded New Bedford

If you’re thinking it had something to do with cobblestones or lamp lights, whaling or fishing, industry or the arts, you’re wrong. Well, not entirely wrong — but partially wrong.

Fifteen years ago, mediumstudio formed just a few blocks away from their current location at 38 Bethel Street, on historic Centre Street where BeJeweled is found now.

Over the course of the past 15 years, the graphic design firm has taken everything New Bedford has to offer as enumerated above and re-branded, re-packaged, and re-presented it to the world for the 21st century. Simply put, mediumstudio took design to a new professional level in New Bedford, just as the city was ready for that happen.

You can’t help but notice a certain freshness and graphic audacity in all of their work. It’s defined them from the beginning to this day. And, through countless logos, display ads, flyers, posters, website and social media images of all sorts produced on behalf of their clients, helped rebrand the city they call home.

It’s unquestionable that they burst upon the scene as the hip new kids on the block within the graphic design world in New Bedford and on SouthCoast — in their own unique way. From the beginning, the lowercase ‘m’ and ‘s’, all-one-word agency was much more than just a graphic design studio.

Founding member Keri Cox explains that out back of their first location on Centre Street was a rather famous space she simply refers to as “The Garage.”

As mediumstudio formed by day, on nights and weekends The Garage was a spot to hang out at to socialize, listen to bands, hold an art show — all manner of creative pursuits.

“Generations remember that place,” said Cox.

In those halcyon days and nights, mediumstudio was born in and of the community it would come to rebrand in the future. From Day One, community wasn’t just a place where they had set up shop — it was part of their natural business plan, and remains so to this day.

Cox has long been an important part of the 3rd EyE Unlimited leadership team. She’s also one of only two paid AHA! New Bedford staff persons, assistant to director Lee Heald.

Today at 38 Bethel Street, in a voluminous open space above the Fishing Heritage Center, 3rd EyE members still meet each and every week. The artist Nicole Winning conducts Saturday morning Colorful Yoga classes for children in the space. It’s not uncommon to attend a meeting or event at mediumstudio that has nothing to do with the work being done — but everything to do with the bigger picture that is New Bedford now.

Keri is one of four partners at mediumstudio. She mostly functions as project manager, or as she terms it, “I’m just bossy!”

The other partners are her husband, John Cox; Hannah Haines; and Frank Goncalves.

Each works on their own individual wavelength and reacts to the needs of their clients in their own way. There never has really been a business plan at mediumstudio; it’s evolved over the years and become successful in an organic way.

But it is a successful — and very busy — creative Business, with a capital ‘B’. Back in The Garage days, Kerri says a lot of work was done just for the fun of it, or to fulfill a community need. Over time the dictates of “adulting” caused them all to focus on the bottom line — just not at the expense of creative freedom.

Each of the partners has a distinct identity and client roster, yet collectively become mediumstudio. That brand is distinctive and rests on fundamental design principles that are allowed to breathe and most often built from the ground up via typography. (See a full portfolio of their work at mediumstudio.com.)

Keri Cox is the public face of the firm. As this column once wrote of her, “Very often, when you look behind an event, you find Keri Cox there. She is the glue that holds the various elements of some important happenings together. She almost effortlessly brings diverse people in the city together.”

Hannah Haines is voluble and expansive in an interview. She says that the most memorable praise she recalls a client saying was that “you could always tell mediumstudio designed something because it looked ‘thoughtful’.”

Hannah is responsible for the graphic “look” of the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center, designing its upcoming season offerings each year, for example. She says, “I’m proud to have worked closely with The Z to conceptualize their seasons for the last 14 years.”

John Cox is reticent to downright shy. He likes the work to speak for itself. It does; his graphic design is widely acknowledged as setting a new standard in the city. The dude is viewed as innately talented by anyone you speak to about him.

On the day an interview for this profile was conducted, Frank Goncalves was unavailable. It’s obvious he is a valued member of the team, however. All the others boasted that he had been with mediumstudio since he was 19, soon after he finished high school. He’s now been at the firm for about nine years.

“Where was he?” that day, Hannah, John and Keri asked one another. It didn’t matter; he and all of them have the space to create on their own time.

Maybe that’s another way mediumstudio launched as and has stayed a design firm for the times. A time in New Bedford’s history that’s also seen it gain national recognition for the creative artistic impulse that is in its DNA.

The graphic design of mediumstudio reflects that even as it is helping to brand it for the wider world.

Their client roster is a mix of non-profits and commercial clients. From AHA! and the New Bedford Folk Festival to Brick Pizzeria, Travessia Winery and Rose Alley Ale House. Plus, developers — some far beyond the city limits — and large organizations like Brigham and Woman’s Hospital.

They “bring a curiosity” to each project, Hannah says, and the reward is “we get to do what we like to do,” she concludes.

Finally, it comes down to quality of life for all the partners. Here, too, they may have helped set the tone 15 years ago for the New Bedford we have now.

A place that supports a creative quality of life and that as a community recognizes the value of artistic fulfillment and achievement.

That’s a place that looks so much better has seen through the eyes of mediumstudio.

Steven Froias blogs for the coworking facility, Groundwork! at NewBedfordCoworking.com. Email: StevenFroias@gmail.com.

Original story here.

50 photographs, three windows, one Obama

 

NEW BEDFORD — The first thing to say about “Obama: An Intimate Portrait. A South Coast Look into the White House — Photographs by Pete Souza” is that it’s the clear front-runner for longest exhibition title of 2019. With 50 images on display, that works out to just over two photographs per syllable.

The show runs through June 16 at the New Bedford Art Museum. The “South Coast” part of the title comes from the fact that Souza, who served as chief White House photographer throughout the Obama administration, is a South Dartmouth native.

The second thing to say about the show is that it might be thought of most usefully as three windows.

Window number one is narrowly photographic. Metaphorically, all photographs are windows, showing us what lay before the lens when the photographer clicked the shutter. So these photographs are a window on a particular person: his character, his family, his job, his travels.

Even in the extremely unlikely event that a viewer didn’t know that this slender, intense-looking middle-aged man was once the president of the United States, he’d still be visually compelling. The camera recognizes neither name, rank, nor serial number in the favorites it plays; and the camera clearly favors Obama (even with his prominent ears and that odd upper lip).

It doesn’t hurt that Souza is an expert craftsman with an excellent eye. Before becoming chief White House photographer under Obama, he’d worked on the photography staff of the Reagan White House and as a photojournalist for the Chicago Tribune.

In the extensive and usefully informative wall text accompanying the show, Souza notes that he worked days of 10-12 hours, often six or seven a week. He accompanied Obama to all 50 states, more than 60 countries, and took nearly 2 million photographs. It sounds like both the best job in the world and the worst. It sounds not unlike the presidency that way.

There are only a few missteps in the show. A view of Obama at Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer statue is a window, yes, only this one has stained glass. A 2011 photograph of him standing in silhouetted profile in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C., is more than a mite stagy. Conversely, one of him sitting in the bus Rosa Parks momentously rode in feels, and looks, just right.

The reason Obama was at the King Memorial and sitting on that bus — why his doing those things mattered in ways it would not have with any other president — was, of course, his race. Obama’s being the first African-American president meant that he could have done nothing for eight years and still been a historically consequential figure.

This is the second window: on history. Hung chronologically, the show gives a sense of the evolution of a presidency and offers moments of high historical drama. To see Obama letting himself be zapped by a trick-or-treating Spider-Man or making snow angels with his daughters on the South Lawn is great fun (also a real window — that word again — on character). But we also get a view out over the crowd at Obama’s first inaugural, of the crowded conference room where the president and his senior aides watched in real time the 2011 mission against Osama bin Laden, and Obama placing a note for the president-elect in the Oval Office desk on Inauguration Day 2017.

This is the third window: on today. It’s difficult not to sound partisan here, but try to set aside ideology. The human differences between Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, or between Obama and Bush, while considerable, are matters of degree not kind. Here they seem almost taxonomic. The sense of discrepancy between the man in the White House from 2009 to 2017 and the incumbent is so vast as — well, simply consider the hair photo. You know the one. Obvious comb-over jokes aside, try — come on, try — to imagine Obama’s successor letting a 5-year-old touch his hair. And that’s leaving out the whole aspect of using hair as a statement on race and possibility and aspiration.

People would often comment on Obama’s formality, how professorial he could seem. They tended to do so as an implicit criticism. There was truth to such comments, but what they missed is how Obama’s sense of correctness in personal conduct, something so notably lacking in Clinton, for example, also served to liberate him. Dignity, when innate, isn’t aloofness. It’s a version of grace, one that can be spiritual as well as physical. What one consistently sees in these photographs is someone with an overriding sense of duty: to his family, to his office, to his nation. It’s a kind of vocational decency, that vocation being moral even more than it is political.

Knowing who he was, Obama could allow himself to display a human dimension as someone whose insecurities restrict him to playing a role never can. That human dimension is evident in every single one of these photographs: the formal, eye-of-history ones no less than when he’s getting swamped by a big kahuna of a wave, in Hawaii, or dancing with his wife to Earth, Wind & Fire. True, he’s wearing a tuxedo. The look on his face sure isn’t.

Just as every bully is a coward trying to mask his cowardice, so any person uncertain of his own humanity won’t — or can’t — display humanity toward others. The man seen consoling a grievously wounded soldier and his family at Walter Reed Army Medical Center or the family of one of the children murdered at Sandy Hook is the president of the United States. He’s also a man.

There are many criticisms to be made of Obama’s politics. Some of the harshest (and dumbest) come from the left. What Souza’s photographs remind us is how little that criticism can in any justifiable way extend beyond the political to the personal. Let exhibitions by other White House photographers show how well that might be said of other presidents.

A nearby alcove has a smaller exhibit with a title nearly as long that of the Souza show, “Artifacts of Recent History: Local Objects from a Historical Presidency Collected by the New Bedford Historical Society.” There are posters, books, flags, invitations, photographs. Many come courtesy of a man named Carl J. Cruz. The standout item is a truly nifty commemorative jacket. Quilted with fabric flags and stars and photos and even a few sequins, it’s the size and cut of a varsity jacket. Instead of being from your high school, though, it’s from your country — our country. How much you want to bet it would look great on Obama, even better than that tux does?

OBAMA: AN INTIMATE PORTRAIT. A South Coast Look into the White House – Photographs by Pete Souza

At New Bedford Art Museum, 508 Pleasant St., New Bedford, through June 16.

508-961-3072, www.newbedfordart.org

Original story here.

SUPERFLAT NB and MassDevelopment team up to bolster community

The public mural art group SUPERFLAT NB launched last year to excitement and enthusiasm — and with grand ambitions.

As spring 2019 begins, and its first anniversary approaches in May, the group is beginning its game plan for Year Two. Far from hibernating over the winter, SUPERFLAT has been recruiting new members, enlisting more artists and laying the organizational groundwork to ensure it is a permanent feature of the New Bedford landscape.

Last weekend, the group held an open artist call for a special series of photos which will form the basis of a new project and kick off their new year.

This week, they are launching a Patronicity fundraising campaign. It’s impressive goal is $50,000 — and its impressive partner is no less than MassDevelopment.

That’s the state’s economic development and finance agency, which works with businesses, nonprofits, financial institutions, and communities to stimulate economic growth across the Commonwealth.

They will match that sum of $50,000 if SUPERFLAT can reach it within 60 days.

“In recent years, we’ve seen cities and towns across Massachusetts use public art as a tool to draw people in, activate neighborhoods, and enrich local arts and cultural communities,” MassDevelopment President and CEO Lauren Liss stated in a press release launching the campaign. “MassDevelopment looks forward to helping Superflat New Bedford achieve these goals through Commonwealth Places.”

Commonwealth Places is a collaborative initiative from MassDevelopment and Patronicity that leverages public support for placemaking projects through crowdfunding and a matching grant from MassDevelopment, the agency writes.

The program engages residents in the development of strategic projects in their towns and cities.

The Patronicity campaign can be found at Patronicity.com/superflat.

To amp up the energy over the next two months of the campaign, SUPERFLAT artists will be holding special events on the April and May AHA! nights.

During the second Thursday of the month, downtown cultural celebrations, artists will first be wheat-pasting on walls and then ‘writing’ — the street art term for creating designs — over the photos shot last weekend.

This will happen on the public art fence across from Custom House Square Park.

As they have since forming in late 2017, the SUPERFLAT team continues to meet weekly to organize, plot, promote, nurture and create the infrastructure for a robust arts organization that will stand the test of time.

Their mission statement is worth repeating:

“SUPERFLAT NB aims to eliminate barriers to the arts through public art that tells and shares personal stories; that draws upon, preserves, and reimagines our shared heritage and histories in New Bedford; and, through the renewal of the environment and our connections to each other, create new pathways for our future social and economic growth.”

SUPERFLAT went about doing that in 2018 in a strategic way. They launched on May 4, 2018 with five artists creating work outside the Co-Creative Center that was later auctioned off.

Proceeds and local funding from the New Bedford Economic Development Council allowed them to bring Cey Adams and Janette Beckman, artists with an international reputation, to the city during its first mural festival in August.

Taking place during the 3rd EyE Open, New Bedford artists were paired with over-sized prints of Beckman’s work from the dawn of hip hop and let loose to offer their own colorful spin atop her black and white memories of musical icons.

Meanwhile, Adams was charged with creating a permanent mural in Wings Court. Today, the “Love” mural has joined his other destination work in cities like New York and Philadelphia. Like that other work, “Love” is the backdrop for countless selfies — but from the Whaling City — featuring residents and visitors alike.

Other artists, like Brian Tillett, created their own new community focal points during the festival. In all, 18 local artists were enlisted to take part in the first SUPERFLAT mural contest last year. And — importantly — were paid for their efforts.

That last part isn’t only a point of pride for the team, but necessary in order for the creative impulse to economically mature in New Bedford. As Mayor Jon Mitchell said when introducing the city’s Arts & Culture Plan, “Great stuff doesn’t come free.”

One of SUPERFLAT’s goals this year is to create an artist referral network under the group’s banner. This will pair local artists with businesses or organizations seeking murals or other sorts of artwork.

“Some businesses may want to support artists by buying their work or employing their talent, but don’t know how to reach them,” says team member Kim Goddard, who handles publicity for SUPERFLAT NB. “This will give interested parties a way to connect with local artists and learn about their work,” she says.

The group is also seeking to enlarge its footprint throughout the city. In fact, with exception of the photo project and the mural festival during 3rd EyE Open, almost all other SUPERFLAT mural projects will happen on walls in places other than the downtown during 2019.

While a list of highly-visible spots were discussed at a recent meeting, it was requested that they remain under wraps until final approvals have been received. Suffice to say, they all live up to the SUPERFLAT ideal and will indeed renew the environment of neighborhoods throughout New Bedford.

Proceeds from the Patronicity.com/superflat campaign, matched by MassDevelopment if it reaches its $50,000 target by midnight on May 30, will directly fund the following:

An Artist-In-Residency Program. This will embed a recognized or emerging artist within the community to create a series of original and responsive public artworks in three distinct areas of the city — the North End, Downtown and the South End.

Ten New Murals reflecting the culture and community of New Bedford painted by local, national, and international artists in key locations throughout the North End, Downtown and South End.

And, the Artist Referral Platform connecting local artists, designers, and sign painters to gigs and employment opportunities throughout the region.

Underlying much of this is also a desire to engage youth in the city whenever possible — such as during the mural festival while 3rd EyE Open is happening.

SUPERFLAT writes on Patronicity.com/superflat, “The youth of this community is an important participant and recipient of our efforts. We endeavor to inspire them and expand their cultural point of view by connecting them to resources and opportunities.

“In 2019 we want to expand programming throughout the city, directly engaging youth and residents in the inspiration, ideation, and creation of transformative public art.”

Sounds super. Make that SUPERFLAT NB.

Steven Froias blogs for the coworking facility, Groundwork! at NewBedfordCoworking.com. Email: StevenFroias@gmail.com.

Grants available for projects celebrating diverse communities in New Bedford, Fall River

Proposals should be reflective of the needs and interests of the populations the applicants wish to serve, according to a news release. A minimum of $100,000 will be available for projects that emphasize and celebrate the cultural expression of ethnically diverse communities in Fall River and New Bedford. Projects are to be completed or significantly underway by December and applicants must be a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit, municipality, or educational institution. Grant requests can be a maximum of $20,000.

“This is an especially exciting grant round for the Community Foundation, as through it, we seek to elevate and celebrate the richness of having so many cultures in Fall River and New Bedford. Inherent in our local and our American experience is the robust diversity that makes our communities vibrant and great places to live; and we are excited to support that through these grants,” said John Vasconcellos, President of the Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts, in a statement.

Concerts, exhibits, festivals, performances, speakers/presentations, and visual arts are just some of the examples of projects they will accept for this Cultural Expression grant. The Creative Commonwealth welcomes artistic risk-taking and diversity of creative experiences and audiences.

Interested applicants can access the Letter of Interest at https://goo.gl/1UTHHP. Completed Letters of Interest are due by midnight April 5, and potential applicants should direct questions to Rayana Grace, Arts & Culture Program Manager, at 508-996-8253, ext. 203, or rgrace@cfsema.org. For a detailed timeline of this grants process and for more information regarding eligibility, visit https://www.cfsema.org/about-us/creative-commonwealth#G5.

Jennifer Smith named leader of New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park

PHILADELPHIA — Jennifer Smith is returning to her roots: She’s been named the superintendent of New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park.

“Jennifer’s long history with the park and her personal connection to the New Bedford community make her a great fit for this position,” said National Park Service Northeast Region Director Gay Vietzke in a statement. “A New Bedford native, Jennifer was also one of the first park employees. During her 21 years at the park, Jennifer has demonstrated a deep passion for the park’s story and a wide range of critical skills that will serve her well in her new role.”

Smith’s first day with the National Park Service was the day of the park’s dedication on May 17, 1998, said Smith.

“I have watched the park grow into an important and vibrant part of the community. I am eager to continue to collaborate with park and community partners, including the City of New Bedford, to provide increased opportunities to access and explore the park and surrounding historic district.

“The buildings in the park are vital links to the fascinating history of New Bedford. One of my priorities will the ongoing maintenance and preservation of these structures which provide tangible and meaningful connections to the city’s multilayered past.”

Smith, who has been acting superintendent of New Bedford Whaling NHP since April 2018, started with the National Park Service in January 1998 and later became the park’s first seasonal park ranger. She has also served as the park’s chief of Visitor Services, Interpretation and Education, the site manager at Roger Williams National Memorial, and the deputy superintendent of a three-park group that included Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park, New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, and Roger Williams National Memorial, according to a news release.

Smith has a bachelor’s degree in English literature from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and a master’s degree in community planning with a concentration in urban design and historic preservation from the University of Rhode Island.

Smith is an avid birder and lives in New Bedford with her husband, Christian, and their four dogs. They have three grown children and a grandchild who also live in New Bedford.

SouthCoast Business Persons of the Year: New Bedford artists are serious about the business of art

Posted Jan 5, 2019 at 9:39 PM

On Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell announced the release of the city’s first comprehensive Arts and Culture Plan.

“This is a big deal,” he said in opening remarks in City Hall’s Ashley Room during a press conference. He noted that the plan builds upon an historic association with the arts in the city, but helps prepare it for even greater achievements.

“It creates a sense of shared purpose,” he went on. “This creates the opportunity for a more vibrant community.” He specifically touched upon the plan’s recommendations to create new cultural districts in the North and South ends — and the chance to lure even more investment into the creative economy of the city.

The collaborative effort to write the plan, he said, sent a signal that the arts “are worthy of your investment” to funders and private businesses alike. “Great stuff doesn’t come free,” he added.

Almost a year in the drafting, the release of the plan to the public during the City Hall ceremony — attended by dozens of the artists who helped shape it — was the capstone of a milestone year for the arts in New Bedford.

New Bedford plan to ‘make the city a more vibrant place to live’

NEW BEDFORD — Laughter and head nods followed each descriptive noun used to describe those assembled within the walls of the Ashley Room at City Hall on Tuesday.

The group nearly spilled out into the hallways as dozens listened to Mayor Jon Mitchell announce the city’s new Arts and Culture Plan as well as 12 “Wicked Cool Places” grants awarded to community art programs.

“I mean this in the most affectionate way, this is a motley crew,” Mitchell said. “This is great. I can just feel the creative dynamism just in your presence.”

Tony Sapienza, president of the Economic Development Council, reminisced about 13 years ago when the idea to unite the arts and culture community emerged at an EDC meeting. The term used to describe the feat of collaboration was “herding cats.”

“So I can only say that to now be a motley crew, it is a big step up from herding cats,” Sapienza said.

The 200-page plan consisted of contributions by more than 10,000 individuals, according to Margo Saulnier, the city’s cultural coordinator.

The plan includes upward of 80 goals, which Saulnier is tasked with accomplishing. Not every goal coincides with the achievement of another, which drew the monikers at the press conference by Mitchell and Sapienza.

“We’re all in the same room, and there’s no way everybody’s going to agree with everything and that’s just as well,” Mitchell said. “Because that’s where the idea exchanges come from and the creativity comes from.”

Highlights of the plan include a sense of shared purpose for everyone to create cultural districts, more fundraising and more public art. Steps in accomplishing those goals included the $50,000 in grants announced on Tuesday.

The recipients included the 3rd Eye Youth Empowerment, SuperflatNB, Reggae on West Beach Series and Kite Festivals Workshops.

“In New Bedford, the creative community is an engaged and powerful partner inspiring social , economic and cultural growth,” Saulnier said. “In this authentic seaport city, each and every person enjoys an opportunity to experience a diversity of cultures. Art is everywhere. Encouraging fun, provoking thought and nurturing the soul.”

The Arts, Culture and Tourism fun, proposed by Mitchell in 2016, approved by the City Council last year and led at the state level by state Sen. Mark Montigny, provided the finances for the completion of the plan by Webb Management Services.

“This is really top notch stuff. This was not fly by night organization,” Mitchell said. “This is something that took a lot of work and a lot of planning.”

The timeline for the goals, which include creation of creative districts, collaboration with UMass Dartmouth and Bristol County Community College, range from a year to a decade.

Certainly new goals and ideas will be added with the city acting as a the beneficiary.

“This will make the city a more vibrant place to live,” Mitchell said.

Original story here.

Community Foundation awards nearly $700K in grants

By The Standard-Times
Posted Dec 17, 2018 at 2:09 PM
Updated Dec 17, 2018 at 5:58 PM

NEW BEDFORD — The Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts announced Monday that 15 of its funds granted a total of $691,000 to dozens of local nonprofit organizations and public schools in a flurry of year-end awards.

Among the awardees were the Carlos Pacheco Elementary School and Irwin M. Jacobs Elementary School, which each received a grant of $48,000 to support enrichment and instructional resources from the Community Foundation’s Jacobs Family Donor Advised Fund, according to a news release.

Global Learning Charter Public School also received $80,000 to support curriculum development and technology needs. Awards also included $25,000 for the Buttonwood Park Zoo’s Nature Connection Education Center and the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra’s Learning In Concert program, which also received $25,000.

“The Community Foundation is proud to be the partner of choice for creating philanthropic impact in the SouthCoast region,” said Community Foundation President John Vasconcellos in a statement.

“From the support of deserving scholars in their pursuit of higher education to building the foundational elements of academic success for children at local elementary schools and youth-serving agencies, our work with engaged donors such as the Jacobs Family is bringing change to our community,” Vasconcellos said, “and these timely, year end grants also recognize the important work being done by several trusted and innovative nonprofit organizations in those areas that matter to the donor but also resonate for our community: arts and culture, the environment, economic opportunity, and health and human services.”

Joining the Jacobs Family Donor Advised Fund in making year-end grant awards from the Community Foundation was the Acushnet Foundation Fund, which granted over $85,000 to 10 SouthCoast nonprofits including $30,000 to public health initiatives, as well as the Henry H. Crapo Foundation Fund, which made over $90,000 in awards, including a $50,000 grant to the Buzzards Bay Coalition in support of their effort to help protect 150 acres of coastal farm land.

Other notable grants included an award of $10,000 to PACE Inc. from the Bank Five Foundation Fund to support the construction of a playground, and a total of $12,500 granted by the Lipsky-Whittaker Fund to Coastline Elderly Services Inc. and the Southcoast LGBTQ Network Inc. for programs that advance equality for, support and awareness of the LGBTQ community.

The MacLean Children’s Fund granted $12,000 to Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School in support of its mentoring program, with yet other Community Foundation funds making grants to the Sippican Historical Society for a statue of Elizabeth Taber and to the Town of Marion to support property tax relief for residents in need, according to the release.

Original story here.

The resiliency of Judith Klein Art Studio & Gallery

By Steven Froias / Contributing Writer
Posted Nov 29, 2018 at 3:01 AM

It takes a certain amount of fortitude to own an art gallery — anywhere.

Across the country, art galleries are often held up as Example A of creative, flourishing communities.

Unfortunately, too few of them actually make much (if any) money. And, the very definition of an art gallery is somewhat elastic by financial necessity.

This is true in New Bedford. A lot of promotional material for the city highlights its revitalized downtown by including “art galleries” in the ad copy. In reality, there are few real art galleries relative to the size of its creative community.

Co-ops — like Gallery X — and non-profits — like the New Bedford Art Museum or the Co-Creative Center — fill the gap. At unconventional galleries like the Groundwork! Gallery or even the Pour Farm Tavern, monthly shows provide further necessary venues for displaying and selling art in the city.

So, it’s of note and consequence when an actual art gallery celebrates a milestone.

The Judith Klein Art Studio & Gallery is doing just that. It’s celebrating 10 years as an art gallery in New Bedford — and that’s worth a closer look.

Last week, my colleague, Don Wilkinson reviewed the gallery’s 10th anniversary show in his column Art Beat. This week in State of the Arts, we’ll look at what’s made it tick over the years — and how it has managed to stay in business despite the aforementioned financial challenge all art galleries face.

In conversation with owner Judith Klein, a few salient facts leap out.
Judith Klein Art Studio & Gallery has persevered and, by the industry’s own distinct measure, thrived due to some key decisions made by Klein over the years.

First, she has learned to adapt the gallery to changing economic circumstances.

Judith Klein Gallery began life in downtown New Bedford on Purchase Street. When the rent got too high to justify the amount of business a gallery generates, it moved to a more affordable space on William Street.

Then, when being in a resurgent downtown was just too expensive altogether, Judith Klein became a pioneer five years ago and moved the gallery to the city’s South End. This new home was outside the downtown hub, but in what’s now called Kilburn Mills at Clarks Cove. It’s up-and-coming on the cultural scene today.

It was a bold, and ultimately wise, move. At the time, Kilburn was a bit off the beaten path in terms of urban sizzle. However, the gallery was now near her studio — and the rent was cheaper.

It took the pressure off — and then took on a new life of its own.

Today, Judith Klein Art Studio & Gallery in Kilburn Mills is a sweet space that glows with charm. There are two entrances to the gallery. One from outside, around back of the building which leads you up a narrow staircase — original to the mill. The other, through the labyrinthine corridors of the building.

However you arrive, you spill out into a white-washed, sun-splashed space that overlooks Clarks Cove and the recently completed Cove Walk atop the Hurricane Barrier. The effect is akin to traveling through the wardrobe doors and arriving in Narnia.

In the gallery, you’ll discover the second secret of its success: professional, quality artwork. Though it’s mostly contemporary in nature, it’s not exclusive to any one aesthetic. The work, “just has to be good,” Klein says.

It’s also almost the exclusive preserve of city and regional artists. Klein built the gallery to be a showcase for the area’s artists — and she’s held true to that core value.

Which brings us to another key element of Klein’s longevity: consistency.

When she was downtown, Judith Klein was an enthusiastic participant in AHA! New Bedford every month. This gained the gallery a following.

So, she maintained the practice when she moved to the south end. Although she doesn’t have an entirely new show every month — as was most often the case when she was downtown — the Judith Klein Gallery is open for a special event or opening every second Thursday of the month and is still an AHA! Partner.

“We developed a clientele during AHA! Nights,” Judith says, “and wanted to keep that schedule for people who really wanted to see the artwork.”

That consistency stretches back into the even more distant past and reaches deep into the art community.

Before Judith Klein Gallery launched, its space was home to an art co-op that Judith was a member of. When it began to die out, she made the decision to launch her own gallery at the Purchase Street address.

In total, Judith had spent about a decade as a member of various art co-ops in the city, and she says the knowledge she learned from each experience helped provide the foundation for her own business.

Also, as an active member of the art community, she formed invaluable relationships. To this day, a friend who encouraged her to strike out on her own helps market the gallery. Indeed, Sheila Oliveira took the anniversary photo of Klein and her husband that accompanies this column.

Oliveira is part of the community of talent that Judith Klein has surrounded herself with over the years. The “huge pool,” she terms it, the gallery is able to draw from for its signature summer shows and, up now and through Dec. 31, its 10th anniversary show.

Finally, what makes Judith Klein Art Studio & Gallery click after 10 years are all the elements above and the ones that aren’t so obvious.

Like Klein’s unique vision as an artist and person.

Born in what has been at various times both Hungary and Romania, she’s also lived in Israel and Milan before moving to Massachusetts, where her husband, Andrei, came to study textile engineering at what was then called Southeastern Massachusetts University.

That global sensibility is captured in a bottle in the Judith Klein Gallery in Kilburn Mills. By the water, you feel as if you’re at the very edge of the world when in the space — surrounded by amazing images representing a kaleidoscope of human experience curated by an invisible hand.

But, the hand belongs to Judith Klein — and the magic is firmly based in the reality of art and the art business, and has been for a significant ten years now.

When asked if she’s ready for another 10, she replies…

“Why not!?”

Steven Froias blogs for the coworking facility, Groundwork! at NewBedfordCoworking.com. Email: StevenFroias@gmail.com.

Original article here.

Tabor Academy puts New Bedford arts, culture and community on the curriculum

Posted at 3:01 AM

Tabor Academy sophomore students started the school year off right with a visit to the region’s arts and culture capital, New Bedford, this past Saturday, Sept. 8.

Roughly 130 students came to the city to kick off the new school year. Tabor Academy is located in Marion, but the New Bedford orientation project is now on its third year.

This year’s theme was “know yourself, know others, build community” — as seen through the prism of arts and culture. Accordingly, a panel of city arts leaders and tour guides was arranged to explore the topic and then downtown New Bedford. (Full disclosure: This writer was one of the tour guides.)

Zoe Hansen-DiBello, strategy advisor and founder of Ethos — a philanthropic education strategy consulting organization; www.ethosstrategy.org — explains how it all got started:

“Mel Bride, [Tabor] dean of community life, Tim Cleary, dean of students and myself came together three years ago and imagined what it would look like if we brought Tabor students to New Bedford for orientation as a way to bridge the two communities.”

Prior to the orientation, Bride and Hansen-DiBello had partnered to connect Tabor students to New Bedford Public School students through the community garden project, Grow Education.

This year’s arts and culture theme was selected because Hansen-DiBello, a city resident, believes, “In New Bedford, I find it intriguing that our public art is often rooted in the historical context of the city, always returning to our past to understand our present and imagine our future.

“In recent years, the city has been increasingly intentional in sharing the stories of those who are often overlooked — and so the panel and tour for Tabor students will recognize and honor New Bedford’s Abolitionists, thriving Cape Verdean culture, youth and hip-hop and the women leaders of New Bedford today but also the past as they are featured in the Lighting the Way Project.”

And, it certainly did.

The orientation tour began at the First Unitarian Church at the corner of Union and Eighth Streets. Two busloads of Tabor Academy students disembarked to enter the historic building and meet New Bedford arts and culture leaders and their tour guides.

The spoken word and hip hop artist Tem Blessed launched the morning with an energetic appeal to students to know themselves and what they’re all about. Blessed later closed the tour at Wings Court under the Cey Adams “Love” mural with another inspired piece of wordplay that concluded with everybody chanting “Tabor — Academy” and “New — Bedford” in unison.

Panelists at the Unitarian Church, Jeremiah Hernandez, Rayana Grace, Gail Fortes and Dena Haden amplified the tour’s theme: arts and culture is very much about finding and building community wherever you are, but especially so at this moment in New Bedford.

Hernandez referenced the magic of creativity as depicted in the Netflix series, “The Get Down” as a real-life entry point for people of diverse backgrounds to experience unique culture. The show chronicles the birth of hip hop, with a generous helping of street art, in the late ’70s Bronx.

His family — from the Bronx — brought both him and those aesthetic values to New Bedford and he says the art and music has essentially given definition to his life. That came to be manifested as UGLY Gallery, which he opened with friend and artist David Gaudalupe on Union Street and operated for several years.

Now, that same aesthetic can increasingly be found throughout the city — and Hernandez is still leading the charge as one of the founders of the public art group, SUPERFLAT, which was on the morning’s agenda.

From the church, the students were arranged in groups of 15 and sent out with their respective guides to experience arts and culture on the streets of downtown New Bedford.

Some saw the city’s nascent Abolition Row Park and neighborhood. Others checked out the 54th Regiment mural on the side of Freestone’s City Grille.

Everyone ended up in and around Wings Court, where the recently wrapped up first SUPERFLAT mural festival occurred. Well, maybe not entirely wrapped up…

In a bit of serendipity, Tabor students got to see artist Brian Tillett at work on his massive Jean-Paul Basquiat mural overlooking Custom House Square Park. Tillett is also a commercial fisherman in addition to being an accomplished artist.

When the day job at sea intervened, he simply put the art on hold to return another day to get back to work. That day was Saturday, and the sophomore class of Tabor Academy got to see the legendary face of Basquiat being applied to a downtown New Bedford wall.

It turned into a bit of a (recent) art history class, as many of the students were unfamiliar with the 1980s era New York City street artist. Which just reinforced the whole point of the orientation: to fuse diverse communities together across time and space.

Zoe Hansen-DiBello sums it up nicely. She says the Tabor Academy 2018 sophomore orientation was about “highlighting the vehicles of art and culture as a means to better know ourselves, to understand others, and to ultimately build community.

“The overall goal is for Tabor students and educators to be inspired by the examples seen here in New Bedford for building community through art and culture, and to return to campus ready to connect and create with one another.”

I would add that it’s also just plain thrilling to see the city’s arts and culture, and the people who practice it, making the grade as an inspiration for the next generation. An A+ gets awarded to this outstanding effort.

Steven Froias blogs for the coworking facility, Groundwork! at NewBedfordCoworking.com. Email: StevenFroias@gmail.com.

Original story here.