Destination: NBAM – A plan to expand the New Bedford Art Museum is taking it step by step – to the second floor

Buried in a huge list of funding awards released two weeks ago as part of the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Cultural Facilities Fund program is a relatively small entry of $30,000 to the New Bedford Art Museum/Artworks.

Compared to the $120,000 awarded the Whaling Museum, and the $180,000 for the creation of Abolitionist Row Park, also in New Bedford, the amount may seem small. But it represents a grand vision for the museum and the beginning of something big for New Bedford.

The vision quest for NBAM/Artworks is nothing less than turning the little museum that could into a bona-fide destination in the state and region.

Not that the art museum isn’t already in one sense. Indeed, for a facility its size, NBAM punches far above its weight. Signature special shows like the Audubon exhibit a few years back and the hugely popular Peter Souza exhibit of Obama-era photographs, still on display, have brought distinction — and thousands of patrons — to NBAM and the city.

Those marquee shows are the icing on the cake. Year after year, NBAM curates exhibits of local artists that are thematically interesting, visually arresting and sometimes socially provocative. To say nothing of the myriad other special events held at the museum – and the significant role ArtWorks plays in youth arts development.

But to truly fulfill its original mission and decisively enter the top tier of regional art museums, NBAM needs to grow. Specifically, it needs room to grow – and the $30,000 matching grant, as well as monies also recently awarded in city CPA funds, is a down payment toward making that a reality.

The vision, then, is this: to substantially renovate the museum and enlarge its footprint by annexing the second floor of its home at 608 Pleasant Street. Currently it houses offices not associated with NBAM.

That plan has been the focus of a sub-committee of the museum’s Board of Directors for some time – and is now gaining real traction and coming tantalizing into focus.

45 minutes to an hour…

AHA! Director Lee Heald is a member of the museum sub-committee, which is chaired by John Howland. She explains that in order to bring any cultural institution up to destination status, patrons should expect to spend at least 45 minutes to an hour at the location. Given the size of NBAM now, it falls short of that benchmark right now.

Of course, we know that whatever space limitations NBAM copes with, it certainly makes up for in quality, ingenuity and spirit. But still, to enable it to become what it needs to be for the city and region, it needs to grow. In fact, it’s actually part NBAM’s founding mission statement.

The City of New Bedford owns an extraordinary collection of art from the city’s gilded age onward. Much of it dates back to the mid-1800s. The original vision for the art museum saw it as a venue to bring this collection to the public.

An expanded NBAM would fulfill that vision and, according to Heald, realize the promise of public art as defined all those years ago. Gaining a second floor would allow room for the creation of a “City Gallery” in the space.

“Public art back in the 1870s meant exposing the public to art,” she says. “It was deemed as something important for the citizenry to experience.”

In the 19th annual report of the Trustees of the Free Public Library, which by default became a repository of art, it was written in 1871, “We have long cherished the hope, that in some future time, and that one not very far distant, a gallery of pictures, gathered through the enlightened munificence of the friends of art in our city, would be connected with our Public Library.

“The teachings of true art purify the taste, chasten and elevate the imagination, and give wealth and power of expression to the understanding, and afford to those who can have access to the works of genius, a pleasure that can never be exhausted and that never leaves a sting behind.”

One hundred and fifty years after the collection first began to be acquired by the city, it’s a goal of the committee working to expand NBAM to finally make that happen.

Upstairs/Downstairs at 608

Much progress has already been made on plans to expand NBAM. Much work – and fund-raising – remains left to do.

The $30,000 award from MCC, administered in conjunction with MassDevelopment, is a matching grant. No other state monies can count towards matching the $30,000, so the committee is seeking private and local public donations.

Heald says the City of New Bedford has been enormously supportive of the museum, and private donors have contributed, too. A campaign to reach or exceed their goal is underway.

Already, the architecture firm 3SIX0 in Providence has drawn up concept plans for an expanded museum. It sees the upstairs as gallery space devoted to New Bedford’s treasures. It builds upon the building’s unique character by opening up the two story high space in the center of the building, connecting it to the downstairs.

It also takes advantage of the beautiful windows on the second floor, which overlook Pleasant and William Streets. Naturally, infrastructure upgrades such as a new stairway and an improved elevator service are part of the plan.

Together with City Hall and the New Bedford Free Public Library, the buildings will form a graceful public square. Each historic building will enhance the other.

Besides fundraising, next on the agenda is using the grant money to hire key personnel to create an operational plan for an expanded art museum that’s financially sustainable into the future.

New Bedford’s larger role in MA arts

The effort to create a destination New Bedford Art Museum isn’t an accident of chance. It’s a reflection of the city’s reputation as a leader in arts and culture. Heald notes that the Massachusetts Cultural Council reached out to the museum about its expansion plans to learn more ahead of the Cultural Facilities funding decision.

The MCC is targeting the city in other ways, too. On Thursday, June 13, the council will hold a pop-up event in conjunction with AHA! New Bedford day and night. It will take place from 10 a.m. to noon at the New Bedford Port Society Mariner’s Home and Seamen’s Bethel on Johnny Cake Hill.

Carmen Plazas of MCC writes that they hold, “community pop-ups to reach new partners and grantees with its range of grant programs, services, and initiatives.” Individual artists as well as groups and organizations are welcome to come and learn how the council can assist them.

The trend-line is clear: Massachusetts is investing in New Bedford arts and culture as never before. And part of that investment is turning the city’s art museum into a true destination.

The New Bedford Art Museum, and ArtWorks, which merged in 2014, have brought distinction to the city. The museum is vibrant, innovative and of-the-moment. It’s been driven – and still is – by remarkable staff and dedicated volunteers.

It’s also made a big impact in the city’s rise to creative prominence. With a large vision that embraces the city’s unique history, it promises to leave an even larger footprint on its future.

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

It’s time for ‘Summer Winds,’ the new art exhibition soaring into New Bedford

“The summer wind came blowin’ in from across the sea

It lingered there, to touch your hair and walk with me

All summer long we sang a song and then we strolled that golden sand

Two sweethearts and the summer wind”

– as sung by Frank Sinatra

Okay — “Summer Wind” by Ol’ Blue Eyes has little to do thematically with “Summer Winds” the kinetic outdoor public art installation coming to Custom House Square Park this July 1.

But there was simply no way State of the Arts was going to miss an opportunity to tip a fedora to the original Chairman of the Board.

The Chairman of the new Board, of DATMA — the Massachusetts Design Art and Technology Institute — is Roger Mandle. And it’s hard to imagine that he lacks any of the romance Sinatra brought to the game of life since he and his associates are introducing the wild concept of DATMA and “Summer Winds” to New Bedford and SouthCoast.

DATMA is defined as a non-collecting “museum” dedicated to large-scale, site-specific art installations. It was founded in 2016 with a diverse, 16-member board of trustees led by Mandle.

His bio states that he has 40 years of experience in building museums around the world and is a major contributor to the STEM to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) education initiative championed by the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where he served as president.

If you need some context regarding what, exactly, a non-collecting “museum” dedicated to large-scale, site specific art installations actually is, you’ve come to the right place. Actually, let’s travel back to another time and place to explore the subject…

The Gates & “Summer Winds”

Back in 2005, New York City was still a little shell-shocked from the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. It was a city that was still licking its wounds.

In the middle of winter, from Feb. 12 through Feb. 27 of that year, public art helped facilitate some desperately needed healing in a way that most initially thought improbable or even downright ludicrous.

Just over 7,000 deep saffron-colored nylon fabric panels were hung from ‘gates’ across 23 miles of pathway in Central Park. That’s it. Just colored fabric floating gently in the breeze

The world-renowned artists Christo Yavacheff and Jeanne-Claude, known jointly as Christo and Jeanne-Claude, were behind The Gates, as the exhibit was officially called. Indeed, they had worked for decades to bring the project to Manhattan.

Kudos must be given to Michael Bloomberg, mayor at the time, for facilitating the project on behalf of the city (with the vigorous support of Deputy Mayor Patricia Harris). All billionaires aren’t created equally; some missteps aside, he was generally enlightened regarding the arts – and the value of the arts to New York City. Millions came to visit The Gates.

For everyone who experienced the grace and sense of tranquility this public art project brought to a city that really needed it — this writer included, who was living in New York at the time — The Gates will always represent a special moment in time.

The Gates alludes to the tradition of Japanese torii gates, traditionally constructed at the entrance to Shinto shrines. In 2005, people reclaimed a measure of faith … through a shared public art experience.

So, that’s the context of site-specific public art exhibition. Thankfully, many years away from 9/11, and in New Bedford, it’s a future written on the wind we’re embracing and making a shared creative space for in 2019. But like The Gates, it promises to be no less meaningful.

Silver Current Over Custom House Square Park

“Summer Winds” is a visionary project for the city, signifying a new vision of the city. Like The Gates, it will be a visual representation of a moment in time at precisely the right moment in a city’s history.

In this case, that moment is when New Bedford prepares to host the nation’s first attempt to launch a viable offshore wind energy industry. And for this moment, DATMA has recruited another world-renowned artist, Patrick Shearn.

Patrick Shearn and his outfit, Poetic Kinetics, are based out of Los Angeles. But they’ll be heading east to install “Silver Current” over Custom House Square Park this summer. In fact, Patrick has already been in New Bedford to prepare for this large-scale, outdoor public art exhibition that will bring distinction to the city.

“Silver Current” will be an 8,000-square foot kinetic net sculpture floating in the sky above the park from July 1 to Sept. 30 this year.

Press material explains that, “made out of ultra-lightweight metalized film, ‘Silver Current’ is the latest of the artist’s series of ‘Skynets’ that move and shimmer with the wind, from 15 feet off the ground to 115 feet in the air.

“The customized piece is comprised of approximately 5,200 linear feet of rope, 200 hand-tied technical knots, and approximately 50,000 streamers of holographic silver film on a monofilament net, forming an iridescent wind wave form. Harnessing available wind, the artwork rises high into the sky and gently cascades down again, undulating in a display that is striking from a distance and intimately immersive up close.”

“Silver Current” is a statement piece that will visualize the State of the Arts in New Bedford Now — and the state of the city itself. A city that’s embracing the future and unafraid to think large.

The larger “Summer Winds” collaborative effort will entwine many aspects of the city’s indigenous arts and culture. From kite flying — with a nod to New Bedford’s growing Guatemalan community, in which Festival Tipico de Guatemala is part of its heritage — to the annual Seaport Cultural District Artwalk outdoor sculpture exhibit, which this year has adopted the theme of “wind.”

And here’s the bottom line — even though it’s one that’s going to be floating above the horizon: thousands will experience this city because of all this effort. That’s the power of arts and culture; to bring a community and region together for a unique shared experience.

It happened in 2005 in Central Park. It will happen this summer in New Bedford.

And it will be a moment to seize and hold on to … before it’s gone with the wind.

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

South Coast Rail is now ‘full speed ahead’

Posted Apr 22, 2019 at 1:10 PM
Updated Apr 22, 2019 at 8:14 PM

BOSTON – A project to renovate and expand commuter rail lines to the SouthCoast cleared important hurdles after receiving a crucial federal permit and full state funding, officials announced Monday.

Department of Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, speaking at a MassDOT board meeting, said the long-discussed South Coast Rail program will now proceed “full speed ahead.” State employees have already begun relevant infrastructure work and acquiring land that will go toward construction of new stations.

The project’s first phase will extend the Middleboro line to New Bedford and Fall River, bringing six new stations and two new layover facilities into the rail network. Officials also plan to reconstruct almost 30 miles of tracks along the New Bedford main line and the Fall River secondary line and to upgrade the existing Middleboro secondary track.

“Today’s capital funding announcement by the Baker-Polito Administration is further proof that rail restoration is coming to New Bedford and Fall River,” said State Rep. William Straus in a statement. “I compliment the governor for staying true to our region and dedicating the resources needed to bring this critical transit option to the SouthCoast.”

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.

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.

Lafrance Hospitality to open Merrill’s on the Waterfront in New Bedford

NEW BEDFORD — Merrill’s on the Waterfront is coming in early 2019 to the former Waterfront Grille, which was purchased by Lafrance Hospitality in June 2018.

The restaurant is in the works to re-open after renovations as Merrill’s on the Waterfront, located across from Lafrance’s Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott and Waypoint Event Center.

The name pays tribute to Captain Edward Merrill, who purchased the waterfront property in which Merrill’s on the Waterfront resides, in 1837. Merrill constructed the largest of seven wharves built between 1841 and 1849. The property remained in the Merrill family until 1905 but was renamed to Homer’s Wharf in 1920. The historical counting house, which Merrill built in 1847 still stands, according to a news release.

Merrill’s will provide guests a front-row seat into the country’s most valuable fishing port. Fresh, local seafood will be a staple to the dining and banquet menu, too. Merrill’s will have indoor private event space and an outdoor ceremony site that is to be designed for use for weddings next summer and fall.

“With Merrill’s on the Waterfront, Lafrance Hospitality is excited to further highlight the rich whaling history of New Bedford,” according to the news release. “You can expect to see printed history about this historic era of New Bedford along with more of Captain Merrill’s life adorning the restaurant.”

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.

City officials welcome new fitness studio, the Barre New Bedford

Posted Sep 6, 2018 at 4:53 PM

Mayor Jon Mitchell and other elected officials and business leaders recently joined with owners Gigi Yassine and Kayla Gillespie Doyle to officially cut the ribbon at their new fitness studio, The Barre New Bedford, at 50 Union Street (above Moby Dick Brewing Co.).

The Barre classes utilizes movements that are inspired by ballet, yoga, and Pilates, set to fun and motivating music, a press release states. The full body method activates one muscle group at a time with small, controlled movements, also known as isometric movements, which are very effective for burning fat and adding muscle tone.

During the class, muscles are sculpted and strengthened, by working them to the point of fatigue, followed by a deep stretch to lengthen them out and create long, lean muscles. Each class begins with a warm up and then travels through the body from the arms, thighs, seat/glutes, abdominals and ends with a cool down.

For more information, visit www.thebarrenewbedford.com.

Original story here.

The Love The Ave dishes up community pride via North End Restaurant Week

Posted Aug 30, 2018 at 3:01 AM

Portuguese steaks and hot dogs. Oven-baked bread and pizza. Custard cups and clamboils. Lobster rolls and Cubano sandwiches. Antipasto and chicken Mozambique. Hamburgers and French fries. Egg rolls and conchas. Scrambled eggs and sweet bread.

It’s all on the menu at one unique destination in the city: Along Acushnet Avenue and in the North End.

Recognizing the city’s notable concentration of eateries from Coggeshall Street north is one goal of the Love The Ave & North End Restaurant Week, taking place from Saturday, Sept. 15 through Friday, Sept. 21.

It’s an effort that has grown out of the group Love The Ave, which is vigorously finding new ways to help promote economic development along the North End commercial corridor with public art and special events.

And in the process, is creating durable community infrastructure.

For the Love The Ave & North End Restaurant Week, a new website has been launched to spotlight all the eateries on and around Acushnet Avenue, lovetheave.com. It’s there that you’ll find a listing of North End bakeries, eateries and restaurants.

Many of them are, and will continue to be, featured in special posts through Sept. 21. Thereafter, lovetheave.com will be a permanent directory of the establishments as well as a means to share Love The Ave happenings and items of public interest.

On the group’s Facebook page, Facebook.com/lovetheave, all the posts are being shared — along with some mouth-watering pictures to whet the appetite for restaurant week.

The Love The Ave & North End Restaurant Week was dreamed up by Steven Froias, a member of the Love The Ave committee (and also a regular columnist featured in The Standard-Times).

Recognizing the sheer number of food establishments along The Ave and throughout the North End, he brought the idea for this special promotion to Angela Johnston at the New Bedford Economic Development Council. She also chairs Love The Ave steering committee meetings.

She loved the idea, took it to city hall, and got the enthusiastic support of the mayor’s office to move ahead with the project, which may be a pilot for a larger, city-wide restaurant week in the future.

Over the summer, Froias visited almost every place of culinary business along The Ave to lay the groundwork for restaurant week.

“It’s really been so much fun!” he said. “These are terrific small businesses which not only feed our bellies, but also our souls. They effectively function as community gatherings spots.”

It’s a diverse community, now, and that’s reflected in the food.

Alongside the many traditional Portuguese restaurants of distinction, and those highlighting New Bedford seafood, you find places like Dulce Mexican Restaurant and Sara’s Bakery, featuring cuisine that caters to a Latin American and Hispanic population.

They join iconic New Bedford eateries like Pa Raffa’s, which sits at the intersection of Ashley Boulevard and Acushnet Avenue and is the geographic end point of the restaurant week area, which begins at Coggeshall Street and runs from Ashley Boulevard west to Belleville Avenue east.

“Every time I post something about Pa Raffa’s, it breaks the Internet!” says Froias. “They’ve been great to work with and it’s fantastic that businesses that mean so much to so many are being acknowledged for what they represent in New Bedford with this week.”

In addition to encouraging residents and visitors to patronize Love The Ave & North End places during the week and more often afterward, the project is intended to create a sense of community and purpose among all the businesses.

“The bakeries alone along Acushnet Avenue — over a half dozen — lend distinction to the street. You can smell bread baking when you’re standing outside of Holiday Bakery or Padaria Nova Bakery,” points out Froias.

“Then, you have some of the best Portuguese and seafood you’ll find anywhere — all within a mile or less of each other! It’s really quite special.”

And, a destination in and of itself. Which is the whole point of restaurant week. Spotlighting what makes the area unique not only in the city, but in the region.

That, and of course, and the food.

“It hasn’t exactly been a heavy lift to spend the summer working on this project,” Froias said. “Especially when you also get to enjoy pumpkin ravioli at Cotali Mar; Steak Girassol at Girassol Restaurant & Cafe; French Dip roast beef at Endzone; tacos at La Raz; hot dogs at Dee’s; cacoila sandwiches at Cafe Portugal; bacalhau at Cafe Mimo; and many, many natas at Chocolate com Pimenta!”

Signature dishes and special restaurant week deals are all listed on featured posts on lovetheave.com and will also be shared via the Facebook page. Also, posters have been made available to all the places on which they can feature their specials during the week.

A goal of the entire Love The Ave project has also been to counter the perception that Acushnet Avenue faces a greater public safety challenge than other spaces within the city.

Walking up and down The Ave all summer, Froias said he didn’t find that to be true.

“All the places I visited were full of customers. All these people obviously don’t buy into the negative stereotype of The Ave,” he says.

He points out that the New Bedford Police Department started a “Walk a Block” program last year under Chief Joseph Cordeiro. That entails police officers parking the cruisers for part of every hour and visiting the small businesses along the street in order to make their presence felt.

“Any urban area can get gamey from time to time — The Ave is no exception,” he said. “But the reality is that it is a vibrant place full of people all day long. I term it ‘relentlessly urban’ — you get it all here and that’s part of what makes the area so interesting to so many different people.

“Last Saturday, I was sitting in Lorenzo’s Bakery — a fantastic place boasting Puerto Rican treats and sandwiches.

“As I was eating one of the best Cubano sandwiches I’ve ever had, I looked out the window onto the street and thought, ‘This is it. This is the urban ideal. Sitting in a neighborhood business like this in the company of people who make this city special.’

“Then I walked over to Lydia’s Bakery for a piece of cheesecake to savor the moment!.”

Again, information on the Love The Ave & North End Restaurant Week can be found at lovetheave.com. The week happens from Saturday, Sept. 15 through Friday, Sept. 21.

Original story here.