Shimmer opens in downtown New Bedford

By The Standard-Times

A new addition to the downtown boutique shopping scene is open at 187 Union St. Shimmer focuses on “clean and ethical beauty brands, carrying a variety of cosmetic, personal and home care products,” according to a news release.

The store is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Katherine Lowe, proprietor, has roots in the downtown community. Her first job was working in the admissions department of the New Bedford Whaling Museum, which was run by her mother for almost 20-years. “Working at the admissions desk taught me everything I know about customer service, and as the epicenter of downtown, it gave me the opportunity to learn about the downtown community,” she said in a statement.

“I’ve always known I wanted to open my own boutique downtown and the time was finally right to venture out on my own,” says Lowe.

The curated collection ranges from organic bath salts to non-toxic mascara, and from non-toxic detergent to safe and reef-friendly sunblock. Shoppers can find brands that are health-conscious and environmentally-friendly, such as Clove + Hallow, Ginger June Candle Company, Lola Jane Naturals, and The Laundress, to name a few, according to a release.

“When my family was making the switch to clean products, we found it very difficult to distinguish between what was actually safe for use and what was simply being marketed as safe. I wanted to create a place where you knew all of the brands were clean and offered a variety of products. Switching to a clean laundry detergent is just as important as switching to clean makeup or skincare.”

For more information, visit www.shopshimmerbeauty.com.

Original story here.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

DeMello, Lesley deal will bring ed degrees, teachers to city in innovative partnership

Posted Aug 14, 2018 at 9:27 PM

Cambridge-based Lesley University and the DeMello International Center have sealed their deal to offer bachelors and masters programs at the Union Street building in downtown New Bedford.

As one part of the arrangement, current New Bedford school district teachers who obtain a masters in education will be required to commit to an additional three-years in the district. Students seeking to obtain an initial license to teach through the masters program will be guaranteed a job in the school district with a three-year commitment.

“You’ve got to raise the skill level of this community if we’re going to be successful and be back to where we were, back in the whaling days,” said James DeMello, founder of the DeMello International Center where the partnership was officially announced Tuesday morning.

The program called Rising Tide Educational Initiative, geared toward working adults, will offer partial bachelors degrees in education and other interests. At this point, the programs are still being fine tuned.

The bachelors program will operate through a community college transfer model where students can transfer up to 90 credits which leaves only 30 additional credits to earn the degree.