Many readers have no doubt read, heard or discovered for themselves that New Bedford is regarded as one of the nation’s most creative small cities and is a destination for the arts and artists.
This isn’t exactly something new; the city has long been rich with culture. But when Atlantic magazine included New Bedford in a “Top Ten” list of creative communities over a decade ago, it brought new opportunity and urgency to the perception.
So what exactly does a “destination for the arts and artists” mean in 2018? How does that designation impact the city? Who does it include and who does it benefit? In short, what exactly does being — and being recognized as — one of the nation’s most creative small cities mean for New Bedford?
Have no fear. State of the Arts is here to help sort it all out.
This new, ongoing column and feature story series will cover the arts in a new way here. As a regular beat, right alongside the City Desk, General News, Politics, Business, or Sports. That means a mix of reporting, feature stories, profiles and opinion. All branded under the banner State of the Arts.
Every week, yours truly will attempt to illustrate exactly how the arts are being practiced in New Bedford — and why the cultural well-being of the city is a critical element of municipal life here.
It will deliver to readers artistic personalities across the creative spectrum; examine the role of arts and culture in the economy; and report on arts administration as a function of civic engagement and government.
It’s an opportune time to launch State of the Arts. As I write this, the City of New Bedford, through the New Bedford Economic Development Council, is in the nascent stages of preparing an arts plan for New Bedford that will help guide its fortunes into the future.
As part of that effort, a comprehensive city-wide Creative Directory is being compiled. It will highlight the full scope of New Bedford’s professionals in all manner of cultural disciplines.
Right now is also a good time to contemplate the State of the Arts through the prism of how far the city has come in two decades, as AHA! New Bedford celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Yes — it’s been almost 20 years since Art, History, and Architecture were mobilized as an economic catalyst in the city’s downtown. You need look no further than there to see the power arts and culture play in helping to renew a city.
That power resides everywhere, however, and this series will scour New Bedford for the creative impulse that is revitalizing not only downtown but many corners of this funky city. It will be my privilege as writer to bring you these stories.
So, a little about why me.
Though I was born and bred in New Bedford, most of my adult life until recently happened on the Jersey Shore. For over 12 years, I was the editor of a news and arts weekly newspaper that dedicated itself toward some core missions, such as advocating for the arts as a vehicle for revitalization in a city called Asbury Park. Some may recognize it as the place where Bruce Springsteen cut his musical teeth.
Relentless reporting on the burgeoning influx of artists, musicians, and creatives played a role in that city’s comeback. It helped changed the perception of the place even as long-term and new residents found their voice and brought new energy to a left-for-dead city.
Now in New Bedford, I’ve been fortunate to write for the coworking facility, Groundwork!, on their blog, NewBedfordCoworking.com. At Groundwork!, we have embraced all manner of arts programming to complement its core mission. That’s a reflection of our membership as well as the role the arts play in New Bedford.
My work there and in other efforts brought me to the attention of The Standard-Times staff and editors, until we conceived of State of the Arts. And, since I probably will never get the opportunity to do so again, I’d like to comment on the role this newspaper plays in the city’s creative economy.
It’s critical. The Standard-Times is a special newspaper. Even as the industry has been roiled over the last decade or so, a dedicated staff continues to produce a comprehensive chronicle of our times day-in and day-out. The launch of this column is an indication of the vigorous pursuit of finding out for readers what is shaping New Bedford now.
But, that’s enough about me and us. Because ultimately State of the Arts is about you. Week after week from here on in you may very well find yourself, your neighbor, your block or your part of this endlessly fascinating city featured in this series.
The Massachusetts Cultural Council’s tagline is “Arts Matter.” Between us, I think that’s kind of lame.
Arts don’t matter — they are essential. They define us as people, as a community and…as a city.
The definition of New Bedford is changing — and a variety of its residents are helping to write a new one every day with diverse creativity.
State of the Arts is their story.
Steven Froias blogs for the coworking facility, Groundwork! At NewBedfordCoworking.com.
Original story here.