Mapping New Bedford

Dean Haden, James McKeag and Zachary M. White at Groundwork! with one of the artist’s maps of New Bedford.

One of the great perks of being a member of Groundwork! is meeting new and interesting people all the time as they walk through the doors of 1213 Purchase Street. Some serious serendipity was happening when Zachary M. White came to Groundwork! one afternoon along with his unique maps of New Bedford. He had come to discuss exhibiting them both downtown at BCC with TDI Fellow James McKeag and also in the Groundwork! Gallery with founder Dena Haden.

A third venue for his cartography was quickly arranged after I saw Zach’s work. After all, I was in the planning stages of putting together the annual summer art show at Haskell Public Gardens called…Maps & Legends! Talk about a no-brainer!

I have to add a caveat to this story right here and now. I had actually already met Zachary here at Groundwork!, when he was part of the Spinner Publications crew on hand for the New Bedford Bookfest. He works for the publishing house – but even his colleagues there didn’t know that even as he was busy cataloging and digitizing so many of their beautiful historic photos, he was also busy in his spare time mapping the City of New Bedford – in sometimes surprising ways. Like enumerating every Dunkin’ Donuts in the city.

The archivist and artist may be a bit reticent regarding his work, but that’s okay. I’ve got a big mouth and a blog as well as an art show with which to make all the proper introductions between the public at large and this thoughtful artist’s work.

So, I put a few questions to Zach about how and why he began mapping New Bedford, and exactly what that process entails….

What drew you to map-making?

Senior year of undergrad I did my photo thesis project on Urban Renewal in New Bedford. It involved pairing photos from the 1960s and ‘70s with a photo of the same location now. I always referred to the project as being catalog photography rather than documentary because my goal was just to provide people with the visual information about places they have probably driven by hundreds of times. I intended to present the photographs with a current map overlaid with a map of how the streets appeared in the 1960s, plotting out where each photo is/was. I began tracing old maps and drawing new maps before running out of time, but I saved all the information for it hoping to one day finish it.

Historic photos of New Bedford Zach cataloged for his project: Howdy Burgers and a former Glaser Glass location.

Then when I started back at UMass for my Post-Bac, I was trying to think of some unifying idea or theme to work from. My work around this time was getting more abstract – but I wanted the abstract elements to be based on something real. So, I started incorporating pieces of cemetery maps that I have a lot of (not in a weird or dark way; my dad has been in the monument business for almost 40 years and from time to time you need a map to help you locate a particular section or grave). Finally, by last Fall, I found files I had worked on from the thesis project and decided to just make an actual map.

Do you begin with all hand drawings then graduate on to woodblock for the print-making?

The UMass CVPA router in action…

It depends on what my intentions are with the print, when I want to be able to replicate it or make an edition I like to plan out every layer and color prior to starting. To make the block for the full city map (on display at Haskell Public Gardens through August 17, 2017), I planned and drew it all out in Photoshop and double and triple checked every street to make my map to scale and be as accurate as possible. To maintain the accuracy of my maps, I had the block cut with a CNC router at UMass CVPA. The router uses the computer file of the image to cut it into a substrate which can then be inked up and printed. It’s during the actual printing process that I change things up.  I might print something as intended a couple of times and then I just begin layering and changing colors and end up with 4 or 5 prints that are completely different even though they came from the same block.

How did you come upon the idea of mapping all the Dunkin’ Donuts in the city?

The plate ready for inking…

After making the full map, I wanted to be able to combine it with other elements and layers but I didn’t want to just draw random shapes or overlay different images so I tried to come up with how to create these elements that may appear random but are actually based on real information. During this time my advisor, Marc St. Pierre, and I talked about different ways of accomplishing that and where these elements could come from (like outlines of buildings on specific city blocks or tracing the patterns made by the crack sealer for streets) and this led to using the shapes made by things on a map. I started by coming up with places that there are a lot of in the city; banks, gas stations, fast food, etc. This lead to specific places/stores and Dunkin Donuts seemed like an obvious choice. I then used Google to find all the addresses of the Dunkin Donuts in the city (there were 18 at the time) and then plotted them to make a seemingly random shape I could use in my work.

What’s your favorite donut?

My favorite donut was always a vanilla frosted raised donut from Ma’s Donuts, but now that it’s gone…probably glazed.

Have you ever thought of turning your handiwork into an app?

Inked up and ready to print…

Actually, there is a project in the early stages that I’m working on at Spinner Publications with Al Saulniers (one of the authors of A Picture History of New Bedford Vols. 1 & 2) that’s similar in nature to my photo thesis that I hope make an app for. It wouldn’t involve any of the map prints I have done but, the plan is the app will show the locations of photographs plotted on a map while also being able to direct the user on a self-guided tour with captions and stories to go along with the photographs.

Thanks for your time, Zach. One last question: When can we expect a dive bar map?

If someone wants to compile a list, I’ll make the map!

  • And, you can be sure we’ll share it with readers when Zach completes that project! In the meantime, you can catch his work on display now through Thursday, August 17 at Haskell Public Gardens as part of “Maps & Legends” and also find prints for sale in their gift shop. The park is open 7 days a week, dawn to dusk and the maps and sculpture of Kelly Zelen is on display in the greenhouses at 787 Shawmut Avenue. On Thursday, August 17th, Zach and Kelly will talk about their work during the community picnic fun-raiser at the park hosted by AHA! New Bedford, The Trustees and the Community Foundation. More info here.

Maps and Legends at Haskell Gardens: A Conversation with Steven Froias

Haskell Gardens

Haskell Gardens is a haven of exotic trees and plants.

Haskell Gardens, a New Bedford hidden gem, will serve as the backdrop for work from local artists starting this Friday. The show is called “Maps & Legends Two: If by sea…” and is curated by our very own  Steven Froias. If you haven’t been to Haskell Gardens yet, it’s a peaceful six-acre oasis located off of Shawmut Ave. Founded over thirty years ago by horticultural legend and New Bedford resident Allen C. Haskell, the garden holds a unique space in New Bedford’s history, making it the perfect spot for a show called “Maps and Legends.”

We know Steven Froias best as our “Groundworker at Large.” True to his moniker, Steven is a man about town and he’s behind many great initiatives in our city. He created the New Bedford Bookfest, a bi-annual festival featuring local authors and publishers, and he did the logo design for Love the Ave, a movement to promote Acushnet Ave as an international marketplace. Steven is also an artist himself, and his vintage stenciled signs recall a sense of the past with a contemporary, playful twist.

Froias has a keen eye for all the little and unexpected things that make neighborhoods and cities great: from New Bedford’s hardware stores to its corner shops, from rising stars Tim Cole and Jeremiah Hernandez, to noticeable improvements in New Bedford’s architecture and street scene. Froias has elevated the Groundwork! blog to become a chronicle of New Bedford’s past, present, and future, celebrating the quirks, accomplishments, and successes of our city in real time, as the story unfolds.

So it makes sense that Froias’s own description of “Maps and Legends Two: If by sea” reads:

Maps & Legends refers both to the history of New Bedford and its sense of itself in the larger world. Viewers are invited to embark on a voyage of discovery that includes the artwork, the stories and this very special place, Haskell Public Gardens, a Trustees of Reservations property.

I asked Steven to answer a few questions about the upcoming show, his practice as an artist/writer/curator, and what makes him so curious about New Bedford. But before you dive into the questions, take note: Maps and Legends Two: If by sea opens on Friday, July 14th from 5-8PM. At 6PM, New Bedford residents will share their own legends as part of a storytelling hour emceed by Groundwork! member Shelley Cardoos.


Curator Steven Froias on the loose at Haskell.

What inspired you to curate shows at Haskell Gardens?

Well, first of all, it’s a beautiful space. Every cliche you can think of – enchanted garden, hidden gem, urban oasis – applies to Haskell Public Gardens. And, it’s in my neighborhood! Which leads me to another reason to get involved there…it was at a neighborhood Ward 3 meeting that I met the garden’s on-site horticulturist, Kristin McCullin. She came to a freezing winter meeting to introduce the park to people living around it and let them know it would be opening later that year in the fall.

Like you, Sarah, and your partner in co-working crime, Dena Haden, and so many of our friends and co-workers, it seemed here was another person offering New Bedford focus, energy and talent. As we’ve all experienced at Groundwork!, that sense of purpose and commitment from the people around you inspires you! Kristin encouraged area residents to get involved in the park, and I was thrilled to let the gears start turning in my mind as to what I could bring to this very special place.

In your words, the theme “Maps and Legends” refers to New Bedford’s own history and its sense of itself in the larger world. This theme resonates in the topics you write for the Groundwork blog, and also with your own artwork. What drives this curiosity for you as a writer, curator, and artist?

Hmm, I think it all comes back to Sherlock Holmes. I’ve been a fan of the great detective since I was a kid and like to think I bring that same sense of searching for answers to everything I do – whether it’s art or writing or organizing events. I like to dig deep to solve the case and bring to light what’s underneath. With the art, it’s providing a connection to the back-story. With the writing – especially with the posts I’m fortunate enough to get to write for the Groundwork! blog – it’s all about the here and now – and the future. Any city – but New Bedford in particular – is a puzzle of many pieces that constantly needs to be sorted through to solve. It’s an adventure!

Can you talk about the artists who will feature in this year’s show, and why you chose them to show work?

They’re amazing! Kelly Zélen and Zachary M. White are the stars of this show. I believe in seizing serendipity when it rears its head. After first discovering Kelly’s work for myself at Kilburn Mills Studios, and then asking her to appear in last year’s Maps & Legends, I kept hearing people say how impressed they were with her sculpture. Jeremiah Hernandez – who as we know is curating a huge show this week at Groundwork! – spoke about his respect for her work. I have great respect respect for his opinion, so was confident I was on the right track asking her to be one of the two featured artists for this year’s Maps & Legends.

As for Zachary M. White – here’s some more serendipity. As so often happens, though I had met Zach before, I only recently discovered that he’s a maps aficionado and artist. Naturally, I found this out at Groundwork!, which is why I call the place the Center of Gravity in New Bedford.

Zach had brought some of his prints to show TDI fellow Jim McKeag and Dena, and luckily I was there. When you mount a show called Maps & Legends, what more could you ask for than a prolific, talented young artists producing stylized…maps!

This year you are adding an element of live storytelling to the opening exhibition. What kinds of stories can we expect?

Well, as you noted above, I get to tell lots of stories on the Groundwork! blog. I do this by looking and listening everywhere throughout the city – the game’s always afoot and I’m always on the case! I thought it would be nice to let people hear it from the source – directly from some of the people who have caught my eyes and ears and provided me with material.

It’s also inspired by the Community Conversations Jacob Miller organized for AHA! New Bedford this past winter – and I’m happy to say Jacob has helped recruit some people to come to the opening and share their stories – their New Bedford Legends – with us all under the skies. Again, Jacob is one of those people who are passionate about doing new things in the city, and I’m always down with collaborating with someone like that.

What do you love most about living in New Bedford?

The fact that the story never ends. Too many people try to pigeonhole the city – and sometimes in very negative ways – but it constantly fights back. It’s a scrappy place and hold its own. It’s still evolving and actually writes its own story. You can try to place it into a context or wrap a narrative around it, but really, it’s a perpetual mystery that challenges you to always reevaluate the evidence and….start again. Catnip for a writer!

The Art Show of the Summer

Okay, let’s get one thing straight right from the get-go: It’s me dubbing “Don’t Call it a Comeback,” UGLY Gallery at Groundwork!, the Art Show of the Summer.

Certainly not curator Jeremiah Hernandez, who is too modest by far to blow his own horn. (More on that later.)

And certainly not because I’m dissing any of the other great art shows happening in the city this season. They all boast impressive talent – such as the one I’m curating myself, Maps & Legends Two: If by sea… at Haskell Public Gardens (opening Fri. July 14); The S & G Project Gallery’s exhibition of Kimberly Gatesman’s work (also opening Fri. July 14); the annual Judith Klein Art Gallery’s ongoing summer exhibition; and anything at Colo Colo Gallery, for example.

But, as a writer and chronicler of all things New Bedford, I call ‘em like I see ‘em – and I see “Don’t Call it a Comeback,” which opens Thursday, July 13 at 6:00pm at Groundwork!, as THE Art Show of the Summer in these parts. 

And yes, it has a lot to do with the self-effacing Mr. Hernandez, pictured above on the streets of New Bedford during this year’s Cape Verdean Recognition Parade, as well as the amazing talent he’s assembled for this show.

“Don’t Call it a Comeback”

UGLY Gallery at Groundwork!, “Don’t Call it a Comeback,” will feature the work of D. Lupe, Rene Gagnon, Boston Maki, Tom Bob, Tom Deninger, Alexander Jardin, Rep1, Percy Fortini Wright, MCA and Monty, Indy 184, plus surprise guests during the show’s run.

Simply put, this is one stunning line-up of kinetic talent. As such, “Don’t Call it a Comeback” is less a traditional gallery show then an era-defining manifestation of the creative impulse that’s been fermenting throughout New Bedford and our region. It’s our version of Miami’s Art Basel and New York’s Whitney Biennial rolled into one.

Many but not all readers may know that, before joining E for All Southcoast, operating from right here out of Groundwork!, Jeremiah was the co-founder and co-owner of the progressive UGLY art gallery on Union Street for years.

In that role, Hernandez brought his keen critical eye to the space and its selection of artists. He also brought the sense that art is an adventure into the space  and accordingly, UGLY openings were energetic affairs. You could feel the electricity in the air on AHA! New Bedford nights, when UGLY typically debuted a show. Though he would probably dislike the idea, they came closer than any other gallery to establishing a ‘scene’ downtown for artists and eclectic arts patrons.

Jeremiah eschews any such talk of nonsense like that and resists all labels. But that only reinforces my point and my conviction about the show he’s about to unleash on New Bedford.

He – and it – are the real deal. “Don’t Call it a Comeback” is the sort of art show that defines a city’s aesthetic – for the future. That aesthetic is all New Bedford even though all the artists may not live within city limits. However, they are all alumni of past UGLY gallery shows and have been brought together for this explosion of art. Over 60 pieces will adorn the Groundwork! walls and fill it’s common areas by show’s end.

(And here, I need to give a shout-out to the fabulous Dena Haden – Groundwork! co-founder and creator of the Groundwork! gallery. Her vision for art at the co-working facility has been unwavering and resolute since the gallery launched in Jan. 2016 – and that’s brought distinction to the space and the City of New Bedford.)

New Bedford Days, Miami Nights, Brooklyn Jaunts

Jeremiah loves art and artists and the act of creation. And, he’s damn amazing at curating it. In addition to lots of practice at UGLY, he’s the type of connoisseur who will jump on a plane to Miami to attend Art Basel during his vacations from E for All. Or, jump in a car and head to Brooklyn for a weekend when an artist catches his well-known eye.  

The art that Jeremiah loves is alive and breathing. It’s of the here and now and tomorrow, too. It’s full of passion and talent and mad, innovative skill. Some call it urban art. Some call it street art. It’s all powerful art and resists easy labeling. It’s art created by people who live like Jeremiah Hernandez. But it’s for everybody.

Like myself and many others, Jeremiah knows that New Bedford possesses a wealth of artistic talent that rivals any city’s – big or small. In conversation with him, he rattles off the incidents of art espionage that have been perpetrated on practitioners in and from our city.

This well-known national artist began doing this – after artist X from New Bedford made it a hallmark first. Another ‘borrowed’ that – after artist Z shared the idea.

If you do know it as street art then you also probably know that it’s more often up for grabs than up for sale. Jeremiah understood this before most people. He saw that the age of the art gallery was passing and the more free-wheeling art fairs were taking their place.

So, he made the painful decision to close UGLY gallery a few years back – leaving a huge void in New Bedford. Yet, this show at Groundwork! truly isn’t a comeback, as the name commands.

It’s an evolution within a revolution. And Jeremiah Hernandez is its guerrilla commander-in-chief.

Come take back the streets on Thursday, July 13 at Groundwork! “Don’t Call it a Comeback” opening party runs from 6:00 – 9:00pm – but never really ends. Two art movie nights have been programmed at Groundwork! as part of the proceedings. Monday  July 17- Don’t Call it a Comeback Movie Series #1 Collect; and Monday, July 31 Series #2 Destroy. (Follow the event page on Facebook for details as they are posted.)

Taking the New Bedford Arts Community to the Next Level

Sometimes, all the planets line up and you’re afforded new opportunities in life to seize upon.

New Bedford’s arts economy is about to be offered one hell of an opportunity. An opportunity that arrives with an appeal to participate in an effort to shape the next decade or so of the city and region’s arts and culture landscape. It begins Tuesday, June 6 at 5:00pm at Groundwork! when the Community Foundation holds the first of several community meetings designed to help clarify a vision of that future.

The Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts

Many readers are probably familiar with the Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts. If not, their mission statement is simple: To mobilize philanthropy by matching donors and resources with community needs for the benefit of our region.

John Vasconcellos, formerly of The Trustees of Reservations, became president of the Community Foundation about 10 months ago. He explains to me that as he thought about his new role and how to position the foundation for its own future, he couldn’t help but think about making it more responsive to everything happening in and around New Bedford and its burgeoning arts scene.

We all know New Bedford’s reputation as a home to artists and artisans and as an arts destination has exploded in the last decade or so. But fully integrating that growth into a plan that has tangible, long-term benefits for the community remains elusive. Making that happen is the goal Vasconcellos pondered when he assumed the presidency of the Community Foundation – even as a chance to bring some amazing resources to bear on the task presented itself to him.

The Barr Foundation

The Boston-based Barr Foundation also has a mission. It is this: to invest in human, natural, and creative potential, serving as thoughtful stewards and catalysts.” In addition to impressive work in the realms of climate-change and education, their Arts & Creativity programs have their own agenda. It is as follows:

Our overarching goal is to elevate the arts and enable creative expression to engage and inspire a dynamic, thriving Massachusetts. We will pursue this goal through three strategies: advancing the field’s capacity to adapt, take risks, and engage changing audiences in new ways; fostering opportunities to connect the arts to other disciplines and sectors; and activating public support for the arts.

They are achieving this through substantial investment of expertise and financial resources in communities throughout the state – and bringing that to Southeastern Massachusetts through the Community Foundation is what John Vasconcellos seized upon when contemplating a plan of action for the arts.

You’re Invited…

That’s not the end of the story, however. It’s just the prologue. The real story starts…with you. In order to figure out how best to mobilize the resources of the Barr Foundation, the Community Foundation is properly concerned with hearing from the community it serves.

The meeting at Groundwork! (1213 Purchase Street; use Maxfield Street entrance) next Tuesday, June 6 from 5:00-7:00pm is the first of several planned to get the input of artists, artisans, arts consumers, businesses, residents…well, everyone concerned in mapping out the future of our region. The meetings are designed to discover what’s necessary to connect all the dots of the disparate arts community and help bind it together.

It’s important to note here that the alignment of the Community Foundation and the Barr Foundation isn’t simply about finding a new pot of money. It’s about formulating a common purpose for the arts that embraces the entire community. That must certainly reflect greater New Bedford’s amazing diversity; everyone has a seat at the table.

So, invite your neighbors, tell your friends and spread the word. And, be prepared to come to that table with what John Vasconcellos terms a “Clarity of Vision” into a future arts and culture community where are all the planets are lined up in a row.

> You can find the entire line-up of meetings from New Bedford to Fall River here.

> Learn more about the Community Foundation here and the Barr Foundation here.

Timothy Ellis Cole: Helping to sustain New Bedford

Timothy Ellis Cole in front of his work-in-progress mural on New Bedford’s State Pier. The completed work debuts on Saturday, June 3, 2017 during the Seaport Art Walk opening.

You’ll have to forgive us here at Groundwork! for taking an inordinate amount of pride in artist Timothy Ellis Cole. It’s because his roots go deep into the place and into who we are. That’s why we always get excited when Tim is up to his tricks somewhere in New Bedford.

Cole has just completed a mural on the State Pier as part of this year’s Seaport Art Walk. Of course, he brought his usual commitment, talent and energy to the project, spending days and maybe even a few nights painting on a concrete wall that runs about a hundred feet long below the terminal. The result is another triumph of vision that you can really appreciate this Saturday, June 3 when the Seaport Art Walk officially opens from 2:00-5:00pm with a special event that is free and open to the public.

We’re excited to see ALL the artists involved in this, the third Seaport Art Walk, once again curated by the fabulous Jessica Bregoli. New this year, the artists will be paired with scholars during the opening on Saturday to discuss the topics that inspired their work.

Tim at Groundwork!

Timothy Ellis Cole has always inspired us – and we’re happy to see the in-demand artist back in New Bedford. Indeed, along with prolific, local outdoor artists like Ryan McFee and Tracy Barbosa, he is helping to establish a New Bedford aesthetic that distinguishes our city.

Tim was the first artist to be featured in the Groundwork! Gallery in January 2016. His opening was a smash event and did a lot to set the tone for future after-co-working-hours art shows here at 1213 Purchase Street. Part of that tone was set when he christened the Groundwork! Hammock, becoming the first person (after co-founders Sarah Athanas and Dena Haden) to pull an all-nighter in the space!

The artist brought that same sense of total commitment to the mural he painted on our own wall (pictured above). It’s become a well-known feature of the space figuring in all sorts of photos and videos on the social media landscape.

Seaport Art Walk’s Sustainable Oceans

The theme of this year’s Seaport Art Walk is Sustainable Oceans, and Tim’s mural certainly illustrates that. He explains that it depicts the work of the Coonamessett Farm Foundation in applying a field rotation concept to scalloping zones “that saved a decimated industry, turning it into a sustainable fishery that became one of the most profitable in the world.” (You can find out more and even watch the documentary, “Sustaining Sea Scallops,” at this link.)

Like Tim’s link to Groundwork!, there is a personal connection to Coonamessett for him, too. “I used to be the chef on the farm that houses the foundation, so it’s really cool to make artwork about their work after grilling scallops at farm dinners years ago,” he says.

Timothy Ellis Cole probably doesn’t get a lot of time to grill scallops these days, except for precious hours with his wife and two awesome kids. His Partner Projects Studios, operating out of Monument Breach, is busy with projects from Hyannis to the Levitate Music Festival to New Bedford’s Seaport Art Walk and lots of places in-between.

We dig that this artist is binding New Bedford into that bundle of projects and, we have no doubt, beyond into the future as his career continues to grow with all the mad-talent and energy he brings to it – and to our city.

(Visit Partner Projects Studio here and learn more about this year’s Seaport Art Walk here.)

GW Goodbye 4

Meet Abby Wright: Photographer behind “Vinegar”

Abby Wright is a Senior Photography student in CVPA at UMass Dartmouth and a fellow pushy women. She is the creator of “Vinegar”, a body of work that speaks her truth about feminism and what she has experienced as a women in today’s society.

“Vinegar” is a part of “Self-Evident Truths”, a collection of works by eight Photo students at UMD, that focuses in on how they view the world and society today.

Self-evident truths

“Self-Evident Truths” will be installed here at Groundwork! on May 4th and we will be celebrating the Opening with a party on May 11th! Find out more about the event here, or on our Facebook! Read more about Abby and “Vinegar” below:

Can you describe “Vinegar” to us?

My current body of work studies what it means to me, being female today in a world where we are both encouraged and discouraged by society and our daily surroundings from adopting feminist ideals. Coming from a suburban background, these concepts were the foundation of the world which was my upbringing.

My goal is to capture this concept through portraiture mostly made within interior spaces. The subject is occasionally obscured or hidden from view. Through these visual elements, I wish to draw attention to the fact that a female is not merely an object of admiration, temperamental, unpredictable, led by emotion, nor primarily concerned with being perceived as decorative.


While some images include full figures, others show merely body fragments. The work contains images where I am not physically in the frame yet they are all self portraits.

The portraits are made within the house my parents built in which my sisters and I have spent our adolescence. This is where we had the opportunity to absorb the information presented to us in the outside world and figure out where we stood, what our own ideals were. To me, growing up, I felt like I was presented with numerous contradictory messages. I was always told to believe in myself. I could be whoever I wanted and I could accomplish anything that I set my mind to. Yet at the same time, I was presented with information such as;

“Swearing isn’t lady like. Don’t walk alone at night. Always lock the car and look in the back seat. Be alert when walking. Don’t be on your phone, pony tails are easy to grab and pull you to the ground. Attackers always look for those who could be caught off guard. Speak when spoken to. Don’t interrupt. Don’t be bossy.”

The list continues. To this day these concepts still make me angry. I can do and be whatever I want to an extent; yet at the same time always looking over my shoulder and being encouraged to be careful and not talk back.

This body of work explores the concept of challenging ideals frequently placed on young females. Though my sisters and I each have personalities which vary drastically, and are all of a similar age, we all stand with our own perspectives, views, and experiences of the need to possess strength and to be heard. The imagery includes strong figures with settings which appear to be seen as barriers between the camera and the individual, often leading to a point of escape within the photograph.


My work stems from my need to express my psychological processing of the contradictory messages imposed upon me as a young woman and my connection to understanding my place in the world.

Can you tell us about your artistic style?

I have definitely been told and teased about the fact that I am a prolific artist. I always feel the need to be making something or turning the things that I see and feel into physical experiences. If I am not producing a lot I feel super unproductive. I think that is what art is to me and that’s why it is so important to me. It is my way of translating things that I am thinking and going through into elements that people can experience and connect to themselves. I also think it is so interesting that what I am presenting can have a totally different meaning or relation to a viewer.

What/ who first got you interested in photography/ art and when?


I feel like I always loved art and making things but my uncle who is a graphic designer always was there to help me grow by encouraging me to continue this process and always offering criticism. As far as photography, I bought the first camera I ever owned – a Nikon d3100 – when I was a freshman in High School when I had saved enough money from scooping ice cream, which was my job at the time. That was my first introduction to the medium.

What is your biggest inspiration?

Nan Goldin is photographically my biggest inspiration. I have always been drawn to her style and think it’s so simplistically beautiful and has so much to say for itself. I am obviously very impressed by many photographers but her diaristic style is so honest, raw, and moving to me. I think this style is so undervalued. I really can’t put into words how much her work moves me. In daily life though I really can say I am visually inspired by most things I see.

Tell us about the process you took creating “Vinegar”?

The body of work started with all self portraits but as I was creating work I wanted to incorporate people other than myself, I was just unsure of the way in which I wanted to do so. I started to photograph my sister as well. I then became very interested in the fact that I have three sisters, we are all around the same age and that we are all complete opposites of each other. Even though this is true we have very similar ideals and always stand for what we believe in. The body of work began to evolve into portraits of the four of us which became interesting because at times we do look very similar, so it became harder for the viewer to know which one of us was being depicted.


Have you ever hit a creative roadblock? How did you deal with this?

HELL YES. Especially when working on Vinegar. When I first started this project I had an idea and concept which I wanted to portray but wasn’t sure exactly how I wanted to make the body of work speak. At the start of the project I was making all self portraits and struggling to make connections to each other. I was so overwhelmed and trying too hard to make art which is never good, instead of my regular style which is to just show what I am seeing and experiencing. I think the best way to do deal with not knowing where to go and feeling really overwhelmed and lost is to just keep producing and talking about what you’re producing.

What is your favorite part about being a photographer/ artist?

My favorite part of being an artist and photographer is the fact that to myself I am never satisfied. There is always something I want to show and explain and there are always ways for me to grow and become a stronger artist and human and see things in a new light. I also love the fact that art is an exploration into the artist as well as the world. I love that it has the power to challenge and engage society. Art has to deal with ethics and at many times is anthropological. It starts a conversation about things we can view as problematic.


Do you have a favorite photo in “Vinegar”? Can you tell us why?

Hmmmm. That’s a hard one. I really love the relationships which the pictures have with each other, especially in the book which I produced with the full body of work in it. I think am more attached to the relationships and how the pictures play off of each other.

What is next for you and/or your photography career?

This summer I am going to be living and working on Block Island, RI. I am really excited to be producing new and fresh work there.

How have you changed or evolved as a photographer from Freshman year to Senior year in CVPA at UMD?

Technically, I have evolved to a large degree. Emotionally in my work I think I have found a certain style that can be identified.




GW artist MarkP

Meet Mark Phelan: Artist behind “Mental Mapping”

GW artist MarkP

Can you describe “Mental Mapping (is heavy lifting)” to us?

Mental Mapping is a group of paintings and drawings that I have been working on since I finished grad school last year, with a couple that I made at the tail end of grad school too, where the idea germinated and began to take root.

I’ve been preoccupied with what my next move is (what life looks like after school, what opportunities might present themselves, or be available to chase down and capture. Will I teach, or find a way for my art to sustain me, or will I always be fighting to find the time to paint around a 9-5 job?), and it’s showing through in my recent work. I’ve been thinking a lot about how one plans for a future, as much that is even possible, and how that might look if you got a view into my head.

Mental Mapping

I’ve been looking a lot at train tracks while I ride the commuter rail into Boston every day, and wondering about where each train is headed as it passes in the opposite direction, or diverges from the path that I thought it was taking as I watched it chug along. Even within a concrete system like a railroad, elements can do something you didn’t expect and throw you for a loop. So when one is confronted with an unwritten, uncertain future, how does one plan, or even just consider, all the options  and then map them out to get a birds’ eye view of the possibilities? It’s overwhelming.

So, the work began as a mostly figurative exploration of the idea, and as it got more and more difficult for me to contemplate the parallel and competing realities, the work started to take a turn out of the representational and into something more abstract. This might leave the impression that one work has little to do with another, until you consider the totality of it, and then I think it begins to make sense. The pieces all gel in a tangential sort of way. I think the viewer has to also allow me the luxury of making the excuse that the idea is still in its infancy, and each of the tangents has a lot of possibility and ground to explore. So let’s call it a collection of beginnings.

Can you tell us about your artistic style?

I cringe when I hear the word ‘style’ in relation to my work. It’s the last thing I am concerned about. If the work comes from my head, and is a product of my process and my consideration, it will look like it was made by me. That’s the only way it can look. So, I don’t concern myself with style, or whether my newest work looks enough like previous work, or whatever someone who thinks about those things is concerned with.

GW artist MarkP1

Now, with that said, I do have habits that lead to my work having a common thread. I usually work pretty large. I’ve mostly been working on 6×9 and 9×12 foot canvases. This frees me up to play around with my ideas and have room to roam and build a story. The idea often ends up bigger than the canvas though, and so you’ll often see me add pieces around the margins of the original canvas.

I also tend to draw a lot, even in my paintings. Line just makes sense to me as a way of describing the way objects interact with each other or with the space around them. And lastly, I guess I have a set of colors that I return to a lot. Earthy blues and greens and browns show up repeatedly.

What/ who first got you interested in art and when?

I’ve always drawn. It’s how I think. But I guess I first realized that art could be a legitimate way to get myself through life in high school. And I have to credit Carole Meyer for that. She was my art teacher at West Bridgewater High School, and plowed paths for me to spend lots of time in the art studios in my junior and senior year. Without her confidence in my passion for art, I don’t know that I would have developed such a strong sense of it on my own. She was a rock star teacher for sure, and is definitely one who I look to when I work on becoming my best self as a teacher too.

What is your biggest inspiration?

GW artist MarkP3

Possibility. In a word I think that’s what inspires me the most. Each time I start something new, the possibilities are limitless. And I revel in swimming in limitlessness for a while, as a try to find something to hang onto and take me someplace new. Ultimately, only one or two things happen within the confines of a painting, but before I latched onto those things, anything can happen. And each time I latch onto an idea and it guides me through a painting and out the other side, a totally new set of infinite possibilities is available to me.

How do you plan the process of creating a collection of works like this one?

I don’t. Well, I don’t plan it initially. I have a loose idea that I want to explore, like maps, or imagined space, or a particular person, and I prep a canvas or a panel and I get to work on it. I usually have images of objects related to the idea pinned to a board, and I look at those for shapes and colors and lines, and I think about those as I put a ground on the canvas. If I end up getting into a painting to the extent that I actually know what is going to happen next, I begin thinking about the next layer of information and ways to integrate it with what I am putting down in the moment.

My decisions are born of process. I decide by doing. Planning in advance beyond the loosest concept never works out for me. Each of my paintings feels like a new path to me. And you can’t really plan a new path. You have to get in the jungle with your machete and just hack away at it.

What do you think about while you’re painting?

GW artist MarkP2

I think about painting. That is, I think about line and space, and the development of the image or idea. I talk to myself a lot. I talk to the painting a lot. I listen to a lot of music. You’ll find a lot of lyrics to songs I listen to buried in the layers of my paintings. Sometimes the paintings are named after the lyrics of a song I listened to while I made it. Or it references them somehow. I think about how I am never more happy than I am when I’m making things. It’s why I exist. So even if I’m dealing with difficult subject matter, there’s no work I would rather be doing.

Have you ever hit a creative roadblock? How did you deal with this?

Because I tend to swim in limitless possibility, I don’t really ever have a shortage of ideas. Sometimes I don’t know exactly how to express the idea that I have, but that is exactly the most important moment to simply get to work. Go to the studio, move some paint around, and see what happens.

I leave myself open to my initial idea leading to something else altogether, and I am always willing to follow where the work leads. This keeps me free to pick up on any good idea and just go with it. I also typically work on 5 or 6 paintings at once, so if I hit a roadblock with one, or get bored with it, I can move on to another. As I do this, I find one painting informs the next, and that informs the next, and so on. By keeping the dam open, ideas keep flowing.

What is your favorite part about being an artist?

GW artist MarkP6

I touched on this a bit in the question about what I think about while I paint, but my favorite thing about being an artist is that I can’t imagine being anything else. Now, for me, being an artist isn’t just being a painter. I’m also a printmaker, I’ve messed around with sculpture some too (one of my pieces lives downtown at the corner of Route 18 and Union St, in front of Cork Wine Bar) and I build hot rods. When I am at my best, I am making.

Do you have a favorite piece in Mental Mapping? Can you tell us why?

I think the idea behind Mental Mapping is my favorite part about this body of work. I don’t mean that in a conceptual way, I just mean that it can be very freeing to allow oneself to imagine the possibility of anything, and search for a way to explain a little of what it’s like to live in that kind of head space, and find a few pictures to begin telling that story. Some work better than others in accomplishing that goal (and I’ll let the viewer decide which those are).

Are you currently working on any other projects?

I’ve been noodling out this series of “portraits” that I want to start on. I put portraits in quotes because not all the paintings will have people as subjects. But it’s an idea that is related to Mental Mapping, and will connect to a lot of the work in that series that has sort of laid the ground for what’s coming. I am also working on more images that will probably end up being considered as the same body of work as Mental Mapping, as that idea just keeps pushing me along. I’m building a couple cars currently too, a 1934 Ford Coupe, and a 1939 Cadillac Lasalle Coupe.

GW artist MarkP5

Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring artists?

The artist Chuck Close said:

“The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.”

This is great advice. Just show up to the studio and get to work. Move some material around and see what happens. If you’re not satisfied with it, wipe it out and start over. Don’t be afraid to erase. Erasing is not admitting failure. Thomas Edison said something about that too. “I haven’t failed over and over, I’ve just found 2000 ways not to make a light bulb.” Or something like that. There’s no pressure in failure. You just learn from it and move on. There’s also no better, safer place to fail than art school. You’re so protected there. The professors will reel you back in if you need to be. Take advantage of the protected environment and take all kinds of chances. You’ll learn a lot.

GW artist MarkP4

Where can we find and follow you and your work?

You can see my work at and you can follow me on Instagram @generalgow. I post way more stuff on IG than I make updates to my website, and you’ll get to see a lot of process pics, and non painting projects there too.

The Write Moves in New Bedford


“I was chatting with Alison Wells about putting a poetry event on in April and I had an idea of maybe trying to get one going on the Saturday evening of the bookfest. I was thinking we could try to make it a featured … after-event type thing…”  Nick LeBlanc e-mailed me this week. And, because of that and so many other elements of the New Bedford Bookfest coming together, we here at Groundwork! were doing high-fives this week.

Because that’s just the kind of creative collaboration we love – and the way this spring’s New Bedford Bookfest is coming together is exactly what we envisioned when myself, Sarah Athanas and Dena Haden founded the bookfest last year at Groundwork!

New Bedford Bookfest

New Bedford Bookfest is a showcase for the writing talent that resides in our region. It’s also designed to burnish New Bedford’s identity as a regional hub. And the agenda for the April 2017 bookfest reflects both of those ideas.

On Saturday, April 22 and Sunday, April 23, writers and readers from throughout the area will make Groundwork! and the City of New Bedford their home for the weekend. It’s a two-day celebration of what makes this area unique in the nation.

New Bedford Bookfest has grown in ambition and deepened its appeal this year, we believe. There will of course be dozens of authors in attendance – some returning, many new – offering their books for sale.

Cinematic Treasures

But we’ve also broadened our reach and scheduled some eclectic special events during the bookfest which propels it into the future. Like the appearance of photographer and writer Matt Lambros – who has traveled the nation documenting America’s former movie palaces like our own abandoned Orpheum Theater for his book, After the Final Curtain. Matt will discuss his observations of these historic buildings during a presentation on Saturday, April 22 at 1:30pm.

The Rise and Fall of the American Movie Theater is book-ended by two great events courtesy of New Bedford’s own Spinner Publications. At 11:30am on Saturday, Spinner’s Joe Thomas will present a slide-show culled from their photographs in their archives featuring New Bedford’s own historic theaters and entertainment venues.

Blue Collars & Autopsies

At 3:15pm, Spinner Publications’ newest author, Catherine McLaughlin will read from her novel, Blue Collars – a rumination on growing up in a New Bedford dominated by mills and textiles.

And on Sunday, we’re pleased to spotlight two authors poised to take the national stage. From Colorado, Courtney E. Morgan will travel to New Bedford to read from her The Seven Autopsies of Nora Hanneman, which is a provocative look at female sexuality.

Ruthless River with Lauren Daley

Finally, BookLovers columnist Lauren Daley of The Standard-Times newspaper has personally selected debut author Holly FitzGerald for a special Question and Answer talk to begin at 1:30pm. FitzGerald’s Ruthless River: Love and Survival by Raft on the Amazon’s Relentless Madre de Dios is garnering stunning advance reviews ahead of its May, 2017 publication date.

Michael Palin, author of Traveling to Work, writes of Ruthless River: One of the great survival tales. An almost unbearable story told with a physical and emotional intensity that draws the reader in, not just as witness, but as virtual participant. It’s an exhausting, painful, inspiring read.”

I plan to be as relentless as the Madre de Dios promoting the New Bedford Bookfest. Because the talented writers involved deserve it – and because our city demands it. In this and so many other areas of achievement, we here at Groundwork! see a city hitting hyper-drive.

Proof of the power being unleashed in New Bedford can be found in the creative collaborations springing to life like the one that opened this blog post. You can help; share this with the BookLovers among your friends and followers on Facebook and elsewhere. Yeah – we’re interested building on success and embracing as many people as possible. Because it’s not about us – it’s about All of Us together.

  • Follow New Bedford Bookfest news and read author bios at and Facebook/NewBedfordNow. The New Bedford Bookfest takes place at Groundwork!, 1213 Purchase Street, on Sat. April, 22 and Sunday, April 23. It is free and open to the public from 11:00am to 4:00pm each day. Special appearances by Matt Lambros and Lauren Daley are ticketed and you can purchase them by clicking on their names. The NB Bookfest after-event at Alison Wells Fine Art Studio (106 William Street) begins at 6:00pm.