A Splash of Color by the Cove

More and more while tooling around New Bedford these days, you see small things that add up to something far larger. More home improvement projects; expanding small businesses; a sense that the devastating effects of the 2008 financial crisis are indeed finally over and investment in what we have is taking place…

Last week, what caught my attention was COLOR! As in, a sweet splash of it just off the Cove Walk by the end of the Hurricane Barrier near Dairy Maid. Walking about on a great spring day, I arrived at the ice cream shop and was greeted by a refreshed version of the Dairy Maid we all know and love to lick.

New, brilliant blue tables and benches have been placed outside, the same color added as accent to the building and fresh green trees in front by the curb animate the location. It feels happier!

Just beyond, the gate structure at the end of Hurricane Barrier has a new skin. More brilliant blue and lime green have been applied to the gray concrete. The effect is amazing; it, too just feels happier.

A brush with blue & green

Taken together, this entire area was simply refreshing to look at. It was inviting, rather than forlorn.

Let’s face it, the barrier gates can have a bit of an apocalyptic feel to them – like something off the set of a ‘Hunger Games’ movie. I don’t know whether it was the city or the firm who handled the Cove Walk build who was responsible for taking out the paint brushes – but either or both are to be commended for some creative thinking.

Likewise, while I and many others consider Dairy Maid a summer institution, their parking lot of years late was looking more rocky road than soft serve. The well-thought spruce up fits in well with its painted neighbor. Each complements the other and creates a nice palette.

A refreshed Dairy Maid

Colorful Curbs

On the face of it, a splash of color at one corner of the city may not seem like a big deal. But, the idea behind it is a very big deal. It speaks to placemaking, civic pride and a vibrant streetscape. Each are important functions in an urban environment and in turn yield bigger dividends.

Curbside appeal invites economic activity which in turns puts more feet on the street. Anyone with a passing acquaintance with Jane Jacobs understands that’s the lifeblood of cities – the very definition of thriving communities.

Al Fresco on Clarks Cove

Down by Cove Walk at Dairy Maid, you certainly have a lot happening. Across the street you’ll find Cove Surf and Turf restaurant – which also takes generous advantage of their view of beautiful Clarks Cove with plentiful and well-appointed outdoor patio seating. (And a tasty menu; the day I snapped these pics I scooped up a half dozen mouth watering clam-cakes.)

Patio dining at The Cove

Around the ‘corner’ past the bright new barrier, the authentic Italian restaurant Cafe Italia makes its home. It sits next to the market Salchicharia, which boasts all sorts of packaged and prepared Portuguese foods.

The ingredients for a lively little corner are all there – only now it’s in technicolor. It’s as if a new welcome mat has been put out.

It’s not a big scheme, it’s a simple thing. Oftentimes, that’s what hits the spot. If you find yourself in this neighborhood, grab an ice cream cone at Dairy Maid or some chow at Cove Surf and Turf and enjoy the bright view on a sunny day and put yourself into this picture.

How would you spend $5.5 million in New Bedford?

Okay, the headline is clickbait. But the funds are real. With a few caveats.

On Tuesday, June 20, the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) held the first of three public meetings to solicit input for a plan to utilize Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds – estimated to be roughly $5.5 mil by the end of this year. About 30-40 civic-minded folks came to the Hazelwood Park Senior Center to learn more about CPA – and offer their input.

Don’t worry – we didn’t spend all the money Tuesday evening. In fact, we didn’t spend any of it.

Everything you ever wanted to know about CPA

Community Preservation Committee co-chair Colleen Dawicki and member Ross Nunes

CPC committee co-chair Colleen Dawicki kicked things off with a robust and skillful presentation all about the CPA. It is 1) State-wide enabling legislation allowing communities to create funding to preserve open space and historic sites, create affordable housing and develop outdoor recreational facilities; 2) Funded by a tiny property tax surcharge approved by New Bedford voters in 2014; and 3) A big pot of money – that will be replenished every year.

That money can be spent on projects proposed by organizations such as non-profits or even the city itself. If they meet the CPA requirements and fit the needs of the community. Determining those needs and setting spending priorities and turning them into a plan is what the public meetings are all about. (You can go deep into CPA at this link.)

If you missed Tuesday’s meeting, no worries. There are two more meetings scheduled for the coming week. One on Thursday, June 22 at the Buttonwood Park Community Center. Then again next Tuesday, June 27 at the Brooklawn Park Community Center. (This one will have simultaneous Spanish interpretation.) Both take place from 6:00-7:00pm.

A CPA Grocery List

At this Tuesday’s meeting, we all got down to offering our input with alacrity. It’s not every day you get to help spend a wad of dough like this, after all.

Some familiar names for preservation made it onto the list. The Orpheum Theater. The Armory. But it’s important to note that preservation encompasses more than just buildings (as outlined above) and you can get creative with your needs.

I was with New Bedford’s grassroots renaissance man, Carl Simmons at the meeting and he suggested scanning important documents and other ephemera as an idea. Something the New Bedford Free Public Library could certainly take a shot at.

Some others noted that the very park we were at – Hazelwood – could benefit from some preservation on its grounds and some enhanced outdoor recreation facilities.

But, I like my idea best and am going to write the most about it – because it’s my blog post and in my neighborhood. :-)

The Kempton School Market on Shawmut Avenue

I’d like to see CPA funds used at the former Kempton School on Shawmut Avenue in a  manner that would meet a lot of the needs of the community around it – and also check a lot of the state requirement boxes.

I call my neighborhood “The Dead Zone.” It has few eating establishments and is actually a food desert when it comes to fresh produce and the like. It also suffers from a lack of meaningful outdoor recreational facilities like parks. And, there are few historic structures of significance.

Yet, the red-brick former Kempton School (in the featured photo at top) is sitting empty on a big plot of land – and both can be put to much needed use here.

Like a huge community garden – nay, urban farm – on the site. In the building, a year-round food hall/market selling what’s grown on-site supplemented by local farmers and other purveyors of decent foodstuffs could set up shop. Throw in an artisan market and build affordable live/work artist lofts in the former classrooms upstairs and man, you’re on your way to transforming an entire neighborhood – within important CPA guidelines.

It would result in a bustling community center of commerce and enterprise that 1) Preserves a historic building; 2) Provides outdoor recreation of a unique variety; 3) Offers low-income artists and craftspeople a place to live, work and sell their wares; and 4) Addresses a long-standing even urgent need in the community. (The project is already getting good press, thanks to ace reporter Wesley Sykes.)

Additionally, the terrific GROW Education program is already doing great work with community gardens at New Bedford schools – and working with up and running organization checks another box on the state’s list of should haves if not must haves. It’s easy to imagine them scaling up to tackle a chunk of this project.

Another great organization, E for All Southcoast, could also find a role in helping entrepreneurs start and run the individual market stalls. Both organizations are Groundwork! members so have experience in collaborative spaces.

It may be a dream – but it’s in Ward 3, which has new, hot-shot representation in councilor Hugh Dunn. If anyone can advocate for neglected Ward 3, it’s him! Okay – I’m shamelessly kissing his ass to get him on side  – and tagging him on Facebook to make sure he reads this.

But that’s what these meetings are all about.

Passionately promoting your ideas for spending millions of dollars to better and strengthen New Bedford by preserving not its past – but its future.

That’s priceless.

  • New Bedford’s Historic Preservation Planner, the brilliant Anne Louro is your official host for the CPA meetings. You can let her know you’re coming to either of the remaining meetings here.
Camp Wild Child

Why every adult should go back to summer camp

Camp Wild Child

These adults played hard at Camp Wild Child in the Berkshires.

As a coworking space owner/operator, I spend a TON of time thinking about how create an environment that lends itself to the formation of friendships and real connection.

These days, adults don’t make new friends easily. Our interactions are reduced to like, love, or LOL. We drive around alone in our cars listening to podcasts. At the end of a long work day, we catch up on our favorite Netflix or Amazon series. We can conduct almost every business we need online, so we don’t even bump into people running errands or standing in line. No wonder we as a people feel lonely!

I’m passionate about coworking because it’s a return to face-to-face interaction, community, and real-life friending.

Now, I’m also passionate about camp.

Lakseide Camp Wild Child

Sittin’ on the dock at Camp Wild Child.

Camp Wild Child is summer camp for adults. It is the brainchild of Christin Marshall, a recent grad of the winter EforAll cohort, so we’ve watched her develop it from idea to launch at Groundwork! over the months. The premise is simple: go back to camp for a weekend, and find your inner Wild Child. Camp Wild Child takes place in a beautiful, rustic setting: a real summer camp complete with a waterfront, cabins, and dining hall. There are activities galore: workouts designed by CrossFit instructors and a burpee mile challenge for you intensity junkies out there; archery, hiking, bonfires, and kayaking for the traditional summer camp types; SUP yoga, self defense, water skiing, and wake boarding if you’re one of those millennials who likes to try new things.

And then there’s the true magic: no cell signal, and no WiFi. The sort of detail that causes initial panic, followed by a collective sigh: aaaaaaaaaah.

Views of the Berkshires

We could see MA, CT, and NY from this perch.

I attended the inaugural edition of Camp Wild Child last weekend. As an entrepreneur, I was stoked because Christin nailed the logistics! As a nature lover, I was swooning at the full moonrise over the lake and the smell of pine forests. And as a coworking space owner and crusader to end loneliness and isolation among adults, I was convinced that this concept is nothing short of revolutionary.

Our motto at Groundwork! is “Work together. Grow together.” At camp you could say: “Play together. Be together.”

We cheered each other on during the burpee mile, chatted over meals, shot bb guns, and basked in the sun together. And each night we did what humans have been doing for hundreds of years: we gathered around a fire.

This ancient and primal tradition still holds great power: as sparks shot into the air, secrets were shared and bonds were created. It felt utterly natural, simple, and free.

Now I’m back in front of my computer screen, but fortunately I’m at Groundwork! so I can find my way into a random lunch conversation in the kitchen soon. And I’m already looking forward to my next weekend to unplug and reconnect at Camp Wild Child in October. Will I see you there, friend?

Full Moon at Camp Wild Child

Moonrise at camp.

Cheers to New Bedford’s Hardware Stores

Many of us in New Bedford bemoan the lack of commercial investment in our neighborhoods. Too many hole-in-the-wall restaurants, markets and taverns are gone and each new closing – like Carmine’s Bakery on Rivet Street not so long ago – feels like an acute loss.

As with many things, we’re most likely remembering a somewhat exaggerated past. The teeming establishments outside of downtown and Acushnet Avenue were probably enjoyed by our parents’ generation and we just heard the stories.

However, some of us likely do remember our neighborhood drugstores, like Family, Lariviere’s, Reca or Nelson, and they are indeed missed. Each helped define their particular neighborhood and were lively centers of commerce and gossip. You could often get a meal or at least an ice cream at their soda fountains, too.

The chain pharmacies like CVS, Rite-Aid, etc. are a poor substitute. They squat on entire city blocks in buildings that are architectural abominations in slavish obedience to their parking lots – Storm Troopers of the global supply chain as commanded by Big Pharma.

Okay, I’m getting carried away. But when I get too worked up, I remind myself that it’s better to dwell on what we have today in our neighborhoods that make them special rather than get lost in the past. And that always leads me to…

New Bedford’s Hardware Stores.

These pugnacious rebels have somehow found a way to carry on the tradition of the neighborhood pharmacy in many places throughout the city in the face of Home Depot and Lowe’s.

Small businesses like Rivet Street Hardware, Almeida’s True Value Hardware, Bourassa’s Hardware, County Street Hardware, and Beacon Paint and Hardware constitute old-fashioned place-making. They help define their city blocks and brand their neighborhoods. In a geographic place all its own sits Fairhaven True Value Hardware on Pope’s Island. And, in a space of historic imagination, you’ll find Kirby Paints off Shawmut Avenue. Taken together, all these establishments and others serve as a bridge between urban past and present.

Yet, they also serve an important function into the future – including the vaunted creative economy of now and tomorrow.

Form follows function = art

Many artists and creative types are big fans and faithful customers of New Bedford’s neighborhood hardware stores. An often overlooked facet of creating art is the need to hang art in sometimes creative ways. And there’s nothing more fun than searching these shops for some fancy hardware that lends something different to your work.

Also, when creating with found materials or constructing installations, you need to find items of use that you may not necessarily find at big box stores. That special hook, custom rope, or metal sheathing that lends itself well to your vision.

Wandering the aisles of New Bedford’s hardware stores stirs your imagination. You find things Home Depot or Lowe’s don’t carry that can fire up your creativity in unexpected ways. Any designer will tell you that form follows functions – and there’s no better place to see that maxim in action than on a shelf at a good hardware store.

Just the right fit

Of course, the bread and butter of New Bedford’s hardware stores are customers who engage in home repair and renovation. They’re in no short supply in a city full of older and historic housing. These buildings often have special needs which are best – or sometimes only – served by Bourassa or Rivet Street Hardware Stores.

Like when searching for door knobs, hinges or latches that fit older doors. Or venting you need for your gas heating stove. And custom screens for your windows. Plumbing fixtures are an especially vexing problem if you have claw foot bathtubs and cast-iron sinks, and Manny at Rivet Street Hardware has rode to the rescue more than once with good advice and the correct faucet.

New Bedford’s hardware stores are the 21st century equivalent of last century’s corner drug stores. They may lack lunch counters, but some of them do carry plants for your garden that grow into tomatoes and basil and cucumbers and more. Call it a take-out lunch.

But really, beyond filling the obvious needs and complementing the creative economy, the hardware stores throughout New Bedford represent the city well as locally owned and staffed small businesses with a human heart and face. And you find them from the south end to the north end, from County Street to Acushnet Avenue and neighborhoods in between, today not yesterday.

Take a look.

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.)

Planting Roots in New Bedford

It’s a simple and quiet thing yet also something profound. At schools throughout New Bedford, GROW Education is entering its third year of planting community gardens for the benefit of students and the neighborhoods around them. GROW Education is a project of the Marion Institute and it is spearheaded in New Bedford by two great Groundwork! members – Adam Davenport and Zoe Hansen-DiBello.

On Tuesday night, May 23, I joined them and area residents at a community planting event at Carlos Pacheco Elementary School on Mt. Pleasant Street. We got our hands dirty planting tomatoes, kale, lettuce, hot peppers, beans and more in the raised beds on the south side of the school.

At Carlos Pacheco Elementary School

Carlos Pacheco sits upon a majestic spot on Mt. Pleasant Street and affords commanding views of the city down Sawyer Street to the harbor. It was a beautiful late spring evening and everyone was having lots of fun.

Adam had prepared the beds and plants for planting – but still, had left enough to do to allow the adults and children present to learn a bit about proper gardening. We were instructed to tickle roots when appropriate and when to handle them gingerly. (The tomatoes are hardy; the hot peppers less so.)

Adam and Zoe (with Rowan in tow) had just come from a larger planting event at Hayden-Mcfadden Elementary School. In total, there are 12 community school gardens in the GROW Education network. They work with the schools and surrounding residents and encourage all concerned to “take ownership” of the garden beds – which means yes, it’s okay to go and pick some kale and tomatoes! 

User-friendly gardens

To help everyone know exactly what’s planted and when it’s best to harvest, impressive new bulletin boards have been installed at the gardens with all sorts of relevant information posted – including a schedule of when Adam will be at each through the summer in case anyone has some questions or suggestions. (Kudos to YouthBuild New Bedford for their construction prowess.)

The benefits of these great gardens are many. They instill a sense of community at and around an underutilized public resource – our schools. Additionally, children – and adults! – learn something by the act of planting and harvesting. And, as one mom put it Tuesday night, her kids aren’t hot for veggies – but she’s hoping they’ll learn to love ‘em if they’ve had a hand in producing fresh produce on their doorstep.

Finally, as I wrote above, the gardens are just fun to work and play in! They brought out the kid in everyone Tuesday night as we dug up dirt and navigated around worms to plant our bounty. The real kids in the group wandered over to the playground and basketball hoops after the labor was complete and Carlos Pacheco was alive with community.

Not a bad evening’s work.

  • The GROW Education gardens (as well as the school playgrounds) could always use some resources. If any area businesses or entrepreneurs would like to help out and perhaps sponsor a space or some equipment and supplies, contact Zoe at zoe@marioninstitute.org. You can follow GROW Education gardens and events from their Facebook page here.
  • ABOUT GROW Education: GROW Education is an innovative community gardening initiative that works with local schools to cultivate healthy bonds in urban neighborhoods. The GROW Education gardens provide hands-on learning during the school day, and a hub for cultivating community education and action throughout the year. Find out more here.

Virginia Woolf at Haskell Public Gardens

It’s been almost six months since the New Bedford Feminist Reading Group convened for the first time. Launched in January at the initiative of performance artist Andy Anello, the group has turned the pages of Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi; Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich; M Train by Patti Smith; and The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Groundwork! has been happy to host the group on the second Saturday of the month since January. It’s been a fun discussion each time and it’s been great to meet new people and hear new voices.

But now, it’s time to go outside as well as think outside the box.

Taking it to Haskell Public Gardens

The next meeting of the New Bedford Feminist Reading Group will take place on Saturday, June 10 under the trees at Haskell Public Gardens, 787 Shawmut Avenue, the group decided this past week.

Regular readers of this blog know that we consider Haskell a very special space. Last summer, I curated Maps & Legends at the park, featuring the work of almost a dozen area artists including myself and Groundwork! co-founder, Dean Haden. This summer, I’m happy to be back at it with Maps & Legends Two: If By Sea – slated to open Friday, July 14.

Haskell is a gem of a space – a true urban oasis. It’s open to the public from sunrise to sunset every day. It’s a perfect spot for discussing literature and weighty topics in the warm sunshine in a relaxed atmosphere.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

In June, the group will be tackling their weightiest edition yet – Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. Like all books being read, it was chosen by a member of the group. Orlando is, “a high-spirited romp inspired by the tumultuous family history of Woolf’s lover and close friend, the aristocratic poet and novelist Vita Sackville-West, it is arguably one of Woolf’s most popular novels: a history of English literature in satiric form,” according to Wikipedia

Also weighty are the discussions each month at the book group meetings. Given the political climate, the state of the nation has tended to dominate – but not overwhelm. Literature, learning and the examination of cultural identities around the world are frequent topics.

So, too, is the examination of…each other! Most members of the New Bedford Feminist Reading Group are visitors to Groundwork! It’s been fun to have new people pass through the doors and discover this great co-working space as well as each other.

So, we’ll look forward to bringing it back inside in the fall, but for the summer, it’s time to go outside.

New Bedford Feminist Reading Group organizer Andy Anello kicks back in the Groundwork! hammock.

You’re Invited…

And, you’re invited. If you’d like to join in on the discussion, feel free to join the reading group at Haskell Public Gardens on Saturday, June 10th at 3:00 p.m. under the Cedar trees. Contact group organizer Andy Anello at andy.anello@gmail.com to let him know you’re coming and then find out…

“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

The Summer of Love The Ave

In previous posts, I’ve written about the collective effort known as Love The Ave to focus attention on the busy north New Bedford commercial corridor and surrounding area.

That effort kicks into high gear and enters a new phase just as the busy summer season approaches. On Monday, May 15, north end merchants met at Cafe Europa to enjoy some excellent Sopa Portuguesa – and to begin implementing a game plan for communicating everything that Acushnet Avenue offers to residents and visitors alike.

As part of that plan, I’m happy to introduce the new Love The Ave logo you see above. It was chosen from a group of five designs and was the overwhelming favorite. Soon, you’ll see it on promotional material, window decals, flags, banners and even t-shirts. It’s a simple but effective way to brand The Ave – as it is commonly known – and create an entry point for residents and patrons alike.

Any area undergoing urban regeneration faces challenges – but the concerted efforts of residents, business owners and supporters operating in tandem on the Love The Ave steering committee have conspired to make sure that this is the Summer of Love The Ave.

There’s a lot to love in New Bedford’s north end. A newly-produced brochure that is intended to act as a shorthand guide for patrons lists almost 30 restaurants and bakeries all on The Ave – and another dozen just off it.

Additionally, it offers up several festivals that call north end home – such as the world-famous Feast of the Blessed Sacrament, Day of Portugal and the Polish Feast (a small gem that features amazing pierogis!). The brochure also lists points of interest like St. Anthony’s Church and Hatch Street Studios – just a few blocks off The Ave.

At Monday’s merchant meeting, everyone was clear-eyed about the challenges facing the revitalization of Acushnet Avenue, particularly the sense that it’s too gamey an area to hold widespread appeal. But that perception hasn’t stopped the business owners around the table from investing their blood and best hopes on The Ave and, it hasn’t stopped faithful patrons from enjoying the best bacalhau around at Cafe Mimo or exquisite Portuguese tarts at Chocolate Com Pimenta bakery.

Nor has it stopped the city’s dynamic Latino and Central American communities from growing and planting roots along Acushnet Avenue. In fact, thanks to this Latin influence, Acushnet Avenue boasts something downtown New Bedford sorely needs – a full-fledged grocery, Union Fruit Market at 1437 Acushnet Avenue.

I could go on and on enumerating other fantastic eateries, shops and assorted small businesses along The Ave, but am confident you get the idea that there’s plenty on offer for the urban homesteader or pioneer. And, I would include that slightly gamey atmosphere that is better described as…authentic city living.

Stay tuned to this blog and also follow news, events and happenings on and around Acushnet Avenue on the Love The Ave Facebook page to stay in the loop. As the temperature climbs, The Ave will be heating up and together, we’ll make it the Summer of Love The Ave.

New Bedford gets its Pride back

Anyone with a passing familiarity with Richard Florida’s work probably knows that the guru of urban regeneration considers the concentration and active participation of gay men and women of high importance to a city’s creative class and ultimate success. So much so that he even created a “Gay index” to help gauge a place’s future viability. Florida wrote in “Cities and the Creative Class” that talent or creative capital is attracted to places that score high on basic indicators of diversity – a dynamic LGBT community being one of them.

While New Bedford is certainly home to a wonderful LGBT community, it hasn’t been a particularly visible or vibrant one – but that may finally be beginning to change for the better and to the city’s benefit.

The rising voice of the LGBT in community affairs, culture and nightlife is being heard everywhere. The city’s too often overlooked gay bar, Le Place at 20 Kenyon Street in the north end, is enjoying a renaissance with new drag and movie nights and other fun events. Incognito bar on Acushnet Avenue has a relaxed, “post-gay” vibe. (Post-gay being defined as an attitude that looks upon all sexuality as simply human rather subject to a label.) The New Bedford Local Cultural Council just helped fund an exhibit that will take place this summer at the New Bedford Free Public Library which will feature photos from Provincetown’s ‘70s-era gay heyday.

But perhaps most important is the fact that New Bedford is getting its Pride back.

Pride in the Park

On Saturday, June 3, New Bedford rejoins the ranks of cities holding public gay pride festivals with “Pride in the Park.”

The day-long celebration takes place at Buttonwood Park beginning at 9:30am and includes the following: “Yoga in the Park” hosted by Jeff Costa; a “Pride Wellness Walk” hosted by New Bedford Wellness Initiative; vendors; flow artists; drag performers and live singers. There will even be a headliner: Kristen Merlin from Season 6 of The Voice. It will be an all-ages, family-friendly event that goes on until 4:00pm.

South Coast LGBTQ Network, an umbrella organization of non-profit groups, is leading the way. Traci Welch, the Network’s event coordinator and secretary, explains that she and the Network picked up the reins of Pride two years ago when its former organizer, South Coast Equality, wasn’t able to make its traditional downtown public event happen. They moved it to Le Place for the last two years – but were always concerned that it excluded families, being a 21 and up venue. (This year, an after-Pride night-time event takes place at Le Place.)

So, they’ve gone to work to create “Pride in the Park” – and sponsors, program advertisers and vendors are welcome to show their support. You can get all the information you need at sclgbtqnetwork.org.

A vibrant gay community

It’s a great thing that New Bedford has its Pride back. While the city has generally always been a relatively accepting place, it hasn’t exactly been at the forefront of sexual politics. And, the horrific Puzzles attack cast a pall on the gay community even as Massachusetts led the nation in the fight for same-sex marriage.

Renewed respect for and attention to vital institutions that mean something to the LGBT community like Le Place and a Pride celebration are big steps in the right direction. Just as important, the recognition of  LGBT leaders with a voice in the greater community dialogue is critical.

A vibrant LGBT community that is engaged and engaging can only burnish the appeal of New Bedford, solidify its growing reputation as a creative community poised for a new era of growth, and enrich its soul.

That’s something we can all take pride in.