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'I felt hope for how art can bring us back together': 'Art is Everywhere' grants awarded

July 1, 2021 : The Standard Times, by Kerri Tallman

NEW BEDFORD — While the pandemic created so much loss, so many opportunities for art and culture blossomed.

As part of New Bedford Creative's "Art is Everywhere" grant program, young aspiring journalists, historic archives of the pandemic and learning trails will benefit in sparking creativity within the community.

"Each proposal had a unique take on how art can inspire new connections and rekindle old ones," said Takeru Nagayoshi in a press release. Nagayoshi is a member of the Review Committee for the program as well as 2020 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year. "In a year where we lost so much in our communities, I felt hope for how art can bring us back together."

New Bedford Creative Review Committee examined what arts and culture can accomplish for a city through the prism of public schools, social work, emergency and disaster relief, early education, elderly services, philanthropy and policy advocacy.

The grant was available to projects that "represent passion, diversity and commitment to values which characterize this authentic seaport city at its best." The six projects have been awarded a total of $64,000.

"I believe the projects selected all reflect the 'Art is Everywhere' intention,” said New Bedford Creative Strategist, Margo Saulnier. “To creatively solve community challenges with arts and culture, and begin the healing and recovery process after what has been (and continues to be for many) a devastating year."

These projects will have an impact on children and students of the city by actively participating in New Bedford Children's Creative Resource Center, Basics Learning Trail and Highlighting Diverse Stories.

In addition, grant recipients will receive a one-year membership to the Co-Creative Center and the opportunity to participate in professional development training through New Bedford Creative.

Grant recipients

"Highlighting Diverse Stories: New Bedford's Middle Schoolers as Literacy Ambassador," $2,500: Educator Emma York and The Scallop founder Sawyer Pollitt will lead students at Our Sisters' School in writing a monthly column spotlighting books whose protagonists, authors and themes reflect New Bedford's diversity.

New Bedford Children: Creative Resource Center, $12,000: This project will bring together local artists and early childhood educators to the Kilburn Mill to explore new and innovative ideas and materials for use in classrooms. The center will host free bi-weekly educator workshops open to educators from more than 35 early childhood centers in the city.

"Pandemic Renaissance - The Art of Surviving C 19," $20,000: The project will serve as a historic archive of the pandemic captured through the art, dance, music and poetry by Cape Verdean artists Iva Brito and a'Ali DeSousa. It will document how multicultural communities have persevered and humanity can shone through.

"Pride Month: Kaleidoscope - Art Through Your Eyes," $2,500: This two-part project consists of an LGBTQ+ art show entitled "Kaleidoscope - Art Through Your Eyes" at Gallery X and a month-long virtual book club discussion group for LGBTQ+ community members. The book club was created by the South Coast LGBTQ Network and discussion will be lead by transgender author and counselor Dr. Stacee Reicherzer.

The South Coast Learning Trails, $15,000: Little People's College in collaboration with the New Bedford Birth to Grade 3 Partnership and the Southcoast Coalition for Early Childhood Education is set to build a learning trail along Acushnet Avenue. Five local artists will transform storefront windows into interactive visuals for children and families passing by. The signs/art installations will reflect "The Five Basics Principles:" maximize love, manage stress; talk, sing, point; count, group, compare; explore through movement and play; read and discuss stories.

"Um Frenti Unido - Um Prujeto di Memória Kultural (A United Front - A Cultural Memory Project)" $12,000: This project will honor the Cape Verdean community in New Bedford and explore how "creative placemaking" is a catalyst for the rapid rent increases leading to the displacement and gentrification of historic African and Indigenous communities in Acushnet.

In late 2019, the Barr Foundation awarded a grant to MassDevelopment to help create an arts-based economic development program through its Transformative Development Initiative called "TDI Creative Cities." New Bedford was chosen as the pilot city for "TDI Creative Cities" and the "Art is Everywhere" grant program was created to support the strategy.