MassDevelopment Uses $1.3 Million Barr Foundation Award to Launch "TDI Creative Cities" in New Bedford

December 14, 2020


Kelsey Schiller, MassDevelopment, 617-694-9695 (cell)

Members of New Bedford arts group 3rd EyE Unlimited film programming for Your New Bedford, a virtual monthly pop-up series held this summer featuring music, live painting, dance, spoken word, community conversations, and more. The series was made possible by a $50,000 Art Is Everywhere grant awarded to 3rd EyE Unlimited by New Bedford Creative as part of MassDevelopment's yearlong planning and program design phase with key community partners in the city.

MassDevelopment, through its Transformative Development Initiative (TDI), has launched “TDI Creative Cities,” a new multiyear program for graduated TDI districts aimed at building a sustainable arts infrastructure within a city as a mechanism for supporting economic growth. Using a recently awarded $1.3 million grant from the Barr Foundation, MassDevelopment will direct $550,000 to fund TDI Creative Cities in New Bedford, the first city selected to participate, in Fiscal Years 2021 and 2022, and will direct $100,000 to expand the program to a second city in Fiscal Year 2022. MassDevelopment will also direct $650,000 to fund its TDI Creative Catalyst Grant program, which supports locally initiated, public facing projects that advance arts- and culture-based economic development and neighborhood revitalization, in Fiscal Years 2021 and 2022.

“Arts and culture are major economic drivers in Massachusetts – particularly in our Gateway Cities, which are home to vibrant neighborhoods, cultural institutions, and creative communities,” said MassDevelopment President and CEO Lauren Liss. “The Barr Foundation’s $1.3 million grant builds on its earlier support to allow us to pioneer TDI Creative Cities in New Bedford and continue our TDI Creative Catalyst Grant program across our Gateway Cities. We are deeply grateful to the Barr Foundation for its commitment to arts and culture, and for its continued support as MassDevelopment tests new approaches to economic development.”

“Our Gateway Cities are brimming with opportunities to harness creativity and innovation, inspired by rich and varied cultural traditions and long histories of creative industries,” said San San Wong, Director of Arts & Creativity at the Barr Foundation. “Our partnership with MassDevelopment represents a holistic approach of combining economic development and the imaginative power of artists and cultural organizations to jump-start local economies, build social cohesion, and foster civic pride. We hope that these bright spots will inspire more and lasting partnerships throughout the Commonwealth.”

In New Bedford, TDI Creative Cities will support existing arts and culture partnerships and help build a sustainable creative infrastructure that can continue after the program ends in Fiscal Year 2022. The program will encompass five key strategies: (1) staff support for City of New Bedford Arts and Culture Strategist Margo Saulnier and Co-Creative Center Program Manager Dena Haden, two local leaders centrally involved in this work; (2) implementation funding, which will primarily support local projects that forge partnerships in the creative economy and draw focus to downtown New Bedford; (3) partnership development, which will improve data collection on programs and establish a cross-sector training program; (4) leadership training, which will support online virtual programming from established groups already promoting leadership development; and (5) place designation, which aims to strengthen the perception and narrative that New Bedford is home to a thriving creative economy.

In September 2019, the Barr Foundation awarded MassDevelopment a $500,000 grant to fund a yearlong planning and program design phase for TDI Creative Cities in New Bedford, and to launch the first round of the TDI Creative Catalyst Grant program for Gateway Cities; in January 2020, MassDevelopment awarded $340,000 in grants to 11 organizations to support public art, community theatres, public markets and gardens, artist spaces, and other projects.

“We are pleased that New Bedford has been selected as the first Creative Cities recipient, thanks to MassDevelopment’s Transformative Development Initiative,” said New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell. “Our vibrant arts and culture scene has long been a driver of growth in our city, and expansion of that landscape will support economic development in the city while enhancing quality of life for all our residents.”

In recent years, New Bedford’s reputation has grown as a center for arts in the region and as a creative and inviting place for all types of artists to live and work. New Bedford was named the “Seventh Most Artistic City” by Atlantic Monthly, ranked ninth on Matador Network’s list of Most Creative Towns, and sixth on Bustle’s Best Cities for Young Artists. In 2016, Mayor Mitchell proposed the Commonwealth’s first municipal Arts, Culture and Tourism Fund, derived from revenues of the city’s lodging tax and approved by the City Council and state legislature. A cultural strategist and strategic arts and culture planning effort are also supported by the fund.

MassDevelopment’s Transformative Development Initiative works with cross-sector partnerships in targeted commercial districts in order to engage community members, implement local economic development initiatives, and spur further public and private investment. During the program’s first five years, MassDevelopment has invested $17.8 million in the TDI districts through tools such as technical assistance, real estate investments, grant programs, and fellows who work in the districts. That investment has directly influenced over $78.6 million and assisted an additional $81.9 million of public and private investments in the districts.

MassDevelopment, the state’s finance and development agency, works with businesses, nonprofits, banks, and communities to stimulate economic growth across the Commonwealth. During FY2020, MassDevelopment financed or managed 341 projects generating investment of more than $2.69 billion in the Massachusetts economy. These projects are estimated to create or support 10,871 jobs and build or preserve 1,787 housing units.