They Did It! SUPERFLAT NB soars past fundraising goal

June 13, 2019 : SouthCoast Today, by Steven Froias

On the night of Wednesday, May 29, SUPERFLAT team members Dena Haden and Jeremiah Hernandez were in separate places - but on the same page.

At just about 10:45 p.m., each logged on to the SUPERFLAT NB fundraising Patronicity page. They simultaneously discovered that Amanda Desrosiers from People's Pressed Juices in downtown New Bedford had contributed to the campaign - and pushed them over their goal of reaching $50,000 in 60 days, a sum that would ensure that $50,000 would become $100,000 thanks to a matching grant pledge from MassDevelopment.

Haden and Hernandez texted each other at that moment - but that wasn't the end of the wild ride for SUPERFLAT.

Because then something even more extraordinary happened.

With 24 hours left to collect donations to the campaign, which officially ended the next night, Thursday, May 30 at 11:59 p.m., contributions continued to pour in.

By the team the entire SUPERFLAT team assembled the next evening for a public one-year anniversary and thank you party at Brothers Artisanal on William Street, donations had reached an astounding $70,000 (again, plus that $50,000 match). As of this writing, with the campaign closed, total donations stand at $71,280.00. With the match, that's an over $120,000 investment in New Bedford arts and culture.

Staggering. And, an amazing achievement for the team. When this column first wrote about the partnership with MassDevelopment the first week of April, the 60-day scramble to get $50,000 in contributions and therefore $50,000 more in matching funds seemed daunting.

It was - and even some team members admitted that along the way, they had their doubts about crossing the finish line.

Yet in the end, they came to realize that the money is only a reflection of the true value and strength of SUPERFLAT in and for New Bedford.

A Creative Space for All

State of the Arts has been all over the SUPERFLAT story since day one, well over a year ago. That's when the public mural arts group first formed by assiduously meeting week after week at first the coworking facility, Groundwork and then the Co-Creative Center, when team member Dena Haden became program manager of that downtown facility.

The weeks turned into months and all the planning paid off when SUPERFLAT officially launched in May 2018, and then held their first mural festival that August featuring international and local artists all mashed up together to create public art.

And that's where the real value of SUPERFLAT lies, and why it's a story that needs to be constantly refreshed as it reaches new milestones.

The team knows that even with this latest triumph, the worth of SUPERFLAT isn't measured in dollars, but by the width and breadth of the creative space they are making with the community and for the community here in New Bedford.

The murals and public art are the manifestation of that creative space - a space that many can enter to fulfill their own desires and dreams. And in the process, transform private fulfillment into a public blessing and a force for systemic, societal change for the better.

Like AHA! New Bedford, and a cooperative space like Gallery X, SUPERFLAT is a vehicle for New Bedford to enrich itself, individually as people and collectively as a society. The really astonishing thing about that $70,000 figure? It proves that the city is doing just that - for itself.

Faith in New Bedford

In total, 208 supporters donated to the SUPERFLAT Patronicity campaign. And as the team themselves know, those 208 people, many other spiritual supporters, and the folks who will enter the creative space left behind in their wake as artists or partners in the arts is where the real story unfolds.

Of course, forming a public arts mural group from scratch requires a lot of hard work and then a lot of money to sustain it over time.

The fact that SUPERFLAT was able to meet and then blow past its own ambitious goal of $50,000 to reach over $70,000 is testament to the hard work the entire team put into the effort.

And the money? It says something else about that effort.

It says that the faith placed in SUPERFLAT and its supporters by organizations like Creative Commonwealth, administered by the Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts for the Barr Foundation, and the City of New Bedford's Wicked Cool Places fund was justified. They provided the seed money to launch SUPERFLAT - and now the community has followed suit.

That faith wasn't just placed in the SUPERFLAT team. It was a down payment that the city as a whole would recognize that arts and culture is a tremendous asset to all of us and an opportunity to express ourselves anew in the 21st century.

After all, that's part of New Bedford's culture.

You can't look at the skyline of the city without seeing the magnificent spire of St. Anthony of Padua Church on Acushnet Avenue from almost any point from the near north down to the south end.

History tells us that the church was built by the small contributions of hundreds of ordinary citizens of the city over a hundred years ago, giving what they could to express their belief that they could help make New Bedford a better place to live, work and enjoy.

Now, that partnership between all of New Bedford is being renewed. By, as SUPERFLAT believes, flattening barriers to the arts in the city and beautifying rather than building walls.

Those city forebears and all the people today who lent their support and best wishes to SUPERFLAT share a common ideal. To foster pride and ownership of shared spaces, in today's times through public art.

By creating the means through which New Bedford can express itself anew, SUPERFLAT has shown once again that sometimes, you just gotta have faith to move forward.

And that faith in New Bedford was rewarded - by New Bedford.

The team will now implement their ambitious plans with enough practical financial support to make them happen. Those plans include more public art in every New Bedford neighborhood, more artists being compensated for their work, and more of the city's youth being meaningfully engaged in the arts.

This story doesn't end. It's only just getting started.