AHA! Night Celebrates City’s Young Artists, $60,000 Grant

By Jennifer Lade
Standard-Times Staff Writer

NEW BEDFORD — Mosaics made of construction paper, chalk drawings and watercolor paintings were among the abundance of art on display around the city Thursday night, showing the promise of New Bedford’s youngest artists
Children raced through the library, Artworks!, The Standard-Times’ lobby and other venues downtown. With parents in tow, they excitedly pointed out their artwork.
“Emergence,” the theme for Thursday’s AHA! Night, celebrated budding artists, from children in the New Bedford public schools to UMass Dartmouth art students. It also was a celebration of another year of funding from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. The project received a $60,000 Adams Grant to continue its work to provide the public with free access to art, history and architecture through downtown cultural nights on the second Thursday of each month.
“There are communities all over the commonwealth that want to have an AHA! just like you’re having,” Massachusetts Cultural Council Executive Director Anita Walker said at a press conference Thursday evening.
She recognized state Sen. Mark C.W. Montigny, D-New Bedford, and Mayor Scott W. Lang, who both attended, saying leadership at the state and city levels has helped make New Bedford’s cultural nights successful.
Sen. Montigny said New Bedford’s downtown, full of cultural attractions and businesses, was achieved by committed people who believe that the arts will help the economy, and private business owners who saw the economic potential of opening in the city.
“We all in our own way have some love or talent for the arts,” he said
The Massachusetts Cultural Council awarded $1.3 million to 36 projects in 2008 through the Adams Grants, which look to stimulate the state’s creative economy.
AHA! Nights have been funded through the Adams Grant every year since 2000, except for 2004, according to MCC’s Web site.
AHA! program director Lee Heald also announced that Thursday’s AHA! Night was a stop on the Creative Minds tour, which highlights statewide cultural events that emphasize the importance of arts education and creative learning for young people.
Kerri Quinlan-Zhou, director of fine arts for the New Bedford public schools, wrapped up the press conference by speaking about the importance of having arts in the school curriculum.
“There’s an increasing body of knowledge that supports the critical role that arts play,” she said, citing increased student engagement, achievement and marketability in the working world.
She said she is grateful the community recognizes that “art can open doors, but, more importantly, it can open minds.”
Contact Jennifer Lade at jlade@s-t.com
April 11, 2008
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