Autumn events test new cultural collaboration

NEW BEDFORD — A bold effort to stimulate interest in history, culture and the arts is taking shape in New Bedford.
The whaling museum, the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center, the national park, the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra and the Civil War Roundtable are among the organizations taking part. The partnership is designed to promote and support a variety of cultural events in the city.
“We are looking forward to sharing ideas and resources that can help all of the institutions,” whaling museum president James Russell said Tuesday. A number of events programmed for the fall will provide the first opportunities to test the initiative.
“There are all these great things happening in New Bedford and we want to present them as a whole,” Zeiterion CEO Katherine Knowles said. “The impact will not be just local. It’s also about creating a perception of New Bedford from the outside that something extraordinary is happening here.”
Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and Mayor Scott W. Lang joined Knowles and Russell at a news conference Tuesday afternoon at the whaling museum to announce some of the activities planned for the coming months.
A stage adaptation of “Moby-Dick” by an Irish theater company comes to the “Z” in November. This one-man show had its premiere in the town of Youghal in County Cork, where John Huston’s “Moby Dick” movie was filmed in 1956. A themed lecture, a walking tour, a children’s film festival and a related art exhibit are planned during the show’s run and a former mayor of Youghal will be displaying memorabilia from Huston’s Irish sojourn.
“This whole presentation will be ‘Moby’ through a new lens,” Knowles said. “People can come and immerse themselves.”
In a tough economy, banding together also makes sense, Russell said. “Nonprofits must meet funding challenges with an entrepreneurial spirit,” he said. “We must invent new ways to meet our respective missions through complementary programs and cooperative events.”
In October, another collaboration involves a theater piece called “Civil War Voices” at the “Z” which will be accompanied by a photography exhibit, fife and drum music, a book discussion and local family histories of the Civil War, presented by the New Bedford Civil War Roundtable.
Joe Langlois, president of the roundtable, said his group is pleased to participate.
Dan Dilworth, acting superintendent at the Whaling National Historical Park, said historical walking tours scheduled by the park in conjunction with such events will enhance the experience for residents and visitors alike. “We’re pleased to be part of the fabric of what is going on in the community,” he said.
Frank remarked on the difficulty of obtaining federal funds for cultural institutions in the current economic climate but said the museum’s proximity to the working waterfront offers a lesson to the rest of the country.
“In too many parts of the country, respect for your history and cultural heritage are considered to be opposed to economic activity,” he said. “In New Bedford, a fishing industry that we celebrate historically continues to lead the nation today.”
For more information and a schedule of events, please visit the Whaling Museum Blog at
September 07, 2011 12:00 AM
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