City Wins Major Cultural Grants

By Joe Cohen
Standard-Times Staff Writer

NEW BEDFORD — The Massachusetts Cultural Council on Friday announced two grants totaling $95,000 for New Bedford to continue building its “creative economy,” with one for $60,000 to the New Bedford Economic Development Council and another for $35,000 to AHA!, the monthly celebration of arts and culture.
At a press conference at UMass Dartmouth’s University Art Gallery in downtown New Bedford, officials praised the results of building the city’s creative economy.
The council grants came through the Adams Arts Program for the Creative Economy, with New Bedford getting about 12.6 percent of the $750,000 being given out statewide.
The $35,000 for AHA! actually is a cut from the $60,000 the organization received last year under the same program. The $60,000 for the economic development council is new funding. The council plans to use the money for a development office that will coordinate activities, provide business assistance and lending and conduct planning for the creative economy in the city.
The Massachusetts Cultural Council said the grants are intended to more fully integrate arts and culture into the city’s economic development agenda.
In making the announcement, State Sen. Mark C.W. Montigny said it is “time to celebrate the greatness of New Bedford.” He said the majority of credit for the transformation of the downtown belongs to the “small entrepreneurs” and the “arts and culture people.” Montigny recounted how the downtown revival began in the mid-1990s with the former Star Stores building — which now houses the UMass gallery — and “a lot of finger-crossing and wishful thinking.” Now, he said, the “critical mass is here” for it to continue.
State Rep. Antonio F.D. Cabral, D-New Bedford, whose district includes downtown, said, “We are no longer a one-industry town.” Instead, he said, New Bedford has a diversified economy and “the creative economy is part of that.”
State Rep. Robert M. Koczera, D-New Bedford, praised AHA! and efforts to build the creative economy. He called AHA! “truly a community program (that provides a “richness that has no price tag.” Koczera added that “economic development is people development.”
Anthony R. Sapienza, president of Joseph Abboud Manufacturing and head of the economic development council, praised the artists and organizations that have built up the city’s creative economy, and noted the council has a subcommittee focused on it. Creative economy “dollars that will be earned by people, (are) dollars that will feed families,” he said.
Contact Joe Cohen at
February 15, 2009 6:00 AM
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