New Bedford is the arts and cultural center of southeastern Massachusetts, boasting a wide array of attractions and diverse venues that showcase the history, art, and cultural fabric, and is home to hundreds of artists, designers and performers who contribute to our distinctive identity.
The critical mass of artists, performers, galleries, studios, and cultural institutions that flourish in New Bedford have created the ambience of a vibrant coastal cultural center. Harnessing the future potential of this sector is vital to our strategy for economic development as well as to the quality of life of everyone living in and visiting our city.
New Bedford is home to the University of Massachusetts College of Visual and Performing Arts, the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center, and AHA! themed cultural nights involving over 40 museums, galleries, arts organizations, cultural institutions, merchants, restaurants, and night spots, that consistently attract thousands of visitors.
New Bedford is close to Providence and Boston and offers artists, studios, and companies in this cluster all the rewards of doing business in Massachusetts with considerable advantages:
- Lower cost of doing business (20-40% lower wages than Greater Boston; 50-90% lower industrial and residential real estate costs)
- Start-up incubator space available in the Quest Center offering a high-support environment to assist early-stage studios and graphic design companies
- Affordable opportunities for studio and live-work spaces in historic mill locations
- A network of artists and open studio events taking place throughout the year
The creative economy means real jobs and real investment for New Bedford and its citizens. This is not an area of activity that only provides benefit to tourists or our suburban neighbors. In 2008, a market and economic analysis was undertaken to provide the City with a fact base from which to build a strategic plan for economic development. The findings indicate that we have an opportunity to build upon substantial and successful investment in the core historic downtown area. Key findings relating to building a sustainable creative economy include:
- New Bedford’s burgeoning creative economy represents both strength and opportunity
- The creative economy represents approximately 3% of employment in the city with an annual payroll of $26.75 million
- This high proportion of workers in the creative economy exceeds the national (1.62%) and statewide (2.58%) percentages
- Nearly 1,400 workers in New Bedford were Creative Economy employees with annual compensation of $48 million
- The mean salary for Creative Economy workers was $38,000 compared to $26,032 for seafood processors and $30,350 for textile workers
Financing and Incentives
Working closely with our state and local partners, we can develop an innovative package of federal, state, and local incentives designed to meet the specific needs of creative enterprises interesting in locating or expanding in New Bedford.
The NBEDC also funds a targeted micro-loan program to assist small businesses operating within the creative economy and may be used for starting a business, working capital, studio space, equipment purchase, increasing capacity, and/or expanding retail.
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