How Rhonda Fazio Nourishes New Bedford

There’s probably no more nourishing New Bedford artist – or Environmental Alchemist, as she refers to herself – than Rhonda M. Fazio. And that is meant literally as well as figuratively. 

Many know Rhonda through her work with Coastal Foodshed at its New Bedford Farmers Markets and other special events. There, she teaches the “Art and the Language of Food” and “SNAP to the MAX” through delicious dishes whipped up on the spot using local ingredients.

But in addition to filling our bellies with delicious creativity, Rhonda M. Fazio also drapes our bodies with wearable art and designs as a textile artist. Warmth, home and a passion for life permeates her identity, and are liberally shared as Love Letters for New Bedford through her art of storytelling. 

The Environmental Alchemist is a graduate of art history from the

University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Prior to UMD, she studied Professional Craft: Fiber and Clay at Haywood Community College near Asheville, North Carolina – an area rich with the influence and philosophy of Black Mountain College, she remembers. 

In 1998, she began her journey as an Artist when she founded Dyer Maker Studio, specializing in the art and craft of sustainable textile design. She describes Dyer Maker Studio as a traveling textile maker-space based in the South Coast. With it, she teaches textile design through a series of experimental workshops.

Eventually, she was also a resident artist for schools from Maine to New York and developed a “Teaching through Textiles” curriculum and conducted “Dyeing to Wear It: Creating Community through Color” workshops throughout the Commonwealth and surrounding states of New England and New York.

Rhonda’s work with food and fabric reflects what she sees as the essential connection between people from all over the world in relation to the journey of the human narrative –  and that we are all “interwoven” because of it. 

In February 2020, Rhonda made that an idea a reality in a physical space. She opened Interwoven Gallery and Makerspace in the Seaport District of New Bedford at 634 Pleasant Street – a venue created by an Artist for Artists. It is the host venue for Dyer Maker Studio, and to a variety of artist’s events that represent the creativity of the arts community in New Bedford.

It’s a personal as well as professional milestone for this Creative Ambassador. “My journey as a mother and an artist is the inspiration I draw from as I continue my travels in this life,” she reflects. “It was during the most trying times that I became the most creative. I shuffled my inherent skills around and developed creative ways to support my son without giving up on my dreams.”

She explains, “I translate this journey through the process of making – by bringing together the fundamental skills of creating food and fabric to tell an inclusive story within the narrative of my experiential workshops.

“‘Dyeing to Wear It: Creating Community through Color’ and ‘SNAP to the MAX’ were born out of my struggles to survive and stay the course as I developed the aspects of the self that were most important to me – my son, my work, and the community that surrounds me.”

As a Creative Ambassador, that journey will continue. “ I go where the people are to initiate connections and conversations through the narrative and the process of making,” she says. 

Which means there will be more nourishment for New Bedford residents with additional workshops for “Dyeing to Wear It” at library branches in the city, and other partnering venues. And, a “Farm to Table” dinner will take place at the Buttonwood Park location of the New Bedford Farmers Market. 

“Guest chefs will cook with me and feature a beautiful sampling of foods that will be prepared on-site featuring SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits supported by the market,” she explains. Each chef from the community represents a different culture. Their own take on how to prepare the same foods and how it relates to their culture’s tastes. And here we are all together, “Interwoven” in the process of making”. 

“This is my Love Letter for New Bedford, naturally.” One designed to appeal to the belly and brain, and thus feed the soul.

Pictured above: Rhonda Fazio. 

– New Bedford Creative, with Arts Midwest, is presenting this series of profiles spotlighting Creative Ambassadors in the City of New Bedford. Their stories and special projects are “Love Letters for New Bedford” and are part of “Creating Connection,” funded by The Barr Foundation. Find out more here.

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