Love Letters for New Bedford launches this September story-telling series and special projects feature Creative Ambassadors

NEW BEDFORD, MA  — The art of storytelling is as old as cave paintings and as modern as the Internet. The stories we tell define us and illuminate our journey through time.

At this time in New Bedford, a new storytelling initiative is about to begin – with the help of Creative Ambassadors and a Creating Connection cohort brought together by New Bedford Creative, under the guidance of Arts Midwest.

The prologue to “Love Letters for New Bedford” is this…

New Bedford was selected as the first place-based pilot of Creating Connection to explore what happens when creative people and organizations who care deeply about New Bedford and believe that arts, culture, and creativity can and must help residents connect more to themselves, their loved ones, their community, and their cultural heritage.

As 2022 began eight New Bedford arts and culture nonprofit organizations came together as a cohort determined to discover new ways of Creating Connection within the city. The eight were chosen as part of a competitive process overseen by Arts Midwest, in partnership with New Bedford Creative.

Arts Midwest developed the Creating Connection program and has brought it to select locations – like New Bedford – throughout the country. The program’s broad goals are to make creative expression, arts, and culture a recognized, valued, and expected part of everyday life.

The specific tools to make that happen within the Creating Connection framework include in-depth training and investment around relevance to the community – and new messaging strategies reflecting the unique values inherent in each location.

To complement the work undertaken in New Bedford, a new group of Creative Ambassadors will share their personal journeys and projects in the city in a series of stories which will be posted to

“Love Letters for New Bedford” is a campaign that will launch soon that will weave stories of connection and creativity into a public narrative that uplifts diverse perspectives and forms of expression to reflect New Bedford’s creativity and embrace of the arts.

The Creating Connection Creative Ambassadors are: Candida Rose Baptista, Gerardo Beltrán Salinas, Iva Brito, Cedric Douglas, Rhonda M. Fazio, Mandy Fraser, Beatriz Oliveira, Julia Roth Ritchie, and, the organizations 3rd EyE Youth Empowerment and the Community Economic Development Center (CEDC).

As Creative Ambassadors, each will develop a special project which will be highlighted within the context of their own individual experiences in and feelings for New Bedford. Together, they are “Love Letters for New Bedford.”

Helping to shape the stories and maintain the narrative through and associated social media will be the writer, Steven Froias; storyteller and social media manager, Beatriz Oliveira, photographers Justin Botelho, Frank Oliver, John Robson, and Josh Souza; the videographer Ethan de Aguiar; and, of course, the New Bedford Creative team under the New Bedford Economic Development Center umbrella.

“We’re excited to share ‘Love Letters for New Bedford’ this Fall,” says Margo Saulnier, Creative Strategist for New Bedford Creative. “These stories are the ones that sometimes get lost, are unheard, or are not amplified enough in our daily lives, but really reflect the spirit and vibrancy of the city.”

Indeed, as part of the original Creating Connection cohort, Peter Walker of 3rd EyE Youth Empowerment remarked, “We want to deal with the humanity of the person and then provide them the resources to connect with the people that can help them…We start through the arts because that is a universal language and we’ve had a lot of breakthroughs that make people feel empowered to speak.”

Added David Prentiss of the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra, “New Bedford individuals and organizations have built a strong practice of constructive interaction and partnering to get creative things done. I also think we have a learning culture – learning from each other and from our own experiences.”

The eight arts and culture organizations representing New Bedford in the cohort are 3rd EyE Youth Empowerment, New Bedford Symphony Orchestra, New Bedford Art Museum/ArtWorks!, Buy Black New Bedford, DATMA (Massachusetts Design, Art, and Technology Institute), New Bedford Historical Society, Cape Verdean Association in New Bedford, and the Co-Creative Center.

Now, they’ll be joined by a cohort of Creative Ambassadors to deepen the experience of arts and culture in New Bedford and, through words, images, and video on, form a stronger connection to the community.

It’s why Arts Midwest brought Creating Connection to New Bedford in the first place. The group naturally believes that connection is engendered through creative expression, achieved through growth that teaches and inspires.

In so doing, a community finds a voice that honors its heritage and allows it to be shared across generations. Which in turn fosters well-being and promotes happiness. Together, these constitute the values that help create connection – and strengthen an entire city.

Follow the story and make your own connection; join New Bedford Creative’s newsletter on its website and follow on; and @_nbcreative on Instagram.

–           The Barr Foundation is funding Creating Connection as part of its investment in the city’s arts and culture sector. New Bedford Creative is funded by the city’s Arts, Culture and Tourism Fund, with additional support from Bristol County Savings Bank, Mass Cultural Council, and MassDevelopment’s “TDI Creative Cities Initiative.” It is managed by the New Bedford Economic Development Council (NBEDC).

Featured photo: Creative Ambassador and Artist Mandy Fraser painting a Secret City Whale mural during the city-wide 20mi2 event. Photo by Frank Oliver

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