‘New Bedford Love Letters’ project to premiere short film, eyes festival run

This article was originally published by Seth Chitwood for SouthCoast Today/The Standard-Times on November 18, 2022.

NEW BEDFORD — After the success of the “New Bedford Love Letters” project in September, a new short film around the culmination of New Bedford Creative’s work this year is set to premiere at The Whaling Museum on Dec. 4.

“This video is less about documenting what we did and more about embodying the idea behind the initiative and presenting that,” said filmmaker Ethan de Aguiar, who co-produced the short film with Beatriz Oliveira and the New Bedford Creative.

The short features footage not only of the artists who participated in the “Love Letter” campaign but additional shots by de Aguiar that he took throughout the year.

“It’s more of a continuation of the work Ethan’s been doing for us,” added Margo Saulnier, director and creative strategist for the nonprofit.

“This was a humbling, challenging project that I would dive right into over and over again,” de Aguiar said. “It pushed me as a creative. It taught me new things, not just about my work, but about my hometown and the people in it.”

According to Saulnier, the “New Bedford Love Letters” project was the end of a year of creating a connection initiative with Arts Midwest, which chose New Bedford to be its play space pilot.

With resources through Arts Midwest, which is a grant from the Barr Foundation, it tested the idea of what happens if you take one place and put in a framework of connecting the values that everyone has with creativity and its arts and culture.

“There is a validation in the faith that I have always had in the talent of the people who live in New Bedford and we’re so thankful that Arts Midwest puts its faith in us for its pilot to show that,” Saulnier said.

Artists discuss the art in New Bedford


In the video, several artists speak about their experiences with New Bedford; as well it features some of the Creating Connection Creative Ambassadors such as Mandy Fraser, Candida Rose Baptista, Gerardo Beltrán Salinas, Iva Brito, Cedric Douglas, Rhonda M. Fazio and Julia Roth.

“I like to consider New Bedford as the Paris of New England, Paris at the time the Impressionist was bubbling,” states artist Allison Wells in the short film.

“New Bedford is continuously filled with a lot of people that are like that, that are revolutionaries and leader,” added Lee Blake, president of the New Bedford Historical Society.

“We weren’t just the city that lit the world, [it’s] a city that’s still lighting the world,” added Maia Jaye Livramento, a spoken word artist, in the 16-minute-long film.

The film will premiere at the Whaling Museum from 3 to 6 p.m. on Dec. 4, featuring an art talkback, followed by a reception.

Next, the filmmaker is eyeing a potential festival run with the documentary short before releasing it to the public on their website. Through FilmFreeway.com, the potential plan is to submit to a number of national and international film festivals such as AFI Docs, Sundance, Cannes, Raindance and DOC NY.

‘Art is Everywhere’ grant is now open


Meanwhile, New Bedford Creative is working to help applicants submit for their recently announced “Art is Everywhere” grant, which awards New Bedford artists between $2,500 and $20,000.

The funded projects prioritize creative solutions to expedite the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic in New Bedford’s neighborhoods.

The grant was originally created in 2020 with funding by MassDevelopment’s Transformative Development Initiative (TDI) and the Barr Foundation as one component of a broader “TDI Creative Cities” initiative to boost arts-based economic development.

“Art is Everywhere” brought projects such as Southcoast Learning Trails to Acushnet Avenue, Um Frenti Unido: a cultural memory project to the historic Cape Verdean Veterans Hall and the Pride Festival to Buttonwood Park.

“I’m just so excited for what we can keep offering New Bedford, and for what we want to do in the near future,” Saulnier said with a secretive smile.

“There’s just so much more we can do and I can’t wait to keep sharing it.”

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