New Bedford Mayor Mitchell receives National Award for Leadership in the Arts

Cites New Bedford Creative, City Artists in acceptance


NEW BEDFORD, MA – City of New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell got a remarkable surprise when he attended The U.S. Conference of Mayors 91st Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C. last week. 

The Conference of Mayors, with Americans for the Arts, awarded Mayor Mitchell its national award for Public Leadership in the Arts. Governor Dan McKee of Rhode Island, and Mayor David Holt of Oklahoma City joined Mitchell in receiving Public Leadership in the Arts awards, while DJ Eric B and Kool DJ Red Alert received Legendary Artist Awards. 

Americans for the Arts is a nonprofit organization whose primary focus is advancing the arts in the United States. It has offices in Washington, D.C., and New York City, and has been active for more than 50 years. 

The United States Conference of Mayors is the official non-partisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more and has over 1,400 member cities. Its 91st Winter Meeting took place from January 17-20, 2023, in Washington, D.C., and was presided over by Conference President Francis X. Suarez, Mayor of Miami.

“The U.S. Conference of Mayors is pleased to recognize the exemplary work of Mayor Holt, Mayor Mitchell, and Governor McKee as they use the arts and culture to not only promote their city/state, but to grow their economies,” remarked Tom Cochran, CEO and Executive Director of The U.S. Conference of Mayors in a news release revealing the awards. 

“Mayors understand the inherent value of the arts to bring people together, promote cultural understanding, and make cities safer places to live, work, and play.”

Mayor Mitchell announced the award in a social media post from the nation’s capital while attending the Conference Winter Meeting, in which he credited New Bedford Creative and the city’s artists: Thank you @Americans4Arts for the recognition which is entirely a tribute to the work of #NBcreative and the beehive of artists and arts institutions that make #newbedford a center of creativity.”

New Bedford Creative is managed by the New Bedford Economic Development Council (NBEDC), and its President, Anthony R. Sapienza was an enthusiastic advocate for Mitchell’s award. 

He wrote to Americans for the Arts, “Often overlooked in an entity such as the NBEDC is the thread our arts and culture-based programming pull through our broader agenda and the city as a whole. We invest in this activity because the arts are a cord that ties together economic, social, and cultural well-being. I can think of no better sign of a city’s strength and inclusiveness than a vibrant arts and culture scene that is ingrained in business districts and neighborhoods alike. We are able to do this work in large part thanks to our partnership with Mayor Mitchell. 

“Mayor Mitchell holds the fundamental belief that creativity can shape society for the better. Under his leadership the strength of New Bedford’s arts and culture community continued to offer imaginative and impactful solutions to expedite recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and strengthen the creative network throughout the city.”

The Public Leadership in the Arts award notes in its citation, “With City Council and local legislative support, Mayor Mitchell established the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ first-ever special revenue fund for the promotion of arts, culture, and tourism. During this past fiscal year alone, the $107,600 from the fund leveraged an additional total amount of $1,173,816 from private and public sources, such as Barr Foundation, Bristol County Savings Bank, MassDevelopment, Mass Cultural Council, New England Foundation for the Arts, and more. The establishment of the Fund led to the creation of the city’s first-ever strategic arts and culture plan published in December 2018.

“Through his ongoing support of the initiatives of the arts and culture plan, and his thoughtful leadership, Mayor Mitchell has provided the foundation to bring New Bedford to a position as one of the leading creative cities in America.”

On behalf of the Massachusetts Design Art & Technology Institute (DATMA) Executive Director Lindsay Miś wrote to Americans for the Arts, “Although DATMA is one of the many dozens of arts and cultural organizations in New Bedford, you will find Mayor Mitchell’s support of our local artists and sector is unwavering. We are a nimble organization that dreams big. Our projects are consistently bolstered by the City. We could never have accomplished such ambitious free and outdoor public art and placemaking events without his personal and continued support.”

The NBEDC’s Margo Saulnier became New Bedford’s first Creative Strategist to implement the arts and culture plan and echoed the sentiments of both Anthony Sapienza and Lindsay Miś. 

“Fundamentally, what we are doing with New Bedford Creative is forging a partnership between the City and all of its residents of imagination. This essential partnership is reflected in the priority status Mayor Mitchell has placed on the importance of arts and culture in New Bedford. This well-deserved award further solidifies that powerful bond.”

FEATURED IMAGE: Mayor Mitchell, second from left, receiving the Public Leadership in the Arts Award at The U.S. Conference of Mayors 91st Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C. – Americans for the Arts photo.

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