The Resilience of Public Art in New Bedford’s North End

By Steven Froias

#NBcreative writer-at-large

In recent years, New Bedford’s North End has witnessed the emergence of various public art initiatives that have not only transformed the visual landscape but also served as powerful tools for change. Two “Art is Everywhere” projects that I revisited in May while on The Ave, as Acushnet Avenue is known, underscored the resilience of public art in the city.  

The SouthCoast Learning Trails and the graffiti free wall alongside the former Capitol Theatre building exemplify the resilience and impact of public art surrounding The Ave – indeed, it’s another reason to #LoveTheAve. Supported by the Barr Foundation, these Art is Everywhere initiatives facilitated by #NBcreative have now become part of New Bedford’s creative infrastructure, fostering connection, education, and revitalization.

SouthCoast Learning Trails: Merging Art and Education

The SouthCoast Learning Trails project stands as a testament to the transformative power of public art in early childhood education. By uniting artists with local businesses along Acushnet Avenue, this initiative visually embodies the fundamentals of learning. Through vibrant murals and artistic installations, the Learning Trails emphasize key concepts while igniting curiosity and imagination in children and families.

Southcoast Learning Trails was recently featured in The Basics Inc. annual newsletter. The non-profit is based in Boston, but states, “we think and act both locally and globally.” The diverse community surrounding The Ave is perfect for them!

The Basics Southcoast successfully brought learning to life along Acushnet Avenue. And two years after it went up, the art still looks great and is performing that same task at venues up and down The Ave.

The Graffiti Free Wall: A Constantly Evolving Artistic Canvas

Alongside the former Capitol Theatre building, the graffiti free wall, initiated during a virtual 3rd Eye Unlimited event at the height of the pandemic, continues to evolve and inspire years after its introduction in 2020.

Coordinated with the Community Economic Development Center on Acushnet Avenue, the wall serves as a dynamic canvas for local artists to express their creativity and convey meaningful messages. The ongoing repainting of the wall showcases the commitment of the community to artistic expression and serves as a visible symbol of resilience in the face of adversity.

Art is Everywhere: Fostering Community Engagement

The Art is Everywhere program, supported by the Barr Foundation, has been instrumental in empowering and funding numerous public art projects throughout New Bedford. Its arrival in 2020 marked a turning point for the city’s creative landscape, inspiring a wave of community engagement and neighborhood revitalization.

From the SouthCoast Learning Trails to the graffiti free wall and beyond, Art is Everywhere initiatives have proven their significance and impact on New Bedford’s artistic fabric. These projects serve as focal points for neighborhoods, providing platforms for self-expression, cultural exchange, and community pride.

Creative Infrastructure

The resilience of public art in New Bedford’s North End is a testament to the power of creativity in transforming communities. The SouthCoast Learning Trails and the graffiti free wall exemplify the impact of art in education, community engagement, and urban revitalization. As these projects and others funded by the Art is Everywhere program continue to shine, they serve as reminders of the artistic vibrancy and collective spirit that define New Bedford. 

So, the next time you stroll along Acushnet Avenue, take a moment to appreciate these artistic gems and recognize them for what they are: integral components of the city’s creative infrastructure.

Featured photo: Artist Fitzcarmel LaMarre with his Southcoast Learning Trails project at Nova Bakery on Acushnet Avenue, New Bedford. Photo by Josh Souza.

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