The Roaring Twenties continue for #NBCreative

By Steven Froias

#NBCreative Writer-at-large

Welcome to another edition of the #NBCreative blog year-end wrap-up. In the last blog post, which you can read here, we revisited three significant arts and culture impacts during 2023. In this one, we’ll look at three exciting initiatives arriving in 2024.

Without further ado…. 

Roll ‘em

The founding of the New Bedford Film Festival promises to (finally) put the city on the cinematic map. It’s always been a puzzle that a place that holds the memory of its historic theaters dear to its heart has NO movie theater within its borders (excepting pop-up spaces in the Whaling Museum and the Whaling Historical National Park). The Capitol, Arcade, State and Orpheum were movie palaces that still reside in living memory, but the Dartmouth Mall is the only place to catch first run theatrical feature films in the area. 

So, the success of the New Bedford Film Festival could not only spotlight the filmmaking talent of New Bedford and the region, but also pave the way for the eventual establishment of a permanent, dedicated home for cinema somewhere in the city. Independent cinemas have proven to be viable and powerful incubators of local economies elsewhere, and it’s time New Bedford joined their ranks. 

Founder Ethan de Aguiar writes on, “Join us in celebrating the vibrant creativity of filmmakers from New Bedford and beyond at our four-day event showcasing amazing screenings, workshops, and networking opportunities. Our goal is to grow New Bedford into an industry powerhouse, providing resources and support for local creators year-round.”

Thanks to the digital realm, it’s apparent that New Bedford has plenty of talent. Social media – including New Bedford Creative – is bursting with primo video content in the form of engaging reels. And of course, de Aguiar himself was behind the lens for the award-winning short film, “Love Letters to New Bedford,” which garnered national and international acclaim. 

No city has been more ready for the spotlight. The New Bedford Film Festival takes place from April 18 through the 21st, 2024. 

Casting a wider net

A terrific new project by the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center holds out the promise that many more of us can indulge our inner History Detective – and also embrace many more people into the greater cultural dialogue.

New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center (FHC) on December 1st announced the receipt of a $20,000 grant from the Expand Mass Stories initiative of Mass Humanities. 

This funding will support “Casting a Wider Net” – a project to collect and share the stories of Cape Verdean, Vietnamese, Puerto Rican, Mexican, and Central American members of the fishing community.  The project will provide ethnographic training for individuals from those communities who will lead the documentation effort. The resulting photographs, recordings, and transcripts will become part of the FHC archive and uploaded to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Voices web-based archive. 

The FHC is backing up this project by empowering the very people it seeks to embrace. Participants in this project will receive three free trainings from professors, oral historians, and museum educators on oral history methodology, a $750 stipend, and “the opportunity to record never-before told stories, help create an exhibit to share those stories with the broader community, and network with local humanities professionals interested in amplifying the voices of underrepresented groups,” they write. 

It’s a wonderful project that will result in the deepening of this city’s connection to the sea; it’s why we’re a Seaport Cultural District, after all. I especially like that it has far-reaching potential to involve new members into the creative community of New Bedford going forward.

Move fast to get involved. If you or someone you know from the Cape Verdean, Vietnamese, Puerto Rican, Mexican, or Central American community might be interested in participating as an interviewer or by sharing your story, please contact Project Manager Emma York by emailing by Dec. 31, 2023. 

Music makes the people…

Speaking of cultural districts, the signature event of the Seaport Cultural District is the annual Seaport Art Walk and next year it is switching up the narrative a bit. 

“This year’s call for art goes beyond the visual, extending an invitation for artists to explore the harmonies that resonate with justice, action, and the soulful plea of the sea. In a world increasingly focused on social and environmental equity, the Seaport Art Walk aims to showcase the resilience and perseverance of the New Bedford community. The 2024 edition celebrates the transformative power of music, a timeless tool for healing and a conduit for conversation,” is what you’ll find on the Call For Art on this website.

Though music – and live music performances – are a popular part of arts and culture, it doesn’t quite enjoy the robust infrastructure that visual art does in the city. But that’s changing, with homegrown events such as Reggae on West Beach, the Roots and Branches Festival, special events at the Art Museum and local businesses like Play Arcade and Interwoven, and other examples of space being created for unique sounds. Therefore, it’s nice to see the Seaport Art Walk attempting to fuse the visual and the musical together in order to strengthen both. 

All in all, the state of New Bedford Creative heading into 2024 is strong and growing stronger. Never before in history has the City of New Bedford enjoyed such a diverse menu of offerings across all elements of the arts by so many people.

In fact, despite its dismal beginning, the 2020s thus far represent an unprecedented period of growth and opportunity for #NBCreative as we head into 2024. 

DJ, put another record on. When the music starts, I never wanna stop.

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