New Bedford invests in arts community with dedicated fund

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New Bedford is investing in its active arts community with the creation of a dedicated fund in the city budget.
The fund was proposed by Mayor Jon Mitchell in the spring of 2016 and approved by the City Council, but it also required approval of a home-rule petition,which the governor signed in January.
“We emphasize and put considerable time and energy into the development of the port and cultural facilities, but we also see the arts community as an asset in and of itself that ought to be cultivated,” Mitchell said in an interview. “We should seek to make the most of it by dedicating a revenue stream to the promotion of the arts in every corner of our city.”
The Arts, Culture and Tourism Promotion Fund receives half of the revenue generated by the city’s lodging tax, with an annual maximum of $100,000 (indexed to inflation). Additional funds can be added from other public and private sources.
“The arts community has long been a big big part of who we are,” Mitchell said. “New Bedford has had a big cultural scene dating back to its whaling days.”
In a press release describing the program, the mayor noted that the arts fund will help attract creativity and investment to the city, while also improving planning, marketing, programming and public art.
The fund is included in the fiscal 2018 budget at $100,000. The city’s first step is to fill a cultural planning position. The fund will increase the city’s planning, programmatic and administrative capacity to take advantage of the city’s many cultural assets.
In 2011, Atlantic Monthly ranked New Bedford the seventh Most Artistic City in the country based on the number of working artists per capita.
Three years ago, the city re-established its Office of Marketing and Tourism in a major step to drive tourism, development and investment in the city by highlighting its rich history in whaling, textiles and fishing, and its creativity, including the Whaling National Historical Park and Whaling Museum, Art Museum, Rotch-Jones-Duff House, Fort Rodman, Zeiterion Theatre and Sargent Carney’s house, along with a number of local events and programs like the free monthly AHA! Night that take place in the Seaport Cultural District.
“It’s not superimposing arts where it hasn’t yet existed,” Mitchell said of the new arts program. “It’s energizing assets that are already in place and active. … We’ve had an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response from the arts community here.”