Nestled on the south coast of Massachusetts is New Bedford, named one of the most creative cities in not just one, but in several surveys and publications starting in 2011, when, Richard Florida, author of “The Rise of the Creative Class,” ranked the city as the “seventh most artistic city in America in proportion to its population, alongside the likes of San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles.”
Since then, it was also ranked ninth on Matador Network’s list of Most Creative and sixth on Bustle’s Best Cities for Young Artists. The Massachusetts Cultural Council named New Bedford the most creative community in the State in 2017.
Yet, when Luis Villanueva’s Colo Colo Gallery closed a year ago or so, the lauded creative community lost one of its last traditional galleries. The Colo Colo had survived for nearly 10 years with an impressive agenda of local, national and international artists.
A move from its original location on Centre Street in the historic district was one of necessity; the building was sold. Colo Colo’s last few years were spent in the Kilburn Mill in the south end of the city at almost at the end of the city’s terminus, Clarks Point, a small peninsula and a destination rather than a drive through neighborhood. But that move kick started the beginnings of yet another New Bedford artist communities in the south end mill.
One of the first was in the north end of the city at the Hatch Street Studios, home to scores of artists and more recently, a new and different gallery, the S&G Project Gallery. It features a “series of related works, bodies of work built around a certain theme or process, or collaborations with other artists on a theme or idea.” S&G is presenting Estelle Disch’s “Memory and Justice: Impressions of Disappearance in Argentina” through May 17; it’ll be followed by David Baggarly and Tim McDonald’s “Counterpoint: Extasy & Enstasy” exhibition from June 8 through July 12.
A bit further south is the Ropeworks Artist Condominium, a facility where artists live and work. All three locations are housed in the remnants of the city’s highly lucrative textile past.
So, how is it that such a vibrant and nationally recognized creative city is lacking in galleries? In 2015, there were four independent galleries in the city and, for the purpose of this article, are considered traditional galleries where artists are selected, exhibited and represented for sales and commissions. The other newer or remaining galleries in town are hybrid galleries; studio-galleries and a retail gift shop gallery.