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Groundwork! + AHA!

It’s almost as exciting as chocolate meeting peanut butter and producing Reese’s. And, why it took so long to happen is like a head-slapping, “I shoulda had a V-8” epiphany.

The union under discussion here isn’t gastronomic but instead signifies a cultural moment. Because this past month, Groundwork! officially became an AHA! New Bedford partner.

Readers are no doubt quite familiar with both cultural juggernauts by this point.

Groundwork! is New Bedford’s first coworking facility. Filled with freelancers, entrepreneurs, small business owners, and creative professionals. And, it’s also a cultural leader – hosting the New Bedford Bookfest; numerous art shows in the Groundwork! Gallery; film nights and much more since its launch in the main space just slightly over two years ago.

AHA! New Bedford is, of course, the amazing, long-running, monthly downtown catalyst dedicated to the city’s Art, History and Architecture. It fulfills its mission by bringing thousands to the city’s streets every second Thursday of the month with all manner of special programming that highlights New Bedford’s cultural vibrancy and diversity.

And now, Groundwork! is happy and proud to be a full-fledged partner with AHA! in that mission. An AHA! partner is a business, organization or entity that helps make the event an unqualified success month after month, year after year by showcasing New Bedford’s industry and talent.

A Fine Romance

An Opening Reception in the Groundwork! lobby on AHA! night

But it’s not as if Groundwork! and AHA! haven’t been in sync up until now. It’s just that, like being in a long romance, neither thought of popping the question to the other until now!

A lot of Groundwork! events over the course of the past two years have been timed to coincide with the monthly downtown celebration. In fact, many of the artists who have shown in the Groundwork! Gallery have requested that their Opening Receptions be held on AHA! dates.

And, though the coworking facility is located in the Quest Center just north of the infamous “octopus” intersection, at 1213 Purchase Street, there’s a well-worn path between Groundwork! and New Bedford’s downtown – everyday, but especially on AHA! nights. Members and guests frequently either begin or end their AHA! evenings here – sandwiching the rich experience that is the eclectic line-up of events in between for a fully satisfying evening.

Countless nights of AHA!

The importance of AHA! to the renewal of New Bedford over the course of almost 20 years can’t be overstated. For many, coming downtown to sample or participate in the amazing menu of events every second Thursday of the month has been their first taste of the city as it first sizzled then slowly caught fire.

AHA! turned up that heat – and has kept it burning bright year in and year out. This writer was never been more astounded with the stunning change in downtown New Bedford than on AHA! nights.

Frequently, I would take the Peter Pan Bus straight from where I was living in New York City and arrive on Thursday evening for a long weekend visit. And nothing beat stepping off that bus at the SRTA terminal and walking straight into an AHA! night in full swing. Those AHA! moments were an eye-opener into what the city had become since I left years before – and ultimately, played a big part in enticing me back.

The discovery of Groundwork! after arriving back for good reinforced that decision – indeed, helped make it possible. So, the marriage of these two great entities in New Bedford combines the past and present and promises a fruitful future.

The Holiday Stroll

The partnerships cements itself this weekend – when Groundwork! debuts on the official AHA! calendar for the Holiday Shop & Stroll on Friday, December 1 and Saturday, December 2.

The Holiday Shop & Stroll is a special event organized by AHA! – in addition to its regular monthly evening on Thursday, Dec. 14, with the theme of City Sidewalks.

The Shop & Stroll doubles down on downtown, inviting residents and visitors to dine, shop and experience the holiday in this one-of-a-kind urban setting. As expected from AHA!, a full itinerary awaits – from a special gift boutique in the Zeiterion Theatre’s Penler Space and lobby to photos with Santa and culminating with the annual tree lighting at the New Bedford Free Public Library at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday. YOU CAN FIND THE FULL SCHEDULE OF EVENTS HERE.

Groundwork! will open its special Small Works show – a full week before the official opening reception on Friday, Dec. 8 – on Friday, Dec. 1 for the Holiday Shop & Stroll. As the AHA! calendar states, “Stroll by the Groundwork! Gallery (1213 Purchase Street) to shop the Small Works Show. A diverse selection of 160 beautiful and affordable 12”x12” works of art spanning from the south coast region and across the country. Curated by Jacob Ginga and Dena Haden. This is a cash and carry show – buy it and take it away!”

And with Small Works, the start of something big happens. Groundwork! and AHA! begin a creative collaboration in the city – each dedicated to propelling it into the future.  

Come along for the ride; we’ll leave a trail of Reese’s Pieces for you you to follow.

Steven Froias