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From New Bedford to Philadelphia


It’s been over seven months since I began blogging for Groundwork! here on the website – and I am loving it!

Before I returned to New Bedford, I was a newspaper reporter and editor for many years elsewhere. Thankfully, I always worked at worthwhile news outlets and enjoyed wide latitude as to the types of stories I wrote or assigned.

So, writing for a blog is natural continuation of that pleasure – without the pressure of an ink deadline!

If anything, writing for Groundwork! about all things New Bedford affords me even greater liberty with my words. And I am going to enjoy that freedom right now as I write about my colleague, Groundwork! co-founder, Dena Haden.

The City of Sisterly Love

Dena doesn’t know I am writing this – which is half the fun of putting it before the public! The other half is letting everyone know that Dena Haden The Artist is about to be featured in a new exhibit at AUTOMAT Collective in Philadelphia, PA this weekend.

As former Vice-President Joe Biden would say, this is a BFD.

Dena is an amazing artist and I loved reading her official bio info on the exhibit invite: Dena Haden is a visual artist that lives and works out of her studio in Berkley, Massachusetts.  She was born and raised in Cape Cod, MA and earned her BFA in Painting from UMass Dartmouth in 2004 and her MFA from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 2008. Dena has instructed painting and design courses for several years at nonprofit organizations and private institutions. She is the co-founder of Groundwork! Creative Space in New Bedford, MA and is the director of the Boston Critique Group, an artist collaborative in the Greater Boston area.  Her artwork has been included in exhibitions nationally and internationally and is part of numerous private collections and public installations.” (SEE HER WEBSITE HERE.)

The show at AUTOMAT is another great entry in that biography – and not only for Dena, but for the entire artistic community in New Bedford.


A Tenuous Equilibrium at the Automat

The AUTOMAT Collective is an amazing gallery in one of the nation’s art epicenters. Dena representing our creative city in this context is a win-win for both.

The show is called “A Tenuous Equilibrium” and, well, here’s the gallery statement:  (It) highlights two artists whose work mediates fleeting and transitory encounters with the landscape with keen awareness of their own intimate footprint of being. Dena Haden and Samantha Mitchell present sculptures, paintings and drawings acutely tuned toward finding balances between productive and destructive qualities of nature. Their experiences and perceptions are visually negotiated with shifting qualities of vast lands, passing time, and phenomenal energies. Through process and material they reveal records of organic rhythms, chronicle growth and decay, preserve private histories of place, and cultivate reverence for the sublime.” (Curated by Emily Elliott & Jillian Schley.)

Kombucha or bust

Though I’ve known Dena for some time now, I was really introduced to her beautiful work last summer when we both participated in and helped organize “Maps & Legends” at New Bedford’s Haskell Park. It’s one thing to catch fleeting glimpses of works-in-progress or photos on Instagram of an artist’s creations. It’s another to come face-to-face with them and realize the person standing next to you is responsible for so much grace and beauty. I was astounded by the work she had created for “Maps & Legends.” 

The opening reception for “A Tenuous Equilibrium” is Friday, March 3 from 6 – 10:00pm. Automat is located 319 N. 11th Street (2i), Philadelphia, PA. On Saturday, March 4, Dena will hold an artist’s talk at the collective.

Dena employs kombucha, an organic, sustainable material, in much of her work. It was entirely new to me and a revelation to learn about from her. She’ll talk about that as well as collecting other material for her work and the blending of her studio and life practices on Saturday, March 4. Naturally, her involvement in co-founding Groundwork! and The Boston Crit Group will also be discussed.

You can be sure a few Groundwork! members will be in attendance – and you’re invited, too! Event details here.

Steven Froias