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What’s new, Buenos Aires – um, New Bedford…?

Artist Sergio Barbieri is the calm center in the middle of an installation storm at Groundwork! this past Saturday morning.

Artist Sergio Barbieri is the calm center in the middle of an installation storm at Groundwork! this past Saturday morning.

Groundwork! is an amazing co-working space quietly buzzing with entrepreneurial energy all week long. It’s become a hub for innovative small businesses and hard-working freelancers in many different fields.

But I won’t be writing about any of that this week.

Because Groundwork! is also something else – a cultural hub in the City of New Bedford that regularly hosts eclectic events that draw hundreds to 1213 Purchase Street. And, this is a big week for that Groundwork!

On Thursday, Oct. 13, the Groundwork! art gallery under the direction of co-founder Dena Haden is bringing the acclaimed Argentinian artist Sergio Barbieri to the city for a comprehensive exhibit of his work. And this weekend, Dena with fellow Groundwork! founder Sarah Athanas and myself will be hosting the Fall edition of the New Bedford Book Festival on Saturday, Oct. 15 and Sunday, Oct. 16 from 11 – 4 p.m. each day.

I’ll post about the book festival later this week. But today, we’ll focus on the art and the importance of the Groundwork! gallery itself and the deeper meaning of the art that has been regularly on display since early 2016.

The Groundwork! gallery represents a step forward for the city. While it’s gained a national reputation as an arts destination, a sustainable arts marketplace lags behind. But, unconventional spaces like the Groundwork! gallery help move the ball toward that goal by combining the arts with entrepreneurial energy. Especially under the leadership of Dena Haden.

Haden is herself an artist with a growing national reputation. She’ll be exhibiting in Philadelphia, PA in the near future. Under her thoughtful leadership, the Groundwork! gallery has presented leading local and regional artists to the public since its first exhibition in January 2016, featuring the work of Timothy Ellis Cole, founder of Partner Projects Studio in Monument Beach, MA.

Bringing to bear the energy of a thriving co-working facility and combining it with the sensibility of a cultural institution, the opening for Cole’s show was as much a happening in the city as an opening reception. Over a hundred people turned out on a cold winter night to view – and purchase – the work on display in the Groundwork! gallery.

That kind of buzz surrounding an art show spills over and into the entire city. It becomes part of a dynamic and organic whole and brings more attention to all else everywhere. It helps draw art enthusiasts – and buyers and collectors – to New Bedford and its other art galleries downtown and in neighborhoods like the south end, where Colo Colo and the Judith Klein gallery make their home at Kilburn Mill Studios, another re-purposed historic building like 1213 Purchase Street. And, it enhances the appeal of art in other non-traditional spaces – like the series of shows curated by Standard-Times art critic Don Wilkinson at the Pour Farm Tavern.

It was almost surreal watching Sergio install his show at Groundwork! this past Saturday morning. The Argentinian-born artist – speaking only Spanish – worked alongside his wife and grandson with Dena to unpack and mount over 60 beautiful works of art on the walls. Unlike the New Bedford Book Festival, not a lot of words were necessary to transform the space into something new yet again in a short amount of time. The common language was visual not verbal yet it adds to the next unfolding story of New Bedford just the same.

It’s a tale of cultural renewal in a city that continues to draw people from around the world towards its light.

Come meet Segio Barbieri at the Opening Reception, free and open to the public, this Thursday, Oct. 13 from 6:00 p.m to 8:00 p.m. at Groundwork, 1213 Purchase Street, New Bedford (enter through the side entrance on Maxfield Street). The show will remain up in the Groundwork! gallery through the New Bedford Book Festival this coming weekend and through November 11, 2016. RSVP and more info here.

Steven Froias