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Placemaking Project: AHA! Nights, New Bedford

The Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance recognizes placemaking initiatives across the Commonwealth. This project is one of many that were featured at our 2013 conference. See other placemaking examples

AHA! is both New Bedford’s free 2nd Thursday Downtown Cultural Night and a collaborative cultural organization made up of 65 plus partners who represent non-profit venues, galleries, retail, restaurants, UMASS, the public schools, the NPS, theater groups and the City. The AHA! mission is a cooperative venture dedicated to invigorating the downtown cultural scene and has remained so since the first AHA! night in July, 1999.

New Bedford finished the 20th century as what could only be described as a deserted downtown with only small pockets of cultural activity and support for the arts. Crime, vandalism, and drugs prevailed. While the port continues to be the largest in the United States for value of catch landed, New Bedford had become a rough working environment where few would visit as a destination. AHA!’s mission from the beginning in July of 1999 was to make New Bedford a vibrant city again, to attract new creative potential and expand cultural activities.

Arts, culture, and creativity are essential keys to New Bedford’s unique and distinctive identity and are core values which build a sense of place and engage residents. The place making of a vibrant city downtown accomplished by AHA! has been shown to be one of the deciding factors in choosing New Bedford as the place to build, grow or relocate.

Contact: Lee Heald, Program Director at AHA! New Bedford, [email protected]