By Steven Froias
During the time I have been privileged to write about the affairs of New Bedford, on the Groundwork blog, for Southcoast Today, and as a member of the Love The Ave team, I have often referred to what I call the Emotional Infrastructure of this city.
That Emotional Infrastructure is built upon the community we make together in every neighborhood and on every street. It’s characterized by shared memories of living together in an urban space. It resides in the collective unconsciousness as well as the course we chart as a city through our civic engagement now.
In New Bedford, you can feel it in the places we find love. How we fill these places and the value we assign them in our hearts constitutes the essential emotional infrastructure of this unique and authentic city.
Today, we find that infrastructure under assault as if it were being subjected to aerial bombardment, enemy occupation or natural disaster.
Yet, the places we find love are not being destroyed but only suffering for our absence.
After the mechanics of eventually recovery lurch into motion, into this void must pour the creative spirit of so many who enabled those spaces to begin with. The dreamers and doers, artists and visionaries, patrons and supporters of this seaport city.
The public policy goals of placemaking – especially as achieved through arts and culture – have never been so important to civic engagement and rebuilding our emotional infrastructure as they will be in the weeks and months ahead.
The ability of our creative community to come together and tackle this challenge represents a new and altogether more powerful arsenal of democracy than we have even known and mobilized before in our history.
By creating and now rethinking and reimagining the places we find love, New Bedford’s creative community – in the arts, in small business, in public service and in municipal government – are prepared for the task ahead thanks to the solid foundation that has been laid in this city. Indeed, many are already employing the means whereby we can at least enjoy shared experiences today virtually until the pandemic abates.
If we are to take away one lesson from this crisis, it should be this: We are all in this together. While we may debate the means to best outcomes, let us never again debate the honorable intentions of our own community.
It has always been the goal and the desire of New Bedford’s arts community to enrich every corner and as many people as possible in this city and beyond. That must still be our mantra moving forward as never before, and we must work together as never before as one city.
Our emotional infrastructure cannot, in the end, ever be denied to us. In fact, it will be stronger and more secure than before the present crisis for having suddenly bestowed upon it the undeniable value it’s always deserved and always held in our best memories.
Our artists and creators stand ready to lead the way into the future by breathing new life into the places we find love. Let’s mobilize them and recruit many more into the effective force for unlimited imagination they are and have always been in the City of New Bedford.