SAVE THE DATE

AHA! @ 25
Party Like It's 1999 (In New Bedford!)

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 12

You’re invited to our birthday bash! The 2nd Thursday in September is when we celebrate AHA! @ 25. Expect music, art, community, and more. Plus, we have a few surprises up our sleeves! Help us blow out our birthday candles and celebrate with us!

Since AHA! began 25 years ago, the organization has never wavered from its core mission of invigorating downtown New Bedford by harnessing the power of arts and culture to help fuel the city’s creative economy.

 

Learn more about our history and be a part of our future.

A Brief History of AHA! New Bedford

1997 – 1999

How It Began

New Bedford convened a Regional Community Congress which brought together six sectors of society:  business, education, health and human services, arts and culture, the environment, and communities of faith. Working together, the vision of New Bedford as a vital regional hub of commerce and culture was launched, and a new identity was born. The result was the AHA! (Arts, History, Architecture) project and New Bedford’s free Downtown Cultural Night was launched, starting on the second Thursday of July, 1999. Why Thursdays? Thursday was the chosen evening in honor of the late shopping night offered in New Bedford from 1940’s through the 1960’s with the intention of bringing vibrancy to downtown.

2001 – 2018

Cultural Exploration and Adventure

AHA! monthly events have become a showcase for the talent and vitality of the New Bedford community. Taking place every 2nd Thursday since July of 1999, AHA! Nights feature area artists and performers, while bringing thousands of people downtown. Each month there is a theme for distinctive programming (Kids Rule, Art in Tune, Pride, etc.) presented by AHA! and our partners across New Bedford’s museums, galleries, arts organizations, shops, hotels, and restaurants. AHA! draws area residents, visitors from surrounding towns, and travelers from afar.

2019 - 2022

The Pandamic and AHA!

AHA! Night was the last public event before the City of New Bedford locked down in March 2020. By the 2nd Thursday of April, AHA! had pivoted to a virtual format and VAHA! (Virtual Art, History, and Architecture) was launched, complete with our signature logo wearing a mask! Throughout 2020 and into 2021, VAHA provided a heartbeat for the arts community, with online content created by our partners and available to visitors 24/7 from the safety of their homes. This format offered new opportunities to work with partners outside the downtown walking footprint, and we explored sites, themes, and speakers not normally available to our audience.

2021

AHA! Night Returns

AHA! Nights returned in September 2021 bringing a very welcome change for the city and visitors alike. With an outdoor format, residents and visitors were able to start venturing out again while following common sense safety protocols. Emerging from the pandemic changed us all, but one thing is certain: AHA! Nights are here to stay.

Today and Beyond

AHA! @ 25

This year, as AHA! celebrates its 25th anniversary, we’ve been thinking, what’s next for AHA!? We asked you, too, in our community survey. (You can still fill it out at the link below!) With 25 years of AHA! moments to guide us, we can’t wait to see what the next 25 years will bring. Thank you for being a part of this journey!

History

There were the early years: 1997 – 2001
New Bedford convened a Regional Community Congress which brought together six sectors of society:  business, education, health and human services, arts and culture, the environment, and communities of faith. Working together, the vision of New Bedford as a vital regional hub of commerce and culture was launched, and a new identity was born.

The result was the AHA! (Arts, History, Architecture) project  and New Bedford’s free Downtown Cultural Night was launched, starting on the second Thursday of July, 1999, Thursday was the chosen evening in honor of the late shopping night offered in New Bedford from 1940’s through the 1960’s with the intention of bringing vibrancy to downtown.

Nearly Two Decades of Cultural Exploration and Adventure:  2001 – 2018
AHA!’s monthly 2nd Thursday events have taken place continuously since July 1999 and with participation from downtown New Bedford’s museums, galleries, arts organizations, merchants, hotels, and restaurants. Each month’s event is themed so that distinctive cultural programs can offer a wide range of opportunities for performers, artists, and humanitarians of all disciplines and levels to engage the public.

AHA! succeeded in attracting people who might not normally visit downtown New Bedford, visitors from surrounding towns as well as travelers from afar. The last pre-pandemic economic impact report revealed over 24,000 total visitations to AHA! Thursday Nights in 2015, with a total economic impact of $877,000.

Funding by the Adams Arts Program from the Mass Cultural Council allowed AHA! to thrive for the 18 years, when the funding opportunity existed.  AHA! was the only continuously funded project in the cohort group and as part of that initiative, AHA! undertook a variety of incubator and demonstration projects. (Show graphics and posters.)

The Pandamic and AHA!:  2019 – 2022
AHA! Night was the last public event before the City of New Bedford locked down in March of 2020. By the 2nd Thursday of April, AHA! had pivoted to a virtual format and VAHA! (Virtual Art, History, and Architecture) was launched with our signature logo wearing a mask.

Throughout 2020 and into 2021, VAHA provided a heartbeat for the arts community, with on-line content created by our partners and available to visitors 24/7 from the safety of their homes. The new format offered new opportunities to work with partners outside the downtown walking footprint, and we explored sites, themes, and speakers not normally available to our audience.

The Future for AHA!
September 2021 saw AHA!’s return to the streets of downtown: a very welcome sign for the city and visitors alike. AHA! Night’s outdoor format provides a measure of confidence for audiences, and our community partners are opening their doors while following common sense safety protocols.

Emerging from the pandemic by rebuilding the AHA! audience and partner participation is underway.  With 25-years of success to guide us, AHA is developing a strategic plan for the next 25-years.   Valuable lessons learned during the pandemic about communications, platforms and content will be retained and integrated into future AHA! programming.  Together with our community partners, we’re shaping the future and using our shared experience with adversity as an opportunity to define a new and vital future for arts and culture in the City of New Bedford.

We want to hear from YOU!

Help us shape the future of AHA!

Fill out this short survey and let us know how we can make AHA!—YOUR AHA!