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Philanthropy Cape-Style

AHA! New Bedford (Art – History – Architecture)

Text by Julie Craven Wagner

Photos by Ethan Aguiar

Just like the exclamation that is uttered in response to a good idea, AHA! The New Bedford Art – History – Architecture (AHA!) event that is presented free to the public every 2nd Tuesday of each month serves a purpose other cultural organizations simply can’t do. The nonprofit organization that brings together traditional retail, restaurants, professionals like architects, designers and educators, as well as artists and musicians, transforms the landscape of New Bedford for one highly anticipated day, each month of the year. Focused in the historic district of New Bedford, with its cobblestone streets and old-world architecture, AHA! events are a mash-up of a street festival, an artisan fair, a music festival and a gallery crawl.

Lee Heald, director of the organization for the last 14 years, says that the collaborative nature of the events is what lies at the core, as well as the success of the events that have been consistently presented for over 20 years. During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, a morphed version of the Thursday night festivals quickly became VAHA!—a virtual presentation of various offerings that continued for over a year. Now as the public has emerged, the monthly destination is accomplishing two distinct, yet important functions: people are able to return to socialized celebration in a variety of open-air and outdoor options; and local businesses are benefiting from the organized efforts that drive eager attendees to their front door.

As other festivals and events emerge across the New Bedford landscape, they all take a page from the success AHA! has built and often collaborate when appropriate. The energy and vibe that permeates the charming and vibrant area of New Bedford each Thursday is a reminder that together we can achieve success as well as a bit of fun on the way.

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