AHA Night: A sustainable success

By Staff Writer Samantha Wahl.

When I first heard of “AHA! Night”, I figured it was some kind of invention spotlight. After all, one usually associates “A-ha!” with something like “Eureka!”; an exclamation you make after you come to some brilliant discovery.

However, it actually stands for Art, History and Architecture Night. Once a month in downtown New Bedford, art galleries, cafes, and other area businesses band together to create an invigorating night of art and community engagement. And this month, the UMass Dartmouth community made their mark on the celebration. University contributions to AHA Night included a themed meeting of Fishbowl, an on-campus storytelling club; and thesis exhibitions by UMass Dartmouth MFA students.

The MFA presentation was the first thing I stumbled upon when I arrived in New Bedford. The lights of the Star Center were on, and looked inviting, so in I went. And it’s a good thing I did; interesting things were happening within. I met artist Jordi Lister, who was exhibiting her pieces “Watering Hole” and “Awkward Eats.”

“Awkward Eats” is an exciting fusion of sociology and art; by tying glasses and plates together with ropes spanning across the table, Lister initiates discussions that wouldn’t ordinarily happen between strangers. In her Artist’s Talk, Lister explained that she found inspiration in her own social anxiety, which has made her fascinated by the way humans form relationships and interact with each other.

Other pieces being displayed included The Great American Novel by Merri Cyr, an installation that uses algorithms to let participants rearrange the words in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick; abstract art by Jeremy Duval; topography-inspired sculpture by Patricia Flynn; terra cotta and glass sculpture by Jennifer Halli; metalwork by Brandan Lyons; colorful mixed-media paintings by Robert Najlis; patterned clay and cotton sculptures by Lauren Shepherd; portraits by Allen Tenbusschen; and surreal, science-fiction-inspired paintings by Xiaodong Xu.

The exhibits will remain on display in the Star Store Gallery through May 11 and are worth a visit for any art lover.

Next on my journey was an off-campus meeting of UMass Dartmouth’s Fishbowl. Led by senior graphic design major Johnny Pereira, Fishbowl is a storytelling club that encourages students to share their experiences and perspectives in a friendly, accepting environment. For AHA Night, Fishbowl was both far from home and open to the public.

Meeting in the Visitors Center of the New Bedford Whaling Museum, the club invited anyone in town to come discuss their experiences concerning New Bedford. The night eventually evolved into what Pereira called a “free bowl”, where audience members could tell stories about anything they wanted. This led to eager participation from many a “fish”, or Fishbowl member. Laughter and controlled chaos ensued.

Across the city, other organizations were pulling out the stops to celebrate the theme of the night, which was “Sustainable Southcoast”. At Custom House Square, the Mobile Art Studio for Creative Disruption made “seed bombs” to help local plant life.

Environmental experts Maureen Thomas and Sara Quintal gave a joint lecture on sustaining local ecosystems at the Buzzards Bay Coalition. The city was buzzing with people looking to explore art and learn about sustainability from their fellow citizens.

AHA Nights are held on the second Thursday of each month. They take place from 5-9 PM. Fishbowl meetings are held weekly, on Wednesdays starting at 7 PM, at the Dive inside Maple Ridge.

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