It’s Been a Long and Fulfilling Journey…

We Are Now One of the South Coast’s

Newest Nonprofit Art Organisations!

NOVEMBER 6, 2023

IN-FOCUS ARTICLE: A Whole New Chapter for The Artists Index!

This Thursday, November 23, 2023, is Thanksgiving. We at The Artists Index have a lot to be thankful for! Our journey began towards the end of the 1980s with a newspaper clipping: Mary Jean Blasdale, the curator of the New Bedford Whaling Museum until her retirement in 2006, had placed an ad in the New Bedford Standard-Times seeking assistance in finding information on nearly 150 individuals with the plea: “A name, a birthday, an exhibition date… Mary Jean Blasdale would like to know more about the works of the following New Bedford artists. She can be contacted at the Whaling Museum in New Bedford.”

She went on to publish the Artists of New Bedford: A Biographical Dictionary (1990). I saw the ad, was intrigued by it, clipped it out, and put it in a file folder. Around 2009, the manager of the Ayur Shri Restaurant, one of my then clients, had asked me to meet with a young man who was coming into the restaurant to pitch a food festival concept. That young man was Jeff Wotton who went on to found the Spectrum Marketing Group at Howland Place in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

It was an instant friendship! I don’t remember if he ever sold his concept. We chatted about a range of subjects and somehow, the newspaper clipping came up. Well, there are a lot of backstories that I won’t go into but, we launched The Artists Profiles. We had the time because the Great Recession was affecting everyone. When the economy improved, we, since I was now working for Jeff and his dad Russ as an advertising consultant, focused on building the fledgling Spectrum Marketing Group.  The Artists Profiles was on a bit of a hiatus!

Then, one morning, Jeff said to me, “Guess what, we’re going to be doing podcasts for The Artists Profiles!” I told him that it was a great idea but who was going to be doing the podcasts I asked? You are he said! Well, I said, “I may have a face for radio but certainly not the voice!” Well, I was told, there was no other choice. And, that’s how it began – again! It was also when we launched a new website and changed the name of our website project to The Artists Index. As of this writing, we have produced nearly 200 podcasts and just recently launched Podcast Episode: 171 with others in the release queue. And, by the way, it was at Spectrum and because of Jeff that I met and eventually married my wife Paula. A whole other story of Thanksgiving!

The Artists Profiles had started as a hobby. A labor of love. The Artists Index was a challenge to create a true community digital archive of the South Coast’s visual, performing, and literary artists. The COVID-19 pandemic both gave and took away. We closed down the recording studio at Spectrum Marketing Group and evolved and survived by recording the In-Focus Podcasts with Zoom. And, in 2022, with grants from the New Bedford Cultural Council and the Fairhaven Cultural Council, we hired our first subcontractors. Scott Bishop was our Indie Music Podcast Host and Jack of all trades. Jeff Angeley was our Traditional Music Podcast Host. And, Christine Maiato FitzGerald was our intrepid Podcast Transcriber – she did a yeoman’s job for sure!

We also contracted with fellow artist, Dan Cooney, and the co-owner of Heavenly Spirits as our first sponsor.  As collaborative community digital archive, TheArtists Index’s description is also our mission statement. The term community includes everyone and for as many generations from the past to now as possible. The information, documentation, and narratives contained in The Artists Index website are supplied by and available to everyone in and beyond the creative community. The term digital encompasses the age we live in and the method we use to gather, produce, and document the history and the stories of this creative community. Creating and sustaining an archive is our raison d’etre and yes, Don Wilkinson, we are planning on adding back the Culinary Artists as we did in the original The Artists Profiles as soon as we receive funding for a Culinary Arts Podcast Host and a Culinary Arts Article Writer.

In short, our community digital archive is sustained by grant funding, sponsorship, and donations. The funds don’t only sustain us, they help sustain the artists of our creative community. The more grant funding, sponsorship, and donations we secure, the more artists we can sustain and the more we will achieve documenting the shared and lived experiences of the contemporary and historical artists of our creative community. But wait, there’s more!

At some point, I spoke with Christina Connett Brophy, who was then a curator at the New Bedford Whaling Museum and is now the Senior Director of Museum Galleries at Mystic Seaport Museum. She introduced me to Dr. Akeia de Barros Gomes, who was then the Curator of Social History and now is the Senior Curator of Maritime Social Histories at the Mystic Seaport Museum. While at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, Dr. de Barros Gomes created and coordinated the Common Ground – Community Stories project, which would conclude in a planned exhibition. The exhibition was interrupted by COVID-19 pandemic and also somewhat by her leaving our community for the Mystic Seaport Museum.

However, back at the Museum, Dr. Naomi Slipp, the new Douglas and Cynthia Crocker Endowed Chair for the Chief Curator and Director of Museum Learning at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, and Michael Lapides (assisted by Emma Rocha), a digital artist/photographer and the co-curator of the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s Common Ground Project, was finally launched as an exhibit (Opened: January 26, 2023 and Closed: August 6, 2023). The Artists Index was a significant collaborator on this project. It marked a turning point in our journey and our ambition to be the collaborative community digital archive we envisioned. A majority of our podcasts now reside in the Museum’s database/archive.

Before I wrap up this article, Jeff and I want to recognize the help, support, and vision of Russ Wotton, Jeff’s dad, the Co-founder/CEO of Spectrum Marketing Group, and the Secretary/Treasurer of The Artists Index. Russ is the former proprietor of the Real Estate Books on the South Coast. Paula Batchelor, the Graphic Designer for Spectrum Marketing Group and The Artists Index. And, Jen Signorella is the Photo/Video Editor for Spectrum Marketing Group and the audio/video editor for The Artists Index.

The next chapter for us began with the assistance of New Bedford Creative and ARTnet an artist recovery and training network that helps artists, “recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic by providing financial support, business planning support, training workshops, and access to a network of creative-entrepreneur peers.” The grant helped us to incorporate as a nonprofit.  Our collaborative community digital archive project is in its next chapter. We are now a 501(c)(3) nonprofit! That means we can now accept tax-deductible donations and offer a broader range of sponsorship programs.

Oh, yeah, I’m  Ron Fortier, Co-Founder/Documentarian and President of The Artists Index. I’m also a copywriter for an advertising consultant to Spectrum Marketing Group and an Artist/Painter. Our thanks to everyone for their assistance in getting up to this point, especially our sponsors Heavenly Spirits Imports and Feingold Bonnet-Hebert, Attorneys & Counselors at Law, and our supporters and collaborators including the Mass Cultural Council, the New Bedford Whaling Museum, and The New Bedford Light.

Please stay tuned! There’s more to come… 

Our gracious sponsors invite you to celebrate the art of life of the creative communities of the South Coast!