By: Mike Lawrence
Building Locally, thinking Globally.
NEW BEDFORD — In a city filled with beautiful murals, one of the most eye-catching recent creations can be seen facing Kempton Street, in a fenced-in playground behind Carney Academy.
The long, cement wall — previously unadorned, except for frequent tags that had to be cleaned by maintenance crews — now is a dynamic, multi-layered illustration promoting education in areas known as STEAM, or science, technology, engineering, arts and math.
Local graffiti artists Justin Estrella and Chris Walker spray-painted the mural last month. Ben Gilbarg, owner of Visionary Communications Consultants, said Tuesday that the project is part of ongoing efforts to raise awareness among local youth about 21st century education, career paths, health and social issues, through channels outside of traditional formats like public service announcements.
“The PSA market is not reaching them — and the PSA market is pretty dry,” Gilbarg said. “There’s a need for outreach.”
Visionary Communications — essentially, Gilbarg and content developer Joel Cordero — is involved in several projects intended to bridge that gap and reach local youth through art, film, music, and social media channels. Those projects include Wednesday’s community march and video shoot on William Street downtown, for the filming of scenes in an upcoming music video featuring local rising star Samantha Johnson.
Gilbarg said he approached Johnson with the idea of creating an anthem to inspire local youth, as part of the “New Be, New Me,” community outreach campaign. The resulting song — “We Run This, (with Pride)” — could draw hundreds to the City Hall area from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, for the filming.
The community campaign has 17 area sponsors, including United Way of Greater New Bedford, the Coalition for Social Justice, New Bedford Wellness Initiative, Mayor Jon Mitchell and many more.
“We hope that this project will kind of be a model moving forward, to replicate on a larger scale,” Gilbarg said.
Two other Visionary Communications projects have similar goals. Gilbarg said the National Park Service, through the National Mall, is sponsoring a video project, through the Youth Ambassador Program, that involved filming at the Lincoln Memorial, the White House area and elsewhere in Washington, D.C.
“It’s a social commentary piece on civil rights in this country, historical but also current,” Gilbarg said of the video, which could be released before fall.
Gilbarg said he’s looking for sponsors — potentially on a national level — for a “STEAM anthem” video filmed with Carney Academy students.
“What we love doing is projects that have some kind of social impact, and room for a little creativity,” he said.
The company also was behind the #FoodFightNB video series last year, featuring several downtown restaurants, and has had clients including the City of New Bedford, New Bedford Whaling Museum and the state Department of Public Health.
Gilbarg works out of the Groudwork! collaborative space in the Quest Center, just north of downtown. Diann Haynes, administrative services manager for New Directions Southcoast, walked past his table Tuesday morning.
“He’s my guy,” Haynes said. “Ben is very involved with our youth programs. …The particular age group, 19-20, they have big respect for Ben.”
Gilbarg said Visionary employs local, young subcontractors as often as possible on its projects, in roles ranging from graphic designer to production assistant and more.
“The goal is to involve youth and employ youth in this process,” Gilbarg said. “This is a way to project their talent and give an outlet, that also is a career path.”
Follow Mike Lawrence on Twitter @MikeLawrenceSCT.