The more than 70,000 patrons who visit the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center each year come to be lifted by musical, dance and dramatic performances that have made The Z one of the region’s best and most important cultural institutions.
Celebrating its 100th year in New Bedford, The Z is a thriving venue for live music, dance, theater, and film. In addition, it is home to two outstanding resident companies: New Bedford Symphony Orchestra and New Bedford Festival Theatre. Together, these three cultural organizations welcome some of the most celebrated artists from around the world, exposing audiences of all ages to the power of the performing arts and their ability to bring people together and lift an entire community.
Just as importantly, The Z offers thousands of schoolchildren and young musicians the opportunity to experience first-hand the power and inspiration of creative expression and live performance.
New Bedford’s creative economy is widely recognized. Atlantic Monthly named us the seventh most artistic city in the country. Bustle named New Bedford one of the nation’s Best Cities for Young Artists, based on the number of artists per capita working here. In addition, the city was named most creative community in the state by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, which gave New Bedford a 2017 Commonwealth Award for “providing a model for cities everywhere” as a leader in the arts.
That trend has lifted the city’s travel and tourism revenues, contributed to our economic vitality, and enhanced the quality of life we enjoy in Greater New Bedford. Exposure to the arts teaches us about other cultures and builds a shared sense of community. It is also essential to the education of our children.
The Zeiterion, once one of 17, is now the last operating theater in the city. It opened as a vaudeville house on Purchase Street in 1923, and plans an expanded role to mark its next 100 years, following completion of a renovation project that will allow us to improve the patron experience. We have closed our doors for the renovation, but when we reopen in January 2025, it will be with:
• more comfortable seating and better sight lines
• new lounge areas for gathering
• handicapped-accessible bathrooms on each level
• a new marquee and street front ticket office
• additional space for performances and classes
• a speakeasy that will open the Z to more local performers
• additional space for the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra and the New Bedford Festival Theatre.
The nonprofit Zeiterion already has secured $24.3 million toward what will be New Bedford’s largest public-private project, which will deliver more than $10 million in annual economic impact for the region and play a significant role in the post-pandemic economic recovery.
The Z and its resident companies together employ 118 full- and part-time employees and support dozens of local businesses. They purchased more than $1.8 million in goods and services from Southeastern Massachusetts businesses: from hotels, caterers, and printing companies to musicians, performers, and retail establishments. That supports 338 jobs in the region.
As anyone who has been in the city on performance night at The Z knows, New Bedford bars and restaurants rely on Zeiterion patrons, who spend nearly $2 million (not including ticket sales) in the regional economy, much of that in New Bedford with businesses most affected by the COVID pandemic.
Finally, the yearlong renovation project will create 14 additional permanent positions at The Z and $1.6 million in economic output each year following completion of the renovation in 2024.
A lot of people have brought us to this point — volunteers, staff, legislative and municipal leaders and generous donors. We are profoundly thankful to them all. But there is work still to be done, as rising costs and delays caused by the pandemic leave us with money still to be raised.
In addition to raising more funds, one of our last steps in this five-year-long process is to secure a long-term lease from the city. We hope you will support this important and exciting effort to help The Z broaden its role in the community. This is our shared chance to contribute to our common cultural heritage, to lift our economy, to enrich the education of our children, and to bring more of us together to build a healthier, happier community.
Keep an eye on our 2023-2024 season. Our building might be dark, but you’ll find the magic of live Z performances in venues throughout our region.
Rosemary Gill is president of the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center and Frank Almedia is CEO Board Chair of the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center.
Thank you to our sponsors
Founding benefactors: Joan and Irwin Jacobs fund of the Jewish Community Foundation, Mary and Jim Ottaway
For questions about donations, contact Chrystal Walsh, director of advancement, at email@example.com.
For questions about sponsoring The Light, contact Peter Andrews, director of business development and community engagement, at firstname.lastname@example.org.