Meet the Change Maker: Michael Benevides, Fabric Arts Festival Founder

Sep 29, 2023

Can you share a little about your background?
My family was immigrants from the Acores. I came here when I was two years old. My father started his own business in Fall River, which was Portugalia Imports. I always worked in the family business. I also had a genuine interest in arts and culture, and I wanted to promote Portuguese culture. So, now the store has become Portugalia Marketplace. It is a food emporium, that in a way honors the community and culture. We offer not just food and wine, but also art from Portugal.

Tell me about the Fabric Arts Festival and why you created it.
I started the festival to promote contemporary Portuguese art. I also know that the creative economy is essential for a city that is growing. It can be a very valuable marketing tool for the city of Fall River, which is becoming a place that artists are drawn to.

The first program was in 2019. The idea was that it would be a multi-venue, multi-disciplinary festival, at that it would be experimental in nature, as festivals are. That year was about creating awareness – that we were bringing a whole different kind of festival to the area, with music, discussion forums, we painted three murals and did an art installation at the Fall River Carousel.

Last year, we added food as a component to the festival. We had two curated dinners. One was at the Narrows with the Norwegian Fisheries Council, and they did a demonstration showing why salt cod is so important to the Portuguese people. It was performative and participatory, and people loved the dinners.

What’s different with the Fabric Arts Festival this year?
This year, it’s regional. We have programs in Providence, New Bedford and Fall River. We kick off with a dinner performance at the Courtland Club in Providence called “Tropical Anthology.” The artist/chef, Caique Tizzi, is interested in showing how food migrates from one region to another. We also have Gisela Joao, a contemporary fado singer performing at BCC. She’s playing in Paris the week before, then she’s playing in Fall River! “We Sea” is a well-known indi-rock band from the Acores, and they will be playing on AHA! Night in New Bedford at the Whaling Museum. We’re also showing a film, Matria, that not at the Whaling Museum. I’m very excited about the whole program!

How did you come up with the name “Fabric”?
It pays homage to the city’s textile heritage, but it also is about the fabric of the community. Sometimes, people get confused that it’s about actual fabric, and I have to explain that it is about the arts.

What is your vision for the festival in ten years?
I see that their will be even more people involved in the planning and that it will grow. There is a network forming around Fabric. It feels so much bigger than the city. And, it’s rich…it has a lot of richness.


Fabric Arts Festival takes place October 5-14, 2023 with live music, film, dinner performances and more. See the full schedule.

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