NEW BEDFORD — There’s a herring gull named Glen flying around the Whaling City, and he’s about to make his big debut in an upcoming children’s book.
“New Bedford has so much history, so much future, and just a ton to offer as an artist,” said Margo Connolly-Masson, author of “And Then…Glen.”
The children’s book is all about following around the feathered downtown resident hoping to catch him causing a nuisance in the city. Instead, he is embraced by the community and makes people laugh with his wit and charm.
“It’s just about exploring the places where he lives,” Connolly-Masson said. “We realize that he belongs here as much as everybody else does — how the city belongs to everyone that’s here.”
Respecting seagulls in New Bedford is one of the many priorities of the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park. In July 2021, the park posted signs asking drivers to be mindful of baby seagulls in the street.
“People just fly by here!” said Jennifer Smith, the superintendent of New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park in a previous one Standard-Times article. “It just felt like there were so many baby seagulls around and we need to look out for them.”
Connolly-Masson was inspired to write the book after meeting the “actual Glen” while dining at Moby Dick Brewing Co. with her son Roger.
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“When people would get up and leave their tables, there was a seagull who kept popping up on the tables and snatching french fries,” she said.
We were laughing at him, and the waitress came over and said, Oh, that’s Glen. He’s here all the time.’ I just really loved the name and that he had this personality.”
Hatch Street Studio artist in New Bedford
As one of the artists at the Hatch Street Studio, Connolly-Masson is no stranger to the local art scene. She also sells her work through the Etsy store MargoPaints Co. According to her artist’s statement on her website, Connolly-Masson’s art “depicts the objects and scenes that she has discovered while roaming the beaches, salt marshes, working waterfronts, and seaside neighborhoods of Massachusetts, Alaska, and South Carolina.”
A New Bedford native, she has a degree in biology, environmental studies and environmental education from the University of Pennsylvania and a certification in natural science illustration with the Rhode Island School of Design.
Connolly-Masson has worked as an after-school program director for Friends Academy, an admissions application reader for Brown and UMass Dartmouth as well as an admissions counselor for the University of Alaska Southeast. She was also a senior educator for the Buzzards Bay Coalition and a Fisheries Technician for the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.
Artist-in-Residence at New Bedford Whaling National Park
In 2022, Connolly-Mason was an artist-in-residence in the New Bedford Whaling Historical National Park’s Artist-in-Residence program, which consists of four artists, one per quarter, from various disciplines, serving at their capacity for three months, according to the website.
Out of the 420 national parks in the United States, only 50 parks currently offer this type of program.
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“New Bedford understands the value of creativity and having artists tell stories,” said Lindsay Compton, park ranger and supervisor of the residency program.
Compton said the program is a creative take on storytelling and community engagement in a way that isn’t a formal lecture.
Since launching the program in 2018, the park has hosted 15 artists. In 2022, the program hosted their first artist out of the New England area from Kentucky. This year, they will host artists from Boston, Providence, New Bedford and Portland, Oregon.
“Margo is an incredible artist. The projects that really kind of float to the top, specifically like Margo’s, are ones that speak to something specific in New Bedford, using New Bedford as a source of inspiration,” Compton said.
And Margo clearly articulated what she wanted to do, how she wanted to do it and how she was going to engage the public while doing all of those things.
New Bedford sights in ‘And Then…Glen’
In October, Connolly-Mason said she hit the ground running with her idea. As a mother of two children, she’s more than familiar with children’s books.
“I try to pay a lot of attention to what we’re reading and what the illustrations are like,” she said, adding that “Jabari Jumps” by Gaia Cornwall, “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats and “Let’s Go! A Harvest Story” by Hannah Lindoff were some of her main inspirations for the look and feel of her book.
“I wanted to really reflect the diversity of the cultures that we have, as well as the businesses downtown,” she added.
“I’m always in downtown New Bedford. So just the experience of being in yoga classes and hearing seagulls squawking outside of studios and, going to The Baker every weekend and seeing Victor [Fonseca] Greeting the customers, I wanted to show that.”
Taking photos of the area this past summer, Connolly-Mason said the book features illustrations from The Baker, YMCA and the downtown waterfront, though New Bedford isn’t specifically mentioned in the story.
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“I want it to be appealing to a wide range of audiences and that people would recognize things about the places in the book that they might think are where they live,” she said.
She also used menus from local restaurants, the map of the national park, downtown area brochures about Frederick Douglass and Abolition Row Park as the material for the collage art.
“She’s incredible. Margo is a true go-getter,” Compton said. “I’ve just been really impressed by her work ethic, her professionalism, her creativity and the way she effortlessly engages with our visitors and the community at large.”
Compton said the plan is for the park to print around 100 books and offer them free to the public. After that, it will be Connolly-Masson’s decision on how to proceed.
“I hope to do more,” she said. “I definitely need to spend some time figuring out what the next steps are, but there’s more stories I can definitely tell about Glen,” said Connolly-Masson.
Standard-Times staff writer Seth Chitwood can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on twitter: @ChitwoodReports.Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Standard-Times today.