Love the Ave ‘Love Locks’ sculpture unveiled on Acushnet Ave. This is what it represents.

NEW BEDFORD – There was “Locks of Love” on Acushnet Avenue on Wednesday with the unveiling and celebration of the Love the Ave “Love Locks” sculpture in Nye Street Pocket Park across from St. Anthony’s Church.

“The experience has been phenomenal, it’s bringing back remembrance,” said Keith M. Francis, the artist behind the newly erected art piece.

The permanent sculpture, which weighs 3,000 pounds and is 12 feet high by 10 feet wide, features two whale tails which come together to form a heart, but can also be interpreted as a hawk pendant. Guests were also asked to place small locks on the statue as a symbol of remembrance.

“It has a kinetic element and when the two fins come together, they vibrate in the wind,” he said.

Francis added that different people who saw early designs for the sculpture also saw roosters, a symbol of faith and good luck, within the piece.

With ties to Acushnet Avenue, Francis’ mother grew up only three houses away from Nye Street Pocket Park. 

A man looks at the new Love the Ave

“My two uncles were born there, too, and they all attended St. Anthony’s Church across the street here. And my grandfather and grandmother were married there in 1937. And my mom and dad in 1960,” he said. “I can’t believe I’m seeing my mom’s cousins that I haven’t seen in 20 years, all coming to this to celebrate me.”

The local artist behind “Love Locks”

As an educator, graphic designer, mixed media, multimedia artist and sculptor based in New Bedford, Francis creates artwork that examines contemporary, social, political, and environmental issues. 

His artwork is the result of thorough research and the use of a variety of materials, as well as a high level of finesse in their construction. He holds a M.F.A. in Fine Art from Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston and a B.A. in Fine Arts and Visual Communications from the University of Massachusetts.

His beautiful artwork has been featured in many venues, including the University of Mississippi, deCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, Viterbo University, Montserrat College of Art, New Hampshire Art Institute, and Phillips Exeter Academy.

Representative Chris Hendricks looks at the Love the Ave

His most recent work “Glittering Patterns” can be seen on the Seaport Art Walk in downtown New Bedford.

“I’ve been very fortunate that my artwork is in museums, universities and corporate collections worldwide,” Francis said. “But, to have something in my hometown that I live in, is phenomenal. With the connection to the community and my family embracing this: It’s worth its weight in gold.”

Bringing more art to Acushnet Avenue

“There’s been a number of murals and public art that’s been installed up and down The Ave,” said Corinn Williams, who oversees most of the avenue’s art installation projects.

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One of the many ways to revitalize and support local communities is through arts and cultural initiatives, according to Williams. Francis’ work and collaborative endeavor promotes artistic expression and community engagement, while building upon the powerful Love The Ave brand launched by the Community Economic Development Center on The Ave.

“We’ve been really excited to integrate this element of public art into the work that we’re doing to build community and to reach out to small businesses and to residents and the wider community to really uplift Acushnet Avenue as it’s an amazing place,” she said.

A map showing various projects by New Bedford Economic Development Council was seen at the

Williams said because many new immigrants have settled in the North End and Acushnet Avenue, it’s become the gateway to a gateway city.

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“This piece of art ties in some of those themes of why people enjoy being on Acushnet Avenue,” she added.

Standard-Times staff writer Seth Chitwood can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on twitter:@ChitwoodReports. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Standard-Times today.

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