By Kim Siebert MacPhail
On Monday night, Selectman Bill Moonan distributed information about cultural districts from the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC): what they are, how to designate an area of a town as one, and what the benefits are.
“The discussion about improving the outside of the Depot [building] on Loomis Street at South Road] has got me thinking about the fact that, among other things, the Historical Society has been thinking about getting a museum going that is larger and more active,” Moonan explained. The Depot might be a location [for it]. I know that [the Historical Society] will be coming into a fair chunk of money soon, and they might be interested in contributing to the cost of that building.
“A cultural district that would be established that would include Depot Park and go all the way up South Road and the Common and over to the Town Center might be a very useful thing. I think this is something we might want to consider sometime in the future,” Moonan added.
Moonan continued by saying that the purpose of cultural districts, as described on the MCC website, is to foster additional cultural development and to encourage tourism, [the creation of jobs and the preservation of historic buildings.
The website also defines what a cultural district is: “. . .[a geographic] concentration of cultural facilities, activities and assets [that is] walkable, compact, and easily identifiable to visitors and residents, and serves as a center of cultural, artistic and economic activity.”
The sorts of activities and businesses that find a home in a cultural district are arts classes and educational offerings, rehearsals, museums, open studios, exhibitions, concerts and other performing arts events, farmers’ markets, restaurants, and walking tours, to name a few.
The goals of cultural districts, besides the previously mentioned preservation of historic buildings, are to attract artists and cultural enterprises, encourage business and job development, establish a tourist destination, reuse and preserve historic buildings and enhance property values.
The MCC directs towns interested in establishing cultural districts to form a cultural district partnership of stakeholders that includes an incorporated cultural organization registered as such in Massachusetts. For-profit and non-profit groups, educational and faith-based organizations, as well as regional, state, and federal funding agencies can also be part of the partnership.
The MCC also includes an online “readiness wizard” that towns can use to gauge whether they are eligible to begin the process of forming a cultural district. The Council also offers technical and funding assistance for towns that elect to move forward.
To visit the MCC webpage dedicated to guidelines to cultural districts, visit: https://www.massculturalcouncil.org/applications/culturaldistricts_guidelines.asp.