The Bedford Cultural District Celebrated its Launch with Appropriate Fanfare

July 1, 2022
Dignitaries gathered for a ribbon cutting to formally launch the Bedford Cultural District ~ Image JMcCT (c) 2012 all rights reserved


Mass Cultural Council program manager Carolyn Cole attended the launch with her family ~ Image JMcCT (c) 2022 all rights reserved

Bedford’s Cultural District was formally launched on June 11 with ceremonies at the Bedford Free Public Library and at Depot Park during a  celebration of our local arts and culture.

Under a bright spring sun, families and friends explored the district, following an interactive scavenger hunt, that showed the diversity of arts and cultural amenities Bedford offers. Visitors experienced Bedford’s history, art, and music all within the Cultural District’s pedestrian-friendly corridor.

The district opens the door for local organizations to receive economic assistance from the Mass Cultural Council. The designation is the by-product of a years-long effort spearheaded by Alyssa Sandoval, Bedford’s original Director of Economic Development. Current director Jeff King, Cultural Council chair Barbara Purchia, and Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Peter Bagley took the reins to manage the recent celebration.

To Jeff King, the Cultural District is a tool for economic development in Bedford. In addition to serving the artists, musicians, and storytellers in town, it also aids in bringing diverse talent to Bedford, King says. “Employees are looking for culture, restaurants, things to do.”

Peter Bagley, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, thought the event went “exceptionally well” and is impressed by the support the town lends to its cultural scene. He made it clear that the Chamber sees the beginning of a fruitful partnership between the artists of Bedford and its local businesses, many of which have “committed funding and event space for future events.”

Even non-local franchises like Whole Foods and Jersey Mike’s are getting involved- the new district is providing ways for these larger corporations to contribute to the local community.

Local groups gathered on Bedford Common; the Bedford Arts and Craft society, the BCA Photo group, the Garden Club, the Parents Diversity Council, and others delightedly engaged with the community. Visitors could browse the photo group’s collection of local work, learn Gel press printing from the Arts and Craft society, and share their appreciation of Bedford’s diversity at the Bedford Embraces Diversity table, all the while being serenaded by local musicians.

In a small but bona fide Bedford Center music festival, visitors got to experience the vibrancy of Bedford’s music scene throughout the day. The Crescendo Suzuki Violin Studio offered an angelic performance of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” and traditional Korean Folk tunes, followed by a trifecta of Bedford local acts: Lexi Ugelow, Neil Dale, and Dean Groves.

Across South Road from the Common, Old Town Hall houses some of Bedford’s most active cultural institutions—Bedford TV and the Bedford Historical Society.

Visitors got the chance to tour the Historical Society’s new space and the Corey Archive, complete with vintage BHS letterman jackets, and an eye-opening exhibit of the long-defunct pharmaceutical factory at Bedford Springs.

Town Historian Sharon McDonald, also a member of the Historical Society board of directors, was thrilled to finally open the doors at the new space and had a busy day fielding questions and giving tours to an “unending stream through the day” of curious visitors and competitive scavenger hunters.

Carolyn Cole, the Cultural District’s program officer for the Mass Cultural Council, attended the opening with her family. Bedford Arts and Craft Society’s Gelli art station was her daughter’s favorite, and they were able to bring budding sunflowers home to cultivate, courtesy of the Garden Club.

The Gelli art was not the only chance to get involved. The Narrow Gauge Trail hosted an interactive chalk art piece designed by local artist Caryn Johnson. It blossomed over the course of the day, thanks to hands small and large, with colorful flowers and one particularly photorealistic portrait of Bedford Library’s celebrity turtle- Murphy.

At the library, young readers were encouraged to make their own bookmarks, reminding us that this is just the first page of the district’s new exciting chapter. Altogether, the grand opening was far from a passive event and showed that our town culture is the result of collaboration—people of all ages and backgrounds, coming together to create and celebrate. After all, it doesn’t just take an artist, but also an audience, and Bedford showed up.

For those who did not get a chance to visit the Cultural District launch, do not fret: the Bedford Free Public Library’s excellent atrium exhibition “Grounded: Landscape Explorations In Wax” is on view until July 14, and the Gallery@First Parish exhibit by Brogan Joe Murphy, “The Splendor of the Visible,” is on view through the summer.

A full photo gallery will be added later ~ Please check back!

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