Frequently Asked Questions
What is a cultural district?
A cultural district is a specific geographical area in a city or town that has a concentration of cultural facilities, activities, and assets. It is a walkable, compact area that is easily identifiable to visitors and residents and serves as a center of cultural, artistic, and economic activity.
What is the Massachusetts Cultural Districts Initiative?
On July 27, 2010, Governor Patrick signed a bill into law (M.G.L.
c. 10, § 58A) that allows cities and towns to create state-sponsored
cultural districts to stimulate new arts and cultural activity
and attract creative businesses. The law directs the Massachusetts
Cultural Council to create a new program that designates
local districts. The legislation
also directs executive branch agencies, constitutional offices
and quasi-governmental agencies to work with the Mass Cultural Council to identify
services and programs that could support and enhance the development
of cultural districts in Massachusetts.
What goals can a cultural district help a community achieve?
The law that created cultural districts has specific goals. They are: 1) attract artists and cultural enterprises, 2) encourage business and job development, 3) establish the district as a tourist destination, 4) preserve and reuse historic buildings, 5) enhance property values, and 6) foster local cultural development.
Who is eligible to apply for Cultural District designation?
Any city or town in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is eligible to apply.
Can a city-wide, county-wide, regional-wide,
or statewide effort be considered for Cultural District designation?
No, a cultural district is a geographical area of a city or town.
The cultural district must have well-defined boundaries, be walkable,
and widely accessible.
We are a city or town but haven't established a formal partnership,
can we still apply?
No, a city or town must establish a partnership of stakeholders prior to applying for designation that has outlined a clear vision, goals, marketing plan and management for the district.
We are a city or town but haven't committed on a local level to establishing
a cultural district, can we still apply?
No, a city or town must hold a public hearing with adequate notice for public input and pass a resolution making a commitment to establishing a state designated cultural district.
We have organizations outside of the geographic boundaries of the
district that want to be included as partners, is this allowable?
Yes, cultural organizations located outside of the geographic boundaries of the cultural district may be involved in the partnership, but must provide programming on a regular basis within the district's boundaries.
Can a city or a town have more than one cultural district?
Yes, but the city or town will have to apply for each state designation separately.
Do grant funds come with a Cultural District designation?
The Cultural Districts Initiative will offer no grants or other
financial rewards to communities.
The Mass Cultural Council has identified a number
of state agencies whose programs and services may benefit your
How long does a Cultural Districts designation last?
Once awarded, a Cultural District designation will be in effect for 5 years and renewed upon successful compliance with annual reporting requirements in prior years, and a recommitment by the city or town to continue their cultural districts work.
When is the deadline to apply for a designation?
The Massachusetts Cultural Districts Initiative has a rolling application process. There are no deadlines and the program accepts applications on an ongoing basis unless otherwise noted.
What is the application process?
There are three stages to the application process: confirm eligibility, the application, and a site visit.
Not all of the cultural assets, public amenities, marketing tools,
or incentives described in the application are applicable to our
district, can we still apply?
Yes. Not all elements of the application may be applicable to your district, nor is it expected that all elements mentioned in the application will have been completed prior to application.
Where can I find the online application?
How does the site visit work?
If your application is complete, staff will contact you to set up a site visit with the advisor to the Massachusetts Cultural Districts Initiative. The advisor and Mass Cultural Council staff will arrange a date to tour the proposed district and meet with the city/town applicant and other Cultural District partners. The meeting is an opportunity to demonstrate the district's readiness to obtain state designation. The applicant and partners should be prepared to respond to questions about the proposed district. Instructions on preparing for the site visit and a meeting agenda will be emailed to you prior to the visit. The advisor will create a site visit report based on the information presented and his /her observations.
What happens after my application is submitted and my site visit is
The Mass Cultural Council staff and site advisor will make recommendations to the
Mass Cultural Council Board. The Mass Cultural Council Board will make all final decisions regarding
state designation. Following the Mass Cultural Council Board vote, your city or
town will be notified of the outcome of your application by letter,
usually within two weeks of a Mass Cultural Council board meeting. If the application
is successful, Mass Cultural Council staff will contact you to arrange a designation
ceremony and media announcements. If the application is unsuccessful,
staff will discuss next steps in the process for reapplication.
Which districts have been designated so far?
All currently designated Massachusetts Cultural Districts are listed here.
Who can I contact for more information?
at 617-858-2716 or Annie Houston at