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$750,000 Granted to 50 State-Designated Cultural Districts

Carolyn Cole, Program Officer

crowd of people dancing in sync outside on a roadway, their arms all uplifted
Flashmob in Williamstown Cultural District

A few years back, I was running a state-designated Cultural District with a budget of only $800 one year. Our city was contemplating receivership. Local funding was scarce. I had earned that $800 from the sale of t-shirts the year prior. If you’re wondering how to use resourcefulness to stretch a dollar, just ask your local cultural sector partners. They’re oftentimes full of creative solutions.

This year, in order to encourage the development and success of our state-designated Cultural Districts in accordance with Massachusetts’ Cultural Districts legislative statute, our governing Council has generously approved FY23 Cultural District Investment Grants of $15,000 to 50 districts across the state – double the grant award they received last year. This is the most money Mass Cultural Council has ever invested into this program – three quarters of million dollars! Look how far we’ve come.

This year’s funding increase will have a profound impact on these 50 districts tasked with stabilizing themselves, as well as their partners, communities, and constituents, through the ongoing and after-effects of the pandemic. These grants will support our sectoral leaders to implement long-desired initiatives in areas pivotal to their growth and sustainability such as:

  • Strategic and cultural planning and development
  • Marketing and engagement
  • Regional and collaborative programming
  • Equity and access initiatives
  • And more

Over the years I’ve come to learn about numerous other cultural/arts/creative district programs and models from around the world. What sets the Agency’s Cultural District Initiative apart is how accessible it is to communities in relation to money. Some are pay-to-play, where you are required to present a funding contribution as part of your designation. Others require funding matches for available grants. While I understand the intention behind these processes as they relate to foundational maintenance and sustainability practices, we’ve come to believe in Cultural Districts as a celebration and preservation of culture and community that we are proud to support, not as an exclusive concept whose mere existence comes at a price and inevitably invokes the question, ‘Who is this space really for?’

As the Agency prepares to kick off its 10 year anniversary of supporting Cultural Districts I do believe that this public funding will prove to be truly transformative in districts working towards their next 10 years of existence.

We might even sell t-shirts to commemorate the momentous occasion.

See the Funding List

Read the Press Release

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