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All That and a Bag of Cape Cod Culture

Ricardo Guillaume, Program Officer

Attendees of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau Regional Meeting of Cultural Districts
Attendees of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau’s regional meeting of Cultural Districts. (Image: Luis Cotto)

The weather on the Cape and Islands may be getting crispier than a bag of Cape Cod Chips but their arts and cultural happenings continue to heat up.

Earlier this month, the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau’s regional meeting of Cultural Districts brought leaders from the Cape and Islands arts community together to talk partnerships and successes.

As it turns out, the partnerships and successes are numerous.

“We’re much stronger in numbers, we’re much stronger when we leverage our assets with each other, including the Islands – who we work with on a daily basis – the Vineyard and Nantucket,” said Wendy Northcross, who is celebrating 22 years as Chief Executive Officer of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“I have a love affair with Cape Cod that keeps me here, keeps me in this job, and I’m very fortunate to be in a job where you can actually make a difference and make some cool things happen,” she said.

In September, the Chamber launched their new website, a one-stop-shop for information on meetings, weddings, group tours, memberships, living on the Cape, and working on the Cape. Last year, 1.5 million people flocked to the site to get visitor information. That number should check out because there’s so much to see and do in the Cape’s Cultural Districts.

“Harwich is made up of seven villages, which a lot of people don’t realize,” Cindy Williams, Executive Director of the Harwich Chamber of Commerce said. “So we’re going through two Cultural District designations at the same time. Harwich Port will be the Harwich Port Cultural District and then there will be the Harwich Center Cultural District.”

If you think Harwich is busy, wait until you read about what’s new in Orleans.

The Orleans Chamber, Orleans Cultural Council, and Orleans Cultural District collaborated to create an “I Spy” map for murals and sculptures around town. And the youth art show in Orleans – a showcase of Cape student works in painting, drawing, sculpture, fashion design, and photography – was very well attended this year according to JoAnna Keeley, Chair of the Orleans Cultural District. Also, the Town of Orleans approved a walker hanging system to exhibit work by local artists on the walls of municipal buildings. Something that (if you can believe it) was once frowned upon.

“Before there were administrators who thought art would distract the employees,” Eileen Godin of the Orleans Cultural District said. “Now… the employees are asking us, ‘are you doing it again?!’”

That frown is now officially upside down and there are additional artists smiling in Wellfleet thanks of their efforts to increase artist recognition. Courtney Anne Butler, Executive Assistant to the Town Administrator of Wellfleet and Staff Liaison for the Wellfleet Cultural District, said while resident artists’ work has always been highlighted on the town’s beach stickers, now the Cultural District partners with the Town on the artist application and selection process, and hosts a ceremony at an art gallery to celebrate the chosen artist and works.

Paula Johnson, Executive Director of Sandwich Community TV and Board Member of the Glasstown Cultural District Steering Committee, highlighted Sandwich’s Haunted Graveyard Tour – which has sold out for each of its three years – if you’re in the mood for a spook. Melissa Chartrand, Arts and Culture Coordinator for the Town of Barnstable, discussed HyARts Discovery Walk – interactive outdoor sculptures linking historic Main Street to the Hyannis waterfront – if you fancy an inspirational stroll.

Janet Schulte, Director of the Town of Nantucket Office of Culture & Tourism, took advantage of our state’s collective love of coffee and selfies. First, she created a passport promotion between coffee shops in the district where visitors who purchased a cup o’ Joe at every location received a $25 gift card. Not to stop there, this past summer she celebrated Harold Melville’s 20oth birthday with a full Instagram coup d’état.

“We did these pop-up readings where we had podiums and a dozen different sites with selections from Moby Dick,” Schulte said. “And you’d walk up, take your picture, put it on Instagram, and then I had gift cards from two restaurants with [ties to] Moby Dick or whaling and we would select a winner each week. We put some of [the podiums] outside of our small museums and people would go and do the Instagram thing and go and see these museums they’d never seen before.”

It’s easy to see how the Cultural Districts on the Cape and the Islands are thriving, because local leaders in those communities are eager to work together and get creative to keep the success stories coming.

“One of the reasons we have this program is for all of the Cultural Districts to be able to talk,” Luis Cotto, Program Manager at the Mass Cultural Council said. “One of the biggest benefits to having the state designation is the ability to talk amongst yourselves – the people who are doing the work – to sit and learn from each other’s pitfalls and successes.”

Regional Meeting Attendees

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