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Bedford and Boston Little Saigon Cultural Districts Approved

Bethann Steiner, Public Affairs Director

Mass Cultural Council is pleased to announce two new state cultural districts, designated today by unanimous vote of the Agency’s governing Board: Bedford Cultural District in the Town of Bedford and Boston Little Saigon Cultural District, located in the Fields Corner neighborhood of Dorchester, in the City of Boston.

“Today we celebrate Bedford and Boston Little Saigon, and warmly welcome them to our Cultural Districts Initiative,” said Michael J. Bobbitt, Executive Director, Mass Cultural Council. “I hope residents and visitors will be inspired to visit these Districts and enjoy cultural events and activities.”

Mass Cultural Council administers the Cultural Districts Initiative on behalf of the Commonwealth, established in 2011 through an act of the state Legislature. This initiative enables state-designated Cultural Districts to drive economic growth, strengthen the influence of distinctive local character, and improve the quality of life across Massachusetts in our communities.

State-designated Cultural Districts are eligible for financial assistance to support marketing, operations, and programming from Mass Cultural Council, and the communities that host them may be eligible receive additional economic development resources, including state tax credits and grant funding from other public agencies.

Today’s vote means that Mass Cultural Council now supports 51 state-designated Cultural Districts from the Berkshires to Bristol County. You can visit a state-designated Cultural District in the Berkshires, the Pioneer Valley, Worcester County, MetroWest, Metro Boston, North of Boston, Southern Mass., and on the Cape and Islands.

“As I consider our 51 Cultural Districts, I am inspired by the strong sense of community pride showcased by each one, as well as their collective commitment to harness the power of culture, enrich community, and stimulate the economy in every corner of the Commonwealth,” said Bobbitt.

About Bedford Cultural District

Street sign to designate Bedford Cultural District

The Town of Bedford, located in Middlesex County, 15 miles northwest of the City of Boston is steeped in our nation’s history. Bedford is the proud custodian of the Bedford Flag, the oldest known flag in the United States, associated with the Minutemen of Bedford and the 1775 Battle of Lexington and Concord.

The establishment of Bedford Cultural District was spearheaded by the Bedford Arts and Culture Working Group, established in 2016. A partnership between nonprofit and public organizations, the working group includes representatives from Bedford Arts and Crafts Society, Bedford Historical Society, The Bedford Citizen, Bedford Cultural Council, Middlesex Community College, First Parish Bedford, Bedford Public Schools, Bedford Center for the Arts Photo Group, Bedford Chamber of Commerce, and the Bedford Select Board and Planning Board.

“The Bedford Cultural District lies at the heart of our history, and our arts and cultural community, and I am thrilled that the Mass Cultural Council has approved the Cultural District designation for the Town of Bedford,” said Bedford Town Manager Sarah Stanton. “The status will help boost the District with the necessary resources to enhance this important community resource and visitor destination.”

Illustration of Bedford Cultural District boundaries

The boundaries of Bedford Cultural District showcase its ties to the American Revolution, a rich bicycling tradition, and a town hall campus that serves as a community gathering space:

  • The Depot Park complex, the Bedford terminus of the Minuteman Bikeway, includes a visitors’ center in a historic freight house and a vintage rail diesel car from the former Boston & Maine Railroad. A second historic building hosts a stained-glass artist collective and a stone carving studio that is an active workshop space. Another railway, the Bedford Narrow Gauge Rail-Trail, leads to the Veterans Park, where one can visit Bedford’s The Patriot statue, by Bruce Papitto, commissioned by the Cultural Council in 2000.
  • Bedford’s Town Center campus includes two municipal office buildings, the Town Common, various shops, a high school and middle school, and a library where the original Bedford Flag is accessible to the public. A historical burial ground dates to 1729 and, amongst the interred, holds the remains of formerly enslaved soldiers who fought in the American Revolution.

The community of Bedford enjoys several cultural assets which will contribute to the Cultural District’s vibrancy and success, including five galleries, two artist studios, a dynamic Local Cultural Council, two regionally-recognized artist associations, and municipal and state elected officials who recognize that the arts, and the newly designated Bedford Cultural District, are valuable economic development strategies for the town.

“The designation of the Bedford Cultural District is important to economic development and tourism in our region, especially as the economy recovers from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Bedford played a pivotal role in the birth of our nation and this honor is an important acknowledgement of the area’s cultural value,” said State Representative Ken Gordon (D- Bedford). “Thank you to Alyssa Sandoval, the Bedford Select Board, Sarah Stanton, the Bedford Cultural Council, and Mass Cultural Council’s governing Board for all the hard work that went into making this District a reality here in Bedford.”

About Boston Little Saigon Cultural District

Street sign to designate Boston Little Saigon Cultural District

The Boston Little Saigon Cultural District, located along Dorchester Avenue in the Fields Corner neighborhood of Dorchester is a vibrant and diverse area. The City of Boston is home to the largest population of Vietnamese Americans in the Northeast, 75% of whom live in the Cultural District.

Designation of Boston Little Saigon had been discussed locally for years, but in 2018 momentum grew when Networking Organization for Vietnamese Americans (NOVA Boston) became the lead entity for the proposal. NOVA built community interest and support for the District with a series of community meetings, leading to a successful City Council vote endorsing the idea in September 2019.

“We hope to bring more awareness to Vietnamese arts and culture passed onto us by our elders and welcome new ideas from our younger generation,” said Annie Le, Board President, Boston Little Saigon, on behalf of the new Cultural District. “We look forward to working with community members, neighbors, and business owners to create more opportunities and build more support for the arts and for small businesses in the Fields Corner area.”

The Boston Little Saigon Cultural District hosts the nation’s first Vietnamese American Community Center and the Luc Hoa Buddhist Center and Temple. Little Saigon is a bustling center of activity, with more than 200 shops, services, and restaurants.

Illustration of Boston Little Saigon Cultural District boundaries

Boston Little Saigon is committed to highlighting, recognizing, celebrating, and preserving the current Vietnamese American experience through arts, culture, and traditions. It is expected that a state designation will help market the District as a destination for outside visitors. The District hosts many cultural assets, including:

  • Dorchester Art Project, a community-driven art space serving a largely BIPOC community of artists by providing affordable studio, performance, gallery, and community gathering space is a major asset of the Cultural District.
  • Fields Corner Main Street (FCMS), another key partner who facilitates creative placemaking initiatives in the District.
  • Fields Corner Library, which boasts a Vietnamese language collection for borrowing and coordinates Vietnamese cultural programming for visitors, like lantern-making and traditional fan and hat dances.

“The Vietnamese community is a vital part of the fabric of Dorchester and the City of Boston. We are a city and a nation of immigrants, and I applaud this designation, which recognizes the customs, culture, and important contributions of the Vietnamese community to our city and state,” said State Senator Nick Collins (D- Boston). “As Chair of the Joint Committee on Community Development and Small Business, I am particularly excited about increased tourism, job opportunities, and arts and cultural investment that this designation will bring.”

Boston Little Saigon Cultural District received enthusiastic endorsements from Senator Collins and Boston City Councilors Frank Baker and Michelle Wu during today’s Council presentation.

“Cultural districts help all of us celebrate the diversity of our city, and we’re excited to take this step to recognize the major contributions that Vietnamese Americans continue to make to Boston,” said Kara Elliott-Ortega, Chief of Arts and Culture for the City of Boston.

See All 51 State-Designated Cultural Districts

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