Mass Cultural Council oversees programming and services for the 49 state-designated Cultural Districts located throughout the Commonwealth. These districts are well-recognized areas of a municipality in which a high concentration of cultural facilities and programs serve as a main anchor of attraction. They help strengthen local economies, create an enhanced sense of place, and deepen local cultural capacity.
While each of these cultural districts are distinct from the next, one thing unifies them in during this time; they all have as “constituents” individual artists, cultural organizations, and small businesses. What this means during this time of challenge is that our Cultural District managers are looking to not only provide technical services to those three entities, but also coordinating local efforts to continue providing cultural experiences to their communities. All this on top of managing the continuous challenge of personal and familial physical distancing demanded of the time.
It is these challenges, strategies, and efforts that are shared during our bi-weekly Cultural District check-ins. Cultural District managers come together virtually, and share distresses but also share their victories, large and small, during these peer-learning sessions. Some examples include:
Along with leading and assisting numerous mutual aid efforts, Cambridge’s Central Square BID in the Central Square Cultural District has launched CSQ Live. This initiative creates a weekly schedule of events and workshops with Cultural District stakeholders. Virtual offerings include things like drone mural tours, morning yoga and meditation, beginner tap classes from the Dance Complex, and ‘Spring into Stem’ workshops with the Science Club for Girls.
In Easthampton, home of the Cottage Street Cultural District, the City has a commitment to literacy-based programming. The scheduled Poetry Day on April 18 was moved to the virtual realm in the form of a month-long celebration of poetry with local writers spread across the Easthampton City Arts social media channels. The City also extended the term of its poet laureate, María José Giménez.
In Maynard, Maynard Cultural District and Maynard Cultural Council are holding a chalk art contest that families can do on their sidewalks. Winners in four categories get gift certificates to a business of their choice in the Cultural District.
In Natick, Natick Center Cultural District is collaborating with Spark Kindness, local artists, and businesses to create Love 01760, a community-wide public art project. In this effort, community members are asked to create “Heart Halves” which are paired with another heart half to make a full heart that gets displayed throughout the Town. In less than a month, the project’s Facebook Group has more than 1,000 members.
In West Concord Junction Cultural District, The Village Art Room has developed two community-oriented art projects. Their Art Survival Kit program safely delivers arts supplies to families. Their Our Local Farms Mural initiative is a community mural project where everyone can participate from the safety of their homes by painting an individual tile that will then be combined with 298 other tiles to make a 6 ½’ x 11 ½’ mosaic outdoor mural to be installed and unveiled in the summer.
COVID-19 has devastated the arts and cultural sector. No more gigs. No more plays. No more gallery showings. Still, as they usually do, artists are finding ways to make and share their art with the world.
Physically distancing ourselves from one another does not necessarily mean losing social connections. Rather, it gives us all an opportunity to think creatively about what we can do and how we can connect in different ways.
From Artist News to Creative Youth, Community Initiative, and Power of Culture, our email lists are a great way to keep up with the work of Mass Cultural Council and its partners across the Commonwealth.