What is a cultural district?
A cultural district is a specific area in a city or town. It has a number of cultural facilities, activities, and assets. It is a walkable, compact area. It is easy for visitors and residents to recognize. It is a hub of cultural, artistic and economic activity. The Mass Cultural Council knows that each community is unique. No two cultural districts will be alike.
What is the Mass 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 Mass 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. They must identify services and programs that could support and enhance the development of cultural districts in Mass.
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
6) foster local cultural development.
Who is eligible to apply for cultural district designation?
Any city or town in the Commonwealth of Mass can apply.
Can a city-wide, county-wide, regional-wide, or statewide effort seek a cultural district designation?
No, a cultural district is a specific area of a city or town. The cultural district must have well-defined boundaries. It must be walkable, and 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 before applying for designation. The partnership must have 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 at least one community input meeting. This is so that people can learn about the cultural district map and goals.
We have organizations outside of the boundaries of the district that want to be included as partners? Is this allowed?
Yes, cultural for- profit or not-for-profit entities that are outside the boundaries of the district can be involved.They must produce cultural programming within the district. The cultural district may promote them in cultural district materials.
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.
Do grant funds come with a cultural district designation?
The Cultural Districts Initiative does not provide grants on a regular basis. The Council has identified other state agencies whose programs may benefit your cultural district.
How long does a cultural districts designation last?
Once awarded, a Cultural District designation will be in effect for 5 years. The cultural district can be renewed upon successful compliance with annual reporting requirements. The city or town must recommit to continue their cultural districts work.
When is the deadline to apply for a designation?
The Mass Cultural Districts Initiative has a rolling application process. There are no program deadlines. 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 that your city or town is eligible
- complete the application
- complete a site visit
Not all of the cultural assets, public amenities, marketing tools, or incentives described in the application apply to our district, can we still apply?
Yes. Not all elements of the application may be applicable to your district.
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. The site visit is with the advisor to the Massa Cultural Districts Initiative. The advisor and Mass Cultural Council staff will arrange a date to tour the proposed district. They will meet with the city/town applicant and Cultural District partners. The meeting demonstrates the district’s readiness to obtain state designation. The applicant and partners should be prepared to respond to questions. Instructions on preparing for the site visit 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 complete?
Staff and site advisor will make a recommendation to the Mass Cultural Council. The Mass Cultural Council will make all final decisions. Following the Mass Cultural Council vote, your city or town will be notified letter. If the application is successful, Council staff will contact you to arrange a designation ceremony. They will discuss media messages. If the application is unsuccessful, staff will discuss next steps.
Which districts have been designated so far?
All currently designated Mass Cultural Districts are listed here.
Who can I contact for more information?
Luis Cotto at 617-858-2716