The Role of Cultural Districts

The arts have a positive impact on national and state economies, and they can benefit local economies as well.

In some cities and towns, a specific geographic area may be designated as a cultural district. The area may include a high concentration of arts institutions, cultural organizations and programs, and other businesses.

Cultural districts encourage economic growth, promote tourism, develop branding and cultural identity, create character and appeal, and often revitalize and improve the quality of life of a community.

In Massachusetts, law passed in 2010 authorized the designation of cultural districts by the Mass Cultural Council when city or town governments apply. The state defines a cultural district as “a specific geographical area in a city or town that has a concentration of cultural facilities, activities, and assets. It is a walkable, compact area that is easily identifiable to visitors and residents and serves as a center of cultural, artistic and economic activity.”

The stated goals of cultural districts in Massachusetts are:

  • Attract artists and cultural enterprises
  • Encourage business and job development
  • Establish the district as a tourist destination
  • Preserve and reuse historic buildings
  • Enhance property values
  • Foster local cultural development

In Watertown, a Town Hall meeting sponsored by the Watertown Business Coalition will be held on Monday, January 25, at 9:00 a.m. to discuss the possibility of a cultural district here.

During this Town Hall, speakers will discuss why becoming a cultural district is important for supporting the arts and the economy and for showcasing our town’s diverse cultures. A representative from Mass Cultural Council and leaders from other successful cultural districts in Massachusetts will be included.

To register for the Town Hall, click here.

Photo: Cultural district in downtown Great Barrington, Mass., designated in 2018.

Published by MCA

The Mosesian Center for the Arts is a vibrant multi-disciplinary community arts organization in Watertown, Massachusetts. The 30,000 square foot Center, located within a former United States Army arsenal, includes a 340-seat main stage theater, a 100-seat black box theater, exhibition galleries, rehearsal halls, classrooms, and resident artist studios. Program offerings include visual and performing arts classes and workshops for all ages, literary and art discussions, and world-class theatrical and musical performances. Regionally recognized and acclaimed, Watertown Children’s Theatre proudly serves as MCA’s flagship performing arts education program, providing exceptional theater arts classes and performances for youth and families. New Repertory Theatre is the award-winning professional theater company in residence at MCA, and the venue is rented to other outstanding performing arts companies in the Greater Boston region.

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