Examples of Cultural Districts
in MA and Beyond

south end

Natick Center Cultural District

Fenway Cultural District

HyArts and Barnstable Village Cultural Districts

MOU with Town of Natick dedicates funding and outlines roles and responsibilities.

Additional funds are raised through membership and events.

The three-tiered funding approach of grant funding, member institutions, and corporate partners program provides the organization the opportunity to sustain the Fenway Cultural District programming. Operating budget of Barnstable covers full-time staff position in Planning Department for HyArts District.No funding source is explicitly dedicated to the districts.Revenue generated by arts and culture programs helps fund the districts.



Key Takeaways

Natick Center Cultural District

  • Natick Center Associates made the Natick Center Cultural District central to its efforts to achieve broader economic development goals for Natick Center.
  • NCA uses committees and subcommittees to formalize relationships among and stay accountable to district partners, organizations and energized residents.
  • An Memorandum of Understanding with the town designates NCA as the managing entity for the district, delineates the Town's responsibilities for the district, establishes a Natick Center Cultural District Programming and Events committee, mandates a Town-designated "project representative" to act on its behalf as a member of the committee, and provides $80,000 in funds for programming and events.
  • The subcommittee structure has given the Natick Center Cultural District flexibility to organize and engage new organizations and residents to contribute to the growth of the District.

Fenway Cultural District

  • The Fenway Alliance is an organization with over 40 years of expertise. They are a mature organization and their current executive director has been at the organization for 17 years. Their experience in the community positions them well to manage the Fenway Cultural District.
  • The activities from the cultural district address the mission, vision, and needs of the organization. The cultural district designation was a natural fit because it aligned well with they were already programming in the area. Although it is not all of what they focus on, the cultural district is part of their work.
  • The three-tiered funding approach of grant funding, member institutions, and corporate partners program provides the organization the opportunity to sustain the Fenway Cultural District programming.

HyArts and Barnstable Village Cultural Districts

  • The Town of Barnstable's investments in artist workspaces through the Artist Shanty program and performance venues though the Aselton Park and cultural campus development in Hyannis laid the foundation for a thriving arts community that the cultural districts build on.
  • Communication for the purposes of coordinated scheduling, marketing and promotion among district partners and organizations that run arts and cultural programming is the key responsibility for district staff.
  • One paid, full-time staff position within the Town allowed for the growth and expansion of municipal arts and culture initiatives.
  • Securing a dedicated funding source for cultural districts remains a challenge.

Cultural Districts with Theaters as Anchors

A brief survey of cultural district across the country highlights the following districts that may offer relevant policies, regulations (zoning and land use), and programs that can incentivize cultural uses in a neighborhood cultural and innovation district. Each of the districts were selected to establish a geographically diverse collection of case studies that could offer examples of success from around the country. Arts and cultural districts that included a community theatre were prioritized over others. The use, operation, and maintenance of the theaters seems to benefit greatly from a "host" theater company that uses the facility as a home for its program needs and performances, with other events filling in around this baseline of activity.

Each district has a unique story of its origin, but they include a champion to drive the collective vision forward. Several districts were relatively grassroots or artist based enterprises such as the South End Arts and Business Association or the Crossroads Community Association. Other champions included a compact coalition that included an arts organization ready for change including the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization and Cleveland Public Theatre in Gordon Square, or the Beverly Main Streets with the City of Beverly and Montserrat College of Art. Other champions were private foundations and non-profit arts organizations. In each case, these champions are what really got the district off the ground and operating to make a positive change.