In Rhode Island, Size Often Matters… Even When It Comes to Cultural Districts

Posted by Mr. Randall Rosenbaum, Feb 06, 2015

Size drives a lot of policy discussions in Rhode Island. We are, after all, a unit of measure. “That iceberg off the coast of Nova Scotia is about the size of Rhode Island.” But for Rhode Islanders we take pride in how our small state is an intimate place, and we discuss ways we can use that intimacy to our advantage.

Twenty-plus years ago we were one of the first states in the nation to establish cultural districts in select communities. These districts had two distinct but complimentary goals: the first was to attract an art-buying (and money-spending) public, and the second was to encourage artists to live and work in areas that would benefit greatly from their presence.

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Thanks to all our Cultural Districts Blog Salon Writers this Week!

Posted by Theresa Cameron, Jul 26, 2013

What a great week of blogs in our first Blog Salon on Arts, Cultural and Entertainment districts. Thanks to our bloggers and all our commentators, followers on Twitter, and Facebook fans.

As I read each of these blogs I was reminded of how the arts help improve and engage communities, and more specifically, how cultural districts help communities create identity and place. Several of our bloggers were also presenters at our preconference that was held in Pittsburgh this June, and I found their comments about the preconference to be very thought provoking. For example, Greg Handberg began to think differently about his work and the difference between informal and formal types of districts. And Adele Fleet Bacow reminded us that it’s not just the wedding or the honeymoon – it’s the ongoing partnerships that count. Special thanks to John Eger for his inspiring words about art and culture districts being vital to ensuring vibrant economic activity in our cities. They are foreshadowing a whole new economy based upon creativity and innovation. As President Obama stated, “We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.” So thanks again to all of our bloggers for their willingness to dig deep into this subject.

Finally, thanks to you - our readers - for participating in this great week of cultural district blogs. I hope that you will continue to revisit this blog salon in the future for more creative ideas and inspiration. Fortunately, all of the posts will be archived here. And if you are ever interested in blogging yourself, just send us an e-mail. Keep in touch.

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NEA weighs in on Cultural Districts and the new Cultural Districts Exchange

Posted by Michael Killoren, Feb 06, 2015

There are two questions that I frequently hear when asked about arts and cultural districts: what exactly does it mean to be a cultural district, and how does my community go about designating one?

These are big, complicated questions because there are so many variables! Finding meaningful and helpful answers, analysis, and insight to these questions just got easier, thanks to the National Cultural Districts Exchange, a free online resource. Now, you can find comprehensive information on the formation of cultural districts -- including DIY templates, with sample legislation, and guidelines covering all aspects of district designation - all in one place.

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Developing a Cultural District Framework: The Role of Local and State Government

Posted by Ms. Meri Jenkins, Jul 30, 2013

Meri Jenkins Meri Jenkins

Launched in 2011, the Massachusetts Cultural Districts Initiative addresses community revitalization, business development, new income generation, job growth, cultural tourism, the development of space for artists, and the preservation and rehabilitation of the state’s historic landmarks and cultural treasures. Seventeen diverse communities have achieved cultural district designation so far, and we have forty more in the pipeline.

In designing the initiative, we wanted to give cities and towns new tools and resources to strengthen local economies by focusing on their culturally rich downtowns and neighborhoods. We deliberately positioned local government at the center of our approach, and so it is the municipality that is the applicant. Local government has the authority to remove barriers that help foster and promote a cultural economic development agenda by changing or amending regulations, using their convening power to engage stakeholders, and providing capacity and focus.

Before submitting an application for designation, municipalities must pass a public resolution in support of the district and hold public hearings. To date, the majority of the seventeen municipalities that have won designation have passed a unanimous vote, a fascinating result in a state where local debate on myriad issues is often contentious. Even in our most cash strapped districts, some municipalities have also committed funds in support of this agenda.

And the legislation in support of cultural districts is designed to boost their efforts. Perhaps the most far reaching element of the bill is the following language: Executive branch agencies, constitutional offices and quasi-governmental agencies shall identify programs and services that support and enhance the development of cultural districts and ensure that those programs and services are accessible to such districts.

This means that other state agencies are available to discuss cultural district plans and whether their initiatives are appropriate for a district's plan of action. Some additional programs and services include: strategic community planning, marketing and promotion, historic property stewardship, way finding signage, open space programming, and economic development.

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Hôtel du Nord: You Can Check Out, But It Will Never Leave You

Posted by Mr. Tom C. Borrup, Feb 06, 2015

I’ve had many great opportunities to witness how different communities organize themselves through, around, or into arts and cultural districts. In September, 2014, I had the pleasure of visiting a community in Marseille (800,000 population) in the south of France, a cluster of 8 small neighborhoods that formed a fascinating and alluring heritage and creative district with an approach I hadn’t seen in the United States.

Marseille was motivated by the opportunity to serve as European Capital of Culture for 2013, an effort that brought together players across government, creative, and business sectors to build working relationships like they never had before. The now 30-year-old Capital of Culture program rotates through the nations of the EU selecting cities to show off their distinctive creative and cultural assets. A total of 75 municipal entities in the Provence region (1.8 million population) – an area with no history of regional planning and little cooperation – demonstrated unprecedented unity and cultural vitality for their year in the European spotlight. It was branded Marseille-Provence 2013 or MP2013.

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Rethinking Cultural Districts for Small Towns in Small States

Posted by Michael Lange, Feb 18, 2014

Michael Lange Michael Lange

Using cultural districts as a structure for arts and cultural activities is a central catalyst for revitalization efforts that build better communities. Many states and urban areas have setup structures, often through legislation, that promote cultural districts as a way to build vibrant communities that lead to social and economic development.

Getting to the end outcome - the arts playing a leading role in revitalization efforts - is a necessary endeavor, but setting up structures in the same way as urban areas may not be the best approach for a rural state like Wyoming.

Laramie Mural picture 3 Laramie, WY Mural

Wyoming is one of the largest states geographically, but has the smallest population of any state with 575,000 people. Wyoming is better categorized as frontier or even remote. The largest populated city in Wyoming is the state capital Cheyenne, with a population just over 61,000 people. Of the 99 incorporated municipalities, only about half have populations over 1,000 people, and only a handful of those have a population over 10,000.

How can small populated states invest in the outcomes of cultural districts?

In Wyoming, the Wyoming Arts Council has joined in a strategic partnership with Wyoming Main Street which manages the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street program. Located inside the Wyoming Business Council, the Wyoming Main Street program assists Wyoming communities of various sizes and resource levels with their downtown revitalization efforts. Between fully certified and affiliate communities, Wyoming has fifteen active communities in their Main Street Program.

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