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Springfield City Council Endorses Cultural District

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Pittsfield has one. So do Easthampton, Shelburne, and a half-dozen more communities across Massachusetts. Now the largest city in western Massachusetts wants to create a state-designated cultural district.

The Springfield City Council voted unanimously this week to authorize the proponents of a downtown cultural district to apply for an official designation from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. The goals of the district are to attract artists and cultural economy entrepreneurs to generate business and jobs and promote tourism.

Representatives from roughly a dozen cultural institutions, downtown organizations, business groups and the city have worked for months on the project, according to Holly Smith-Bove, President of the Springfied Museums.

The proposed cultural district is a several square block area of downtown Springfield that includes the museums, the Springfield Armory National Park, Springfield Technical Community College, the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, various art galleries and performance venues, and several historic buildings.

Officials say the cultural district designation will result in joint marketing opportunities and activities such as public art, festivals, and concerts.  John Simpson, an artist and lecturer at UMass Amherst said the district will showcase Springfield’s history.

Evan Plotkin, the president of a property management company who has provided space for public art exhibits in several locations in downtown Springfield, said the cultural district will rebrand Springfield.

Springfield City Councilor Kateri Walsh said the city will not have to spend any money to create the cultural district and if the state-designation comes through grants would become available.

The endorsement by the city council was the final local authorization for the project.  Springfield Museums Vice-President Kay Simpson said the application will be made to the Massachusetts Cultural Council by mid-August.

A site visit by official from the cultural council is part of the application process.

Sixteen cultural district designations have been issued in Massachusetts since the program started in 2011. Each designation is good for five years and is subject to renewal.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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