Old Colony Memorial, October 7, 2014
By Frank Mand
PLYMOUTH – It’s about seeing what is already there. It’s about hearing what is already ringing out. It’s about knowing what you have suspected all along. It’s called cultural district designation (CDD).
Plymouth has a wealth of cultural attractions – historic sites, theatrical companies, festivals and feasts – but they are often hiding in plain site. Wednesday, Oct. 22 however, a new town committee will hold an open house at the Spire Center to explain how a cultural district designation can forge powerful links between all of the elements of Plymouth’s historic downtown and beyond.
A cultural district, as stated by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, is “a specific geographical area in a city or town that has a concentration of cultural facilities, activities, and assets.”
It should, the Council says, be a walkable area, easily identifiable to visitors and residents, which serves as a “center of cultural, artistic, and economic activity.”
Plymouth clearly has at least one and likely more areas that would qualify for CDD. In fact the application for that designation that the new Cultural District Committee (CDC) is putting together already includes more than a hundred cultural elements.
The proposed district contains almost three dozen historical sites and attractions, such as the Mayflower II, Burial Hill and the Richard Sparrow House.
The district would also encompass Plymouth’s thriving music and arts scene, more than 20 restaurants offering live entertainment, nearly a dozen performing arts venues and arts production organizations like Brewster Productions, Project Arts, Memorial Hall and the new Spire Center.
The proposed cultural district is also home to several art galleries and shops selling local artisan handcrafted goods.
Plymouth’s many annual festivals and public events are also considered when applying for the official designation.
With all of that the question is, why does the town need to incorporate this wealth of cultural elements into one virtual district?
“Enhancing the town’s economy through a Cultural District Designation is an early legacy of the 400th anniversary,” Plymouth 400 Executive Director Michele Pecoraro said, “and will bring the cultural community together for the large scale events of 2020.”
The cultural district initiative actually originated with the the Plymouth 400, which took the idea to the Board of Selectmen, which then authorized the creation of the committee.
According to the Massachusetts Cultural Council, “cultural districts help local arts, humanities, and science organizations improve the quality and range of its public programs so that more local families can benefit from them.
“By creating a network of organizations that offer cultural experiences and also those that assist in the overall hospitality of visitors to the area (hotels, restaurants, etc.), local businesses become linked to one another, increasing the likelihood of tourists making more than just one stop within the district.”
A key issue for Plymouth is the brevity of the time in which tourists stay in town. Cultural district designation, the Council says, increases the likelihood that tourists will visit more than one location, such as the Rock or Mayflower II, and will instead spend a little more time (and money) seeing the sites, enjoying a bite and the like.
So the committee created to develop and submit the cultural district application on behalf of the town is hosting a community meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 22, at the Spire Center, which will be open to the public.
At that meeting committee members will discuss the cultural district and the long list of cultural assets that are part of the application, and then hold a brainstorming session to discuss possible events, programs, and marketing promotions that might be possible once the designation is official.
Massachusetts Cultural Commission Program Manager Meri Jenkins will also attend the meeting, sharing her experiences with other cultural districts in Massachusetts, as well as offering guidance and feedback on Plymouth’s proposed district programs and events.
Need some culture? Got some culture to share? The Spire Center for Performing Arts is located at 25 1/2 Court St. in downtown Plymouth.
Follow Frank Mand on Twitter @frankmandOCM
Old Colony Memorial, October 7, 2014