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Plymouth could have first cultural district by Thanksgiving

The Official Website of the
Plymouth 400
Commemoration

PLYMOUTH – As the open house on the town’s plans to establish its first-ever cultural district got underway Wednesday night, wind from the Nor’easter roaring through town passed over The Spire’s antique, stained-glass windows causing them to rumble, roar and reverberate preposterously.
It seemed the perfect special effect, adding drama to the scene that Plymouth 400, which is managing the town’s application for cultural district designation, had waiting in the wings for those in attendance.
In the vestibule of the former church, where the walls are already covered with the work of local photographers, guests encountered artists daubing at paintings and a musician strumming an acoustic guitar.
The creative economy, 400 Executive Director Michele Pecoraro explained as the formal presentation got underway, is a $4 billion industry.
Oftentimes, however, communities don’t take full advantage of their cultural assets. And cultural district designation seeks to overcome that by, among many strategies, strengthening the local economy (cultural tourists stay longer and spend more), providing programs and resources (cultural districts are listed on the popular website for Massachusetts Travel and Tourism) and encouraging cross-promotion between cultural sites and district businesses.
Who will benefit from this effort?
Businesses both inside and outside the district, Pecoraro said.
Pecoraro asked those in attendance to identify themselves, and any organization with which they were affiliated.
It was a long, interesting list.
Besides artists and musicians, Plimoth Plantation and the Court Street business Setting the Space was represented. The Plymouth Cultural Council, and gallery owner and Plymouth Guild member Andrew Kusmin attended, along with residents like Mary Galvin and Steve Lydon. Parishioners from the First Parish Church were on hand at The Spire Wednesday night, as were Patricia Drain and Paul Kinnear, the owners of Middle Street School of Music. Selectmen Matt Muratore and Tony Provenzano also turned out on this blustery night, as did Golden Gull Studios owner David Buckman and well-known photographer Wes Ennis, website developer Mary Shields, representatives from the Plymouth Philharmonic, Ed and Charlotte Russell and many, many others.
Meri Jenkins, program manager for the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) was in town for the meeting and noted it was an impressive group. But it’s “just the tip of the iceberg,” she added.
Plymouth’s initial assessment of all the cultural institutions and associated businesses – its so-called “cultural assets” – that can be identified in a walking tour of the proposed district totaled 122. That’s far and away the most of any cultural district in Massachusetts. Lowell, one of the state’s biggest cultural success stories, has 76.
It’s an inclusive rather than exclusive club. The MCC defines a cultural asset as anything from a performing arts venue to a coffee shop with local art on the walls.
Despite its history, the enthusiasm of the committee and the numbers of assets, Plymouth has not officially received its designation, not yet. It is still in the midst of the application process.
Could the town actually be turned down?
It’s possible, of course, but Jenkins seemed to tip her hat on the decision. After first praising the Plymouth committee that has been working on the application and remarking on the variety of assets the town possesses, Jenkins acknowledged the MCC is trying to get the review and approval complete in time for Thanksgiving.
“Then it will be time to party,” Jenkins said.
If and when Plymouth’s application is approved, it will become the 27th cultural district in Massachusetts.
Follow Frank Mand on Twitter @frankmandOCM.