Effort underway to designate section of city a Cultural District

More than a decade ago, Massachusetts lawmakers created a Cultural Districts program, in which cities and towns may designate sections of their communities as centers for local arts, entertainment, dining and other cultural staples.

Now, some of Newton’s arts and nonprofit leaders want to see an area encompassing part of Washington Street and nearby streets get that distinction.

Leaders from Newton Community Pride, the Newton Cultural Alliance, the New Art Center and the Charles River Regional Chamber recently drafted a letter to Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller and City cultural affairs & economic development leaders urging them to seek application to the Massachusetts Cultural Council, to make that part of the city—which connects West Newton and Newtonville—a designated Cultural District by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to bring the cultural and economic benefits the program promises.

“Creating a Cultural District along Washington Street would create vibrancy, branding, and cohesiveness for this major thoroughfare that connects West Newton and Newtonville,” the letter reads. “Anchored by the New Art Center in Newtonville and the Allen Center for the Arts in West Newton, the proposed Cultural District would highlight several arts/cultural assets including the Jackson Homestead and Museum, public art murals, creative businesses, and performing arts venues.”

Meryl Kessler, incoming board chair of Newton Community Pride, said current efforts to revitalize that area create an opportunity for a Cultural District designation.

“As the city re-envisions and redesigns Washington Street, the time is ideal to seek and apply a Cultural District designation along Washington Street from Newtonville to West Newton,” Kessler said. “The creation of a Cultural District along this major thoroughfare would create vibrancy, branding, and cohesiveness connecting these two village centers and highlight several arts and cultural assets that exist along the way and also provide access to grants that will allow us to market all that we have here.”

Existing Cultural Districts in the Metro West region include the Natick Center Cultural District, the Lexington Cultural District and the Framingham Centre Cultural District.