Lynn gets cultural district designation

March 21, 2012
By Chris Stevens/The Daily Item

Once dubbed the “City of Firsts,” Lynn lived up to its name Tuesday when it became one of the first communities in the state to be awarded a Massachusetts Cultural Council Cultural Designation, making a portion of the downtown area an official cultural destination.

“It’s huge,” said Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, who attended the MCC’s board meeting Tuesday at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum to hear the announcement. “I was very proud, very proud of the hard work everyone did for this. I felt like a proud mom.”

This map shows the boundary of the new Lynn Central Exchange Cultural District.
This map shows the boundary of the new Lynn Central Exchange Cultural District. (Item Staff Graphic / Google Maps)

Click to view a list of all the state's designated cultural districts.

Lynn’s Central Exchange Cultural District joined Rockport, Gloucester’s Rocky Neck, Boston’s Fenway neighborhood and Pittsfield as the state’s inaugural group of designated Cultural Districts.

Lynn was the first community in the state to file an application when the Cultural Council launched its Cultural District Initiative program in April 2011. The aim of the initiative is to encourage communities to strengthen creative sectors, while stimulating economic activity.

Lynn’s Central Exchange Cultural District runs from the Public Library on North Common down Market Street to include North Shore Community College over to Central Square and back up toward City Hall touching on Willow, Washington and Essex streets.

According to a release issued by the MCC, Lynn’s new cultural district “may be one of Massachusetts’ best-kept secrets.”

The council called the newly designated area “a fusion of contemporary artists and multicultural cuisine and the authentic bricks and mortar of a city steeped in a history at the forefront of America’s industrial history.”

The release also praised the facilities that make up the new cultural district such as the Grand Army of the Republic building, LynnArts’ Black Box Theater, RAW Arts, which showcases young artists, and the ethnic restaurants and shops that reflect the city’s diverse population, and those that reflected a resurgence like the Turbine Wine Bar and Blue Ox.

Ward 5 City Councilor Brendan Crighton called the designation “great news for the downtown, great news for the city.”

Crighton has been a big proponent of a push over the last few years to bring life back into the downtown area and he said the new cultural designation would only help.

“I think it will be a terrific way to bring people back to the downtown,” Kennedy said.

She praised state Rep. Steven Walsh for helping to promote the project and for working tirelessly to promote the arts in the city.

The designation comes with new signage as well as online profiles on the state’s Office of Travel and Tourism and MCC websites, Kennedy said. Economic Development and Industrial Corporation Executive Director James Cowdell said eventually it could also mean additional grant money for the city.

“There will be money allocated to the state, and only communities with designated cultural districts will be able to tap into it,” he said.

Cowdell, who sought the designation on behalf of the city, said he is proud that Lynn is one of the first to get the designation.

“There are 100 other communities in the pipeline,” he said. “They’ll be following in our footsteps.”

Chris Stevens can be reached at

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