City hires culture chief


April 14, 2014
By Chris Stevens/The Daily Item

Two years after Lynn received one of the first state designations for a cultural district, Emily Ruddock has been named the city’s first-ever cultural director.

“This is my dream job,” said Ruddock in a prepared statement. “I’ve always wanted to be an advocate for the arts and connect that with city planning and economic development efforts. I want to make this district a vibrant, exciting place that people want to be a part of.”

Ruddock officially steps into the role of director of the Downtown Lynn Cultural District on May 1, but Lynn Museum and Historical Society Director Kate Luchini said people will likely see her before that. She said Ruddock is eager to become familiar with the district and its entities so she can hit the ground running.

“She wants her first 100 days to start off with a bang,” Luchini said.

Economic Development and Industrial Corporation Executive Director James Cowdell said his office and Office of Community Development would split the cost of Ruddock’s $50,000 annual salary.

Cowdell said Ruddock’s job would be essentially to coordinate all the different facets that make up the arts district, from artists to agencies and including residents and businesses.

headshot of emily ruddock

Courtesy photo Emily Ruddock

"It’s really good news for us,” he said. “It’s exciting.”

Ruddock’s office will be located in the museum, which Luchini said makes sense. With the museum and LynnArts merging into a cultural center, the location puts her in the midst of the district that also includes Raw Art Works, Centerboard’s public art, Veterans Memorial Auditorium in City Hall and other Central Square gallery spaces.

Ruddock said those organizations give her a solid foundation to work from and she is happy “to help drive traffic to all the organizations and businesses in the district.”

It also makes sense to put Ruddock in the museum, since she will be working directly with Luchini. The pair are being charged with building a strong arts coalition. Cowdell said Ruddock plans to organize more events downtown, expand Third Thursdays arts festivals this summer and encourage more interaction between local artists and community members, from hosting regular open studio hours to offering music, dance or art lessons. She will also be coordinating a large arts festival to attract area communities to the city.

Luchini said she’s excited to work with Ruddock because she has experience with both sides of the job, municipal and arts.

“She has a master’s in public policy and used to work at a theater in Kentucky,” she said.

Ruddock recently earned her master’s in public administration at Syracuse University, with a focus on nonprofit management, policy implementation and social innovation. A highlight of her graduate studies was collaborating with the South Salina Business District — the commercial core of Syracuse — to create a business plan in support of its neighborhood redevelopment efforts.

“I’ve been incredibly impressed here in Lynn by the number of businesses and nonprofits that have been working together and collaborating with the city to develop events and an identity for this district,” Ruddock said.

A native of Massachusetts, Ruddock credits the Boston Symphony Children’s Series and the Massachusetts Educational Theater Guild’s High School Drama Festival for helping her appreciate art and build self-esteem.

Prior to earning her master’s, she worked for more than eight years at Actors Theatre of Louisville in Kentucky — one of the few regional companies in the country that operates three diverse theaters under one roof.

Lynn’s cultural district, which received its official status from the state in 2012, is still in its infancy. Luchini said it will be a plus to have someone new who has experience with districts outside the state take a look at Lynn. Having sat on the committee that hired her, Luchini said they looked hard at all the applications and some were local but the love for Ruddock was universal.

“The whole committee absolutely loved this candidate,” she said. “It was unanimous.”

Chris Stevens can be reached at


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