Officials propose arts district in Lynn

May 11, 2011
By Robin Kaminski/The Daily Item

Visualize an area of downtown designated solely to the arts - a cultural mecca to attract visitors complete with outdoor art exhibits and poetry readings.

The key to bringing that idea to life, and creating a flourishing downtown, may be found in a new program offered through the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) to create a state-designated Arts and Culture District.

On Tuesday, James Cowdell, executive director of the Lynn Economic Development and Industrial Corporation, and Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy discussed the proposal among city residents at Turbine Wine Bar.

John Washek of Edgemere Consultants speaks about creating an art block at downtown Lynn’s Turbine Wine Bar Tuesday. (Item Photo / Reba M. Saldanha)

"We want to make the area a destination," Cowdell said. "But this is the very beginning. This is just one step tonight where ideas are being placed on the table."

One aspect that has been decided on is for the proposed area to be a compact, walkable district that limits the need for cars and relies more on public transportation to bring visitors in and out of the city.

By creating the area, Cowdell said he believes it will build upon a foundation already laid by vibrant downtown cultural groups, as well as expose the city's artistic and historical assets to visitors.
New cultural attractions are proposed to be created, but Cowdell said existing cultural assets in the neighborhood will be highlighted as well, including LynnArts, the Lynn Museum and Historical Society, Lynn Memorial Auditorium and Arts After Hours, which brings nightlife to the downtown area through musical and theatrical performances produced with the support of local businesses and community groups.

"We will be reaching out to different ethnicities and the mayor has said she wants a lot of different folks to participate in the program," Cowdell said.

The idea was born in April, when the MCC released guidelines for the program that will establish state-designated districts in state cities and towns. The MCC fostered the program following a 2010 act of the State Legislature signed into law by Gov. Deval Patrick, encouraging economic development and growth of creative industries and cultural assets in Massachusetts.

The proposed area for the district will include LynnArts, City Hall, North Shore Community College and the Daily Item building.

Similar programs implemented in New Bedford, Worcester, Lowell and Somerville will serve as guidelines for the city's proposal.

Cowdell said the application for the program has to be submitted by July 1. Public input on the proposal will be sought at public hearings set to be held in the near future, along with the creation of a committee.

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