Arts scene taking hold in downtown Lynn
District designation would make resources available

May 13, 2011
Editorial/The Daily Item

Despite not having a movie theater - unfortunate for a city of 90,000 and especially for a city that was once the hub of the North Shore for moviegoers - Lynn's downtown certainly does have some thriving arts venues, including LynnArts and its Neal Rantoul Vault Theatre; RawArts, which provides a creative outlet for city youths; and the Lynn Memorial Auditorium, which has seen an amazing renaissance since its restoration in 2006.

Add to that list another emerging group on the downtown arts scene, Arts After Hours - an independent cooperative venture spearheaded by some of the newer owners of downtown loft condominiums - and it's fair to say that a renaissance of sorts is under way.

Yes, the word renaissance as it applies to downtown Lynn has become almost cliche, but this time there is evidence of positive change, supported perhaps but the influx of young residents to the downtown and the new restaurants that have taken hold the past few years, including Turbine Wine Bar at 56 Central and The Blue Ox at 191 Oxford.

Given all of this we're encouraged by the move announced this week to try to have Lynn's downtown area designated a state Arts and Cultural District.

James Cowdell, executive director of the Lynn Economic and Industrial Corporation, noted this week that the downtown "has long been the epicenter of artistic and cultural activity in our city." And that may be true, though he was likely embellishing a bit to say the state designation would make the downtown "a regional arts and cultural mecca."

The designation would, however, make abundant state resources available to help promote the city and its art venues, and for arts and cultural event planning, and most importantly make the area eligible to apply for federal grants for infrastructure improvements.

Clearly this is a proposal worthy of time spent developing and officials, including Cowdell and Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, hope to soon define the boundaries of a proposed Lynn Arts and Cultural District.

And with the clout of Lynn's veteran Legislative delegation behind the plan - Rep. Steve Walsh is a former executive director of LynnArts - we believe the odds are better than average this could happen.

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