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Pittsfield Becomes 'Cultural District' Pioneer
Staff Reports, iBerkshires
06:07PM / Tuesday, March 20, 2012
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Pittsfield residents have been going 'upstreet' for years; now there's a Cultural District sporting the name. Thanks to Laura Wolf who snapped a shot of the new sign.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Pittsfield has become one of the first communities in the state to have a designated Cultural District.

The Massachusetts Cultural Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve five cultural districts, including Pittsfield's "Upstreet Cultural District." Both Mayor Daniel Bianchi and Director of Cultural Development Megan Whilden were in attendance at the meeting at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

The Upstreet Cultural District is centered on North Street, falling in the guidelines of having a compact, walkable area with a concentration of cultural facilities and activites. Within the area, Pittsfield offers some 50 restaurants, wine bars and cafes, as well as theaters, galleries and shops. Activities include the hugely popular Third Thursdays that bring thousands downtown along with arts, ethnic and spoken word festivals.

MCC's Cultural Districts Initiative came out of an economic stimulus bill passed by the Legislature in 2010. MCC officials say it advances the agency's goal to "harness the power of the nonprofit arts, humanities, and sciences to improve quality of life." Data from MassINC indicates that communities support using culture to in that way and that residents who participate in cultural activities are more positive about their commuities.

The local cultural districts are designed to attract visitors and pump up local economies by encouraging commercial and cultural expansion, enhancing property values, preserving and reusing historic buildings and luring artists and cultural enterprises.

Each district will have new signage, online profiles on the state's Office of Travel and Tourism and MCC websites, and other amenities.

The City Council approved last July to pursue the designation. More than one hundred communities statewide applied in this first round.

The other cultural districts are the Fenway Cultural District in Boston; Gloucester's Rocky Neck Cultural District; Central Exchange Cultural District in Lynn and Rockport Cultural District.

"Our Cultural Districts Initiative shines a brand new spotlight on the breadth and depth of creative activity happening in every corner of Massachusetts," said Anita Walker, MCC's executive director. "Each of these communities has something very special to offer a visitor — whether they are coming from across town or across the globe. With this designation, these cities can now take their cultural life to a new level."
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