State and local officials, business leaders and cultural organization leaders gathered at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center on Monday to dedicate Great Barrington's new Downtown Cultural District, a designation of the Massachusetts Cultural Council aimed at boost engagement and civic awareness among visitors and locals alike.

Anita Walker, Massachusetts Cultural Council executive director, in a statement, said, “Downtown Great Barrington is a culturally rich, vibrant commercial center that offers a wide range of experiences for local residents and visitors to the Berkshires, and we are so pleased to have this community join our family of Cultural Districts. We look forward to working with the town and its business and cultural communities to advance its goals in the years to come.” Also speaking were State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, State Sen. Adam Hinds, Selectboard member Ed Abrahams and Karin Watkins, director of finance and administration at the Mahaiwe. The audience gathered afterward at the town's newest cultural venue, Saint James Place, for a reception and conversation.

The town sought a Cultural District designation as a result of its 2013 Master Plan convened arts organizations, nonprofits and businesses to provide input. The Selectboard then applied to Mass Cultural Council for the downtown area to be designated as a Cultural District, and this was unanimously approved by the Mass Cultural Council in August.

Cultural District Pic at podium

The Cultural District will receive seed money from MCC to engage in marketing and communication (signage and brochures, for example), develop a shared calendar of events and promote downtown activities and businesses. The district will be eligible to solicit donations and grant funding to support its activities, with the town acting as fiscal agent.

The local Cultural District Steering Committee will guide the implementation of the District. This group includes the town manager and representatives from the Cultural Council and the Great Barrington Libraries. Other members include the Chamber of Commerce (co-chair for year one) and the Mahaiwe (co-chair for year one), plus the Berkshire Playwrights Lab, CATA, Evergreen Fine American Crafts, and Saint James Place.

The District will apply for grants and donations to implement its activities.

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