The Massachusetts Cultural Council’s approval of a newly recognized Gloucester Harbortown Cultural District doesn’t mean that state aid for cultural projects will soon be flowing into the city.
It should, however, boost the credibility of groups within its largely downtown boundaries if and when they seek federal or outside private funding for various projects. And it should also raise the profile of all that downtown Gloucester and the city’s waterfront have to offer, not just in terms of traditional cultural attractions such as Cape Ann Museum, the Sargent House and so many more, but also of the city’s waterfront heritage, which continues to display and portray a very living culture all its own.
To their credit, Bob Whitmash, Judith Hoglander and all of the members of the Downtown Gloucester Cultural District Committee – who worked tirelessly for more than two years to gain this designation – included not only places like Maritime Gloucester and historic landmarks like City Hall and the Unitarian Universality Church, but recognized today’s modern, high-tech culture through the granite listening posts that offer iPhone QR codes that tap into video presentations along the city’s new HarborWalk. And the district includes sites like the Dive Shop at Maritime Gloucester, and other potential stops that not only celebrate Gloucester’s heritage and culture, but continue to keep it very much alive.
The designation makes Gloucester the first city in the state to have two separate recognized cultural districts, with the new Harbortown District joining the Rocky Neck District, which gained state approval along with a Downtown Rockport Cultural District in the first wave of recognitions in March 2012. And the new district becomes Cape Ann’s fourth, alongside also the Essex River Cultural District, which sought and earned state designation in October. That should signal to artists and to other prospective visitors that Gloucester and Cape Ann are very much art-friendly, with a vibrant creative economy.
But with all due respect to the other districts, Gloucester’s new Harbortown District and all that it covers represents the epitome of what these designations should portray, and are all about.
Our congratulations go out to all who worked to make it happen.