GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Opinion

November 15, 2012

Editorial: City's downtown merits recognition as 'cultural district'

While communities across the state are working on applications to gain designation as a recognized Massachusetts cultural district, it’s to the credit of Cape Ann’s active arts and cultural communities that two of the first five, and now three of the first dozen are in our area and already have theirs in place.

So one may well wonder whether Gloucester needs a second such district, and whether Cape Ann needs or deserved a fourth.

But the truth is, the proposed Downtown Gloucester Cultural District now being sought by the city’s Committee for the Arts and endorsed earlier this week by the City Council represents perhaps the ideal use of the designation, given the wide breadth of historic and artistic sites covered by the suggested area. And city officials and members of the local arts community pushing for the recognition — like Judith Hoglander, Bob Whitmarsh and many others — deserve to get the state Cultural Council’s emphatic approval.

If it is recognized by the state, the Downtown Gloucester district would join the city’s own Rocky Neck Cultural District and the Rockport Cultural District — both approved in the first wave of five districts recognized last March — and the Essex River Cultural District, which was granted its designation in October. Yet, given that it encompasses everything from the city’s waterfront — and attractions like Maritime Gloucester — to the Cape Ann Museum and all that lies in between, the city’s downtown cultural district looms as perhaps the richest of the Cape Ann group.

For while it would theoretically include galleries, the Cape Ann Community Cinema, which hosts all sorts of artists’ visits and special presentations beyond featuring films, it also includes true historic sites, like the founding Unitarian Universalist Church on Middle Street, Gloucester’s historic and iconic City Hall building, historic homes like the Sargent House, and much more.

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