Cultural Districts in one of Massachusetts’s oldest towns and one of the state’s newest communities, Bedford and Boston Little Saigon, became the 50th and 51st such districts designated by a unanimous vote of the Massachusetts Cultural Council governing Board’s meeting on May 18. They join 49 other Cultural Districts spread across Massachusetts, from the Berkshires to Bristol County, the Cape and Islands.
“Today we celebrate Bedford and Boston Little Saigon, and warmly welcome them to our Cultural District Initiative,” said Michael J. Bobbitt, Executive Director, Mass Cultural Council. “I hope residents and visitors will be inspired to visit these Districts and enjoy cultural events and activities.”
“The designation of the Bedford Cultural District is important to economic development and tourism in our region, especially as the economy recovers from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Bedford played a pivotal role in the birth of our nation and this honor is an important acknowledgment of the area’s cultural value,” said State Representative Ken Gordon (D- Bedford). “Thank you to Alyssa Sandoval, the Bedford Select Board, Sarah Stanton, the Bedford Cultural Council, and Mass Cultural Council’s governing Board for all the hard work that went into making this District a reality here in Bedford.”
“The Bedford Cultural District lies at the heart of our history, and our arts and cultural community, and I am thrilled that the Mass Cultural Council has approved the Cultural District designation for the Town of Bedford,” said Bedford Town Manager Sarah Stanton. “The status will help boost the District with the necessary resources to enhance this important community resource and visitor destination.”
In turn, Bedford’s Economic Development Director Alyssa Sandoval thanked the Mass Cultural Council and recognized Bedford’s ad hoc Arts and Culture Working Group that has worked toward Bedford’s designation as a Cultural District since 2015.
Bedford’s Local Cultural Council chair Barbara Purchia added, “We are excited to have the Bedford Cultural District at the center of Bedford’s cultural activities. Having this designation will help engage and educate our community about cultural resources, events, and programming, and will encourage new cultural enterprises. Keeping arts and culture alive and thriving in Bedford is a critical component of the Cultural District.”
About the Bedford Cultural District
In describing the newly-established district, Bedford’s liaison to the Mass Cultural Council Luis Cotto offered the following remarks prior to the unanimous vote:
The Town of Bedford, located in Middlesex County, 15 miles northwest of the City of Boston is steeped in our nation’s history. Bedford is the proud custodian of the Bedford Flag, the oldest known flag in the United States, associated with the Minutemen of Bedford and the 1775 Battle of Lexington and Concord.
The establishment of the Bedford Cultural District was spearheaded by the Bedford Arts and Culture Working Group, established in 2016. A partnership between nonprofit and public organizations, the Working Group includes representatives from the Bedford Arts and Crafts Society, the Bedford Historical Society, The Bedford Citizen, the Bedford Cultural Council, Middlesex Community College, First Parish Bedford, the Bedford Public Schools, Bedford Center for the Arts Photo Group, the Bedford Chamber of Commerce, and the Bedford Select Board and Planning Board.
The boundaries of the Bedford Cultural District showcase its ties to the American Revolution, a rich bicycling tradition, and a town hall campus that serves as a community gathering space:
- The Depot Park complex, the Bedford terminus of the Minuteman Bikeway, includes a visitors’ center in a historic freight house and a vintage rail diesel car from the former Boston & Maine Railroad. A second historic building hosts a stained-glass artist collective and a stone carving studio that is an active workshop space. Another railway, the Bedford Narrow Gauge Rail-Trail, leads to the Veterans [Memorial] Park, where one can visit The Patriot statue, by Bruce Papitto, commissioned by the Cultural Council in 2000.
- Bedford’s Town Center campus includes two municipal office buildings, the Town Common, various shops, a high school and middle school, and a library where the original Bedford Flag is accessible to the public. A historical burial ground dates to 1729 and, amongst the interred, holds the remains of formerly enslaved soldiers who fought in the American Revolution.
The community of Bedford enjoys several cultural assets which will contribute to the Cultural District’s vibrancy and success, including five galleries, two artist studios, a dynamic Local Cultural Council, two regionally recognized artist associations, and municipal and state elected officials who recognize that the arts, and the newly designated Bedford Cultural District, are valuable economic development strategies for the town.
About the Massachusetts Cultural District Initiative
Mass Cultural Council administers the Cultural Districts program on behalf of the Commonwealth, established in 2011 through an act of the state Legislature. This initiative enables state-designated Cultural Districts to drive economic growth, strengthen the influence of distinctive local character, and improve the quality of life across Massachusetts in our communities.
State-designated Cultural Districts are eligible for financial assistance to support marketing, operations, and programming from Mass Cultural Council, and the communities that host them may be eligible to receive additional economic development resources, including state tax credits and grant funding from other public agencies.
“As I consider our 51 Cultural Districts, I am inspired by the strong sense of community pride showcased by each one, as well as their collective commitment to harness the power of culture, enrich community, and stimulate the economy in every corner of the Commonwealth,” said Bobbitt.