Positive Reviews Lead the Fenway Cultural District’s Renewal

By Beth Treffeisen

In the heart of Boston, Fenway serves as the hub for arts and culture throughout the City. After gaining the state-designated cultural district five years ago, it has only enhanced and expanded the many resources available to artists, students and tourists in the area.

On Wednesday, June 7, the Boston City Council voted in support of re-designating the Fenway neighborhood as Cultural District. It will now move onto the Massachusetts Cultural Council to get final approval from the State.

“The Fenway Cultural District is really about keeping us all together and it keeps us going into the future,” said Mark Kerwin, Deputy Director and CFO, Museum of Fine Arts. “I can get a little teary eyed on how much that means to me.”

In March 24, 2012, the Fenway neighborhood was officially designated the Fenway Cultural District, making it one of the first state-designated cultural districts.

The renewal will include Berklee College of Music in the district, which in the first designation did not include.

The Fenway Cultural District is home to many acclaimed attractions including the Museum of Fine Arts, Isabella Steward Gardner Museum, Symphony Hall, Berklee College of Music, the New England Conservatory, and more.

After five years, each district needs to be renewed by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. As part of the reapplication process, the Boston City Council hosted a public meeting on Wednesday, June 1, at the Museum of Fine Arts.

“I never remember a time without the district being a cultural hub but regardless I would like to get it re-designated,” said Curtis Warner the vice president of Government and Community Relations at Berklee College of Music. “It can seem isolated from other parts of the city but we’ve worked very hard to bring people into the district to experience all of the great things.”

In July 2010, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts passed legislation establishing state-designated cultural districts in cities and towns throughout the Commonwealth.

The goal of the Cultural Districts program is to recognize, foster, and develop cultural districts that are geographical locations within a city or town with a concentration of cultural facilities, activities and assets.

“Our students deserve a well-rounded education and introduction to new ideas, culture and future self-expression and all of that relies on the Fenway,” said Jeremy Solomon, VP Government & Community Relations at Simmons College.

He continued, “We couldn’t imagine a life without these institutions in our great City. We want our vibrant community to continue to thrive – that’s why we support its re-designation.”

Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley who helped shepherd the initial designation said that arts and culture is teeming throughout the City, especially in the Fenway area.

“It’s the best sort of collaboration because it is community led and government endorsed,” said Pressley.

She said that being the first in the City can be hard because there is no blueprint to follow but she hopes as they go forward there will be more ‘cross pollination’ between the districts.

Last month, Roxbury gained its own state-designated district. In downtown, a literary district runs from the Boston Public Library down Boylston Street towards the Boston Common.

Julie Burros, the Chief of Arts and Culture for the City of Boston said that her office can serve as that spot for all of the districts to communicate not only with the government but with one another.

“We want to make sure that everyone is going in the same direction,” said Burros.

Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim also believes that re-designation is the right way to go.

“I think as we know over and over again there are lack of resources going to arts and culture and we need to do whatever we can to make sure it goes forward in the city of Boston,” said Zakim. “We need to get more people in here, whether its school groups or families, provide an education system for the future.”

Kelly Brilliant the Executive Director of the Fenway Alliance, which manages the Fenway Cultural District thanked the Boston City Council for working with her from the beginning to make the Fenway a Cultural District.

“The Boston City Councilors listened so well and got it so quickly,” said Brilliant. “We really worked to make this a better district.”

Brilliant worked to create major Boston public events including Opening Our Doors, TEDxFenway, and Public by Design- a public art series that features Massachusetts based artists.

“It brings all of these organizations together,” said Councilor Tito Jackson who also worked on making Fenway the first designated cultural district in the City. “We need to continue to work defiantly not to be the first in the sequence but towards excellence. The Fenway Cultural District has really made us a cheerleading section for one another.”­

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