The Roxbury Cultural District is developing the backbone organizational structure needed for a sustained, collaborative focus on activating and marketing the neighborhood's arts and cultural assets in order to build physical and social connectivity between people and place, strengthen collective impact, and expand the potential economic opportunities (for residents, artists, business owners, and entrepreneurs) that are aligned with a vibrant cultural district.
On May 18, 2017, the RCD was formally designated by the Massachusetts Cultural Coucil Board of Directors at their meeting in New Bedford. Establishing a cultural district has been a long-standing community goal and its formation in 2017 is the result of the work of many individuals and organizations over the past three decades. In 1987, the Roxbury Heritage State Park Master Plan identified the need for a cultural infrastructure that formed the foundation for the Roxbury Cultural District; several of its advisory members were active participants in the district's planning process including Representative Byron Rushing, State Representative for the Ninth Suffolk District, and Barry Gaither, Director of the Museum of the National Center for Afro-American Artists. In 2011 and 2013, the Roxbury Cultural Network and Common Thread Coalition, two grassroots cultural groups, identified the need for joint marketing, collective programming, as well as state cultural district designation that also set the groundwork for the district through two previous community-led efforts.
Pictured: RCD Representatives (Kristin Willis, Carole Walton, Brooke Woodson, Kelley Chunn, and Jeanne Pinado) and MCC Board Members (Paul Goodnight) at the MCC Board of Directors Meeting on May 18, 2017.
The RCD partnered with Dudley Square Main Streets and Sasaki Associates to host a series of focus groups for Roxbury artists and business owners. On May 21, June 21, and June 29, over 80 participates gathered to network with each other, learn more about the district and its goals, and share ideas about current needs and opportunities for businesses and artists in Roxbury. You can access a summary of the ideas shared during the focus groups here.
If you are an artist or business owner in Roxbury and missed the focus groups, we would like to hear from you to tell you more about the new district and add your name to the artist database. Please contact Carole Walton at email@example.com or 857.308.3014.
MISSION: To identify and recognize Roxbury's cultural assets and establishes the tools, strategies, resources, and spaces that elevate the community of Roxbury as a living repository of arts and cultural expression--past, present, and future.
GOALS: The RCD will be guided by four primary goals. Using examples from MCC as a starting point, these local-driven goals were developed from community input throughout the planning process. The minutes from the first public meeting on April 11, 2016 capture the input from the 75 attendees and demonstrate close alignment between early community input and the final goals listed below.
1. Activating Assets and Marketing Community Programming: Increase the capacity of the cultural district to share and celebrate its cultural assets with all of its residents and visitors.
2. Economic Development: Use the arts, culture, and the creative economy to stimulate inclusive economic development and increase the amount of money spent and circulated in Roxbury.
3. Built Environment: Conserve and develop physical spaces, facilities, and public art in order to preserve history, support arts and cultural organizations, and the creative economy, while also meeting the needs of local artists and creating spaces for the public to enjoy.
4. Governance and Sustainability: Ensure the long-term successes of the district through strong, collaborative leadership, a sustainable funding stream, and regular data collection and evaluation.
The RCD is excited to partner with Dudley Square Main Streets and Sasaki Associates to consider how public spaces, businesses, and cultural assets in the district might be further activated and connected.
This process started this summer with a series of focus groups with artists and business owners (see above). We were also lucky to have 15 graduate Sasaki interns from throughout the United States explore the district and share fresh new ideas (about public space nodes, tools to activate public spaces, and artists housing) for the community to discuss. You can explore some of the interns' ideas here.
On August 9, residents, business owners, artists, interns, architects, and planners, came together for a conversation about the interns' work and the takeways from the focus groups, identifying priorities and next steps. If you are interested in this project and would like to learn more or share your thoughts, please contact Charlotte Rice at firstname.lastname@example.org or 857.308.3012.
Statement by Councilor Tito Jackson on the Roxbury Cultural District: "The hard work done by the Roxbury community has paid off: the dream of a Roxbury Cultural District is now a reality. Roxbury is an amazing crossroads of the world’s peoples, and our rich, vibrant cultural life is now justly recognized. I am proud to have partnered with a broad and diverse partnership of stakeholders of the Roxbury Cultural District Advisory Group. I am also very honored to have partnered with my colleagues Councilors Ayanna Pressley and Michelle Wu to shepherd this initiative successfully through the City Council and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Not only will this new State designation rightly acknowledges the wealth of cultural activity Roxbury already has. It will also stimulate the local economy by attracting visitors to the various cultural assets that already exist in this historic neighborhood."
In 2010, the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Cultural District Initiative was authorized by an act of the Massachusetts State Legislature. Since it launched in 2011, over 30 communities across the Commonwealth have established districts that reflect the unique assets and needs of their communities. The City of Boston currently has two cultural districts, Fenway Cultural District and Boston Literary Cultural District.
In Roxbury, two loosely knitted grassroots cultural associations, the Roxbury Cultural Network and Common Thread Coalition, as well as other neighborhood stakeholders have identified cultural district status as an important, long-term goal. In August 2015, Haley House, Madison Park Development Corporation (MPDC), and The American City Coalition (TACC) partnered in support of these ongoing efforts to establish a cultural district in Roxbury by researching regional and national best practices, identifying technical assistance needs, and seeking funding. In December 2015, the project was awarded $25,000 in funding from The Catalyst Fund (pooled funding from The Boston Foundation, Boston LISC, The Hyams Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, and the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley).
In March 2016, Kelley Chunn & Associates was engaged as a consultant to convene and work with all stakeholders in implementing an inclusive planning process for a cultural district in Dudley Square/Eliot Square and to take the necessary steps to complete the application for cultural district designation to the MCC.
On October 25, the community gathered in Hibernian Hall with Councilors Jackson, Wu, Pressley, and Essaibi George for the City Council Hearing on establishing the RCD. The hearing started with a performance by Roxbury spoken word artist, Lisa Lee, and included moving testimony from six panelists (Barry Gaither, Napoleon Jones-Henderson, Kirsten Willis, Marshall Hughes, Kathy Kottaridis, and Kelley Chunn) as well as many testimonials. All spoke in support of the district.
Below is Councilor Wu’s report from the hearing that she presented at the October 26 City Council meeting: "Roxbury Cultural District: Councilors Jackson, Pressley, and I reported back on last night’s hearing on establishing a cultural district in Roxbury. The district would include Dudley Square and John Elliot Square and highlight the many arts and cultural assets in the neighborhood, as well as Roxbury’s significance as the heart of black culture for the region. At the hearing, we heard overwhelming support from neighbors and other stakeholders as well as ideas about the boundaries of the district. The matter will stay in the Arts and Culture Committee, a committee report will be drafted, and the Council will vote on it at an upcoming meeting."
You can access the full video of the City Council Hearing here.
On October 19, Kelley Chunn was interview by Chris Lovett of Boston Network News about the Boston City Council Hearing on October 25. You can watch the video here.
A special thank you to Channel 5’s “Cityline” host Karen Holmes Ward for having Kelley Chunn and Joyce Stanley on her show to talk about the cultural district planning in Roxbury. The interview aired on Sunday, July 3 at noon on WCVB Channel 5!
What might a cultural district that focuses on the Dudley Square and John Eliot Square areas of Roxbury look like? What are our cultural assets? How might we use this state designation to collectively publicize and share some of the programming and cultural assets of this neighborhood? In Boston, there are currently two cultural district. The Boston Globe recently mentioned Roxbury and Jamaica Plain in an article about other potential districts in Boston; the Dorchester Reporter responded to The Boston Globe article in an editorial. On June 23, The Bay State Banner wrote about the current public planning process for a cultural district in Roxbury.
Following the designation on May 18, 2017 both The Boston Globe and The Bay State Banner published articles.
From June 2015 until May 2017, advisory meetings were held every two weeks on Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. at The American City Coalition (2136 Washington Street) as open working sessions to guide the planning and application process. rom June 2017 through December 2017, advisory group meetings occurred monthly on the third Thursday of the month.
With the designation approved and implementation phase started, the RCD began to take steps to formalize the governance structure for the RCD. The RCD is receiving pro bono legal services from Proskauer Rose through Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts as the organization applies for incorporation and 501 (c)3 status. Kelley Chunn is serving as Acting President, Don Carlson as Acting Treasurer, and Napoleon Jones-Henderson as Acting Secretary. The RCD will have an unpaid, working board of up to 20 members. In January 2017, the ad hoc advisory group will be dissolved and the RCD will be governed by a Board of Directors.
The following are examples some of the many meetings, small and large, that informed the RCD application.
A CULTURAL DISTRICT IN ROXBURY: AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME?
Monday, April 11, 2016, 6 p.m. - 8 p.m.
Location: Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building, 2300 Washington Street, Roxbury, MA
This was the first in a series of public conversations about seeking state designation from the Massachusetts Cultural Council for a cultural district in Roxbury. This meeting was a time for attendees to talk with each other about their vision for a cultural district in Roxbury; the meeting covered a broad range of topics through a rich, informal discussion among 75 attendees. The discussion was facilitated by Kelly Chunn & Associates and framed by a short PowerPoint presentation. Meeting notes are available here.
Monday, May 9, 2016, 6 p.m. - 8 p.m.
Location: Northeastern Crossing, 1175 Tremont Street, Roxbury, MA
The second in a series of conversation about seeking state designation from the MCC for a cultural district in Roxbury. Notes from this public conversation can be downloaded here.
PUBLIC CONVERSATION AND LUNCHEON FOR SENIORS
Tuesday, May 24, 2016, Noon - 1:30 p.m.
Location: Dudley Branch, Boston Public Library, 65 Warren Street, Roxbury, MA
Kelley Chunn hosted a luncheon for seniors. A second conversation with seniors was held at Smith House in Madison Park Village.
Aziza Robinson-Goodnight and Kalamu Kieta worked with students from Paige Academy and the youth program at the NAACP to learn more about their vision for the district.
Thursday, June 16, 2016, 6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Location: Dudley Branch, Boston Public Library, 65 Warren Street, Roxbury, MA
This was the third in a series of conversation about seeking state designation from the MCC for a cultural district in Roxbury. Notes from this meeting are posted here.
CITY COUNCIL HEARING
Tuesday, October 25, 2016, Time: 6 p.m.
Location: Hibernian Hall, 184 Dudley Street, Roxbury MA
On October 25, we gathered in Hibernian Hall with Councilors Jackson, Wu, Pressley, and Essaibi George for the City Council Hearing on establishing the Roxbury Cultural District. The hearing included moving testimony from six panelists as well as many testimonials. All spoke in support of the district.
Here is Councilor Wu’s report from the hearing that she presented at the October 26 City Council meeting: Roxbury Cultural District: Councilors Jackson, Pressley, and I reported back on last night’s hearing on establishing a cultural district in Roxbury. The district would include Dudley Square and John Elliot Square and highlight the many arts and cultural assets in the neighborhood, as well as Roxbury’s significance as the heart of black culture for the region. At the hearing, we heard overwhelming support from neighbors and other stakeholders as well as ideas about the boundaries of the district. The matter will stay in the Arts and Culture Committee, a committee report will be drafted, and the Council will vote on it at an upcoming meeting.
You can access the full video of the City Council Hearing here.
APPLICATION TO MCC
These community meetings culminated in the final application that was submitted to the MCC on November 15, 2016.
MCC SITE VISIT
On December 5, Roxbury hosted a site visit for MCC staff of the proposed district. Here is a map of the site visit tour route.