Ashburnham, Clinton and Fitchburg, MA

Contact Name
Eric R. Smith
Project Dates
Policy, Research
MRPC facilitated a Cultural District assessment for the towns of Ashburnham and Clinton as well as the City of Fitchburg in 2012. The assessment began with developing an understanding of the Cultural District requirements of this Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) program. MRPC then assessed and mapped the Cultural Assets in each of these communities along with recommendations on how each community should proceed in completing a required Cultural District application to MCC.
Project Goals
What were the project goals?
Educate municipal officials, creative/cultural leaders and other community representatives on the requirements of the Massachusetts Cultural District Program.
Develop comprehensive inventory of Cultural Assets that would be part of the community's Cultural District.
Provide recommendations on development of the required Cultural District Program's Partnership.
Have they changed over time?
Who are the project partners and stakeholders?
Municipal officials, art/cultural individual & organizations, other representatives, including education and businesses.
Project Specifics
How was the project implemented? What were the steps taken?
A Scope of Services was developed between MRPC and each community. The Scope of Services was signed by the Board of Selectmen/City Council. MRPC then proceeded to develop the Cultural District Assessment by following the Scope of Services, which included a timeline in order to have the Project completed by the December 31, 2012 deadline.
Have they been refined over time?
What were your major obstacles?
Each community had specific obstacles:
For Ashburnham, lack of municipal staff to carry on the project after 12/31/12 and lack of significant interest from the community during the second half of 2012 were the two major obstacles.
For Clinton, funding for their Cultural District assessment did not approved until September 2012, so time constraint to adequately finish project was largest obstacle.
For Fitchburg,MRPC's Project Facilitator took a new job in July, so I had to take over this Project and make sure it was completed in timely fashion.
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
For Clinton and Fitchburg, I was instrumental. Ashburnham has not been able to overcome these obstacles to date.
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
1) Need support of the municipal government.
2) Need a Staff person who can lead the effort.
3) Engagement of the cultural and business community is key.
Project Impact
How has this project contributed to creative community building?
For the City of Fitchburg, it led to one of the most successful proactive meetings in recent history. In Clinton, the Board of Selectmen have authorized creation of a Cultural District Partnership
Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
One original goal was to promote the creative economy in each Community and it has done that. The ultimate goal is to have each Community have a Cultural District that is approved by MCC (To date none of the 14 MCC-approved Cultural Districts in Massachusetts are within the Montachusett Region).
Were there unexpected impacts?
See above under Project Impact #1, for Fitchburg's unexpected impacts.