Williamstown receives Cultural District designation


WILLIAMSTOWN -- Already well-established as a destination for tourism and culture, Wil liamstown now bears the formal designation Cultural District, which officials say will enhance its reputation.

The state's Cultural Council recently designated Williams town as a Cultural District, making it the 25th municipality to earn the designation -- and the third west of Interstate 91 -- joining Pittsfield and Shelburne Falls.

"Williamstown is a natural cultural district," said Fran Lapidus, a resident who spearheaded the application effort last year. "We have amazing venues here with lots of great opportunities for people to visit."

According to the Massa chusetts Cultural Council's website, cultural districts "enhance the experience for visitors and thus attract more tourist dollars" and "attract artists, cultural organizations and entrepreneurs of all kinds." The initiative stems from a economic stimulus bill in 2010 by the state Legislature.

The district's boundaries run from the Williams College campus along Main Street [Route 2] to the Williams Inn. Inside its borders are businesses on Spring and Water streets, hiking trails, multiple arts galleries and museums.

Jane Allen, a former longtime selectwoman, was "a tremendous force," Lapidus said, and will be the district's administrator for the first year.

"The Cultural District provides the vehicle for every segment of our community to join together under one brand to promote our economy, meet interesting new visitors to town, and reinvigorate our own enjoyment of Williamstown," Allen and Town Manager Peter Fohlin wrote in a letter to MCC Chairman Ira Lapidus. The chairman is married to Fran Lapidus.

Cultural institutions inside the district include the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, the Williams College Museum of Art and Williamst own Historical Museum.

"It's a great honor for Williamstown to join other cultural districts throughout the Commonwealth," Clark Art Director Michael Conforti said in a statement. "We are so proud of our hometown, our collaboration with other great cultural partners here in Williamstown like the Williams College Museum of Art and the Williamstown Theatre Festival, and our own history -- approaching 60 years -- here in one of the most exceptional small towns in America.

"I think it's all coming at a great time," said Jennifer Civello, executive director of the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce. She noted the Clark's upcoming re-opening on July 4 and elected officials pushing for economic development.

Having a cultural district will aid the marketing efforts for the town, she said, with a placement on the MCC and Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism website. The district also has a Facebook page and placement on the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce website.

Visitors will be welcomed by signage, as well as a district map that will be located in the existing map kiosk at the base of Spring Street.

To reach Edward Damon:
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