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The Cape Cod Effect: Cultural Districts

Aselton Park, Hyannis HyArts District

Aselton Park, Hyannis HyArts District

Cultural districts throughout the Cape & Islands invest in unique artistic opportunity, economic growth and the vibrant cultural personalities of towns across the region

An unparalleled push against postmodernism in the form of limestone, glass and a daring architectural plan led to the creation of a building by Frank Gehry that singlehandedly pulled the city of Bilbao, Spain out of cultural back alleys. The Guggenheim Museum, inaugurated by King Juan Carlos I in 1997, is a classic example of the astounding effect that even just a taste of culture can have on urban development. In what has since become known as the “Bilbao effect,” regions across the world now turn to the arts in the hopes of transforming uninspiring areas into cultural meccas.

While the Guggenheim is perhaps an extreme, perhaps unrepeatable example of the way in which an investment in culture can pull a down-on-its-luck and dangerous city into an era of financial growth and international prestige, it does place a spotlight on the importance of culture and the undeniable relationship between the arts and economic development. A thriving cultural center gives a community a sense of identity, a vibrant spirit and a clear vision for the future, and on the Cape and Islands, there is no shortage of cultural epicenters.

From Barnstable to Provincetown and everywhere in between—including the beloved islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard—different areas have been designated as “cultural districts,” with an energetic focus on public programs in the arts, humanities and sciences as a way to enhance a community and attract tourism.

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