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The Cape Cod Effect: Cultural Districts

Harwich Art in the Park

Harwich Art in the Park

The mission statement of the Orleans Cultural District perhaps sums up the goals and responsibilities of a district best: “The Orleans Cultural District promotes fine arts and culture and fosters the endeavors of artists and arts supporters through enhanced opportunity and innovative collaboration, embracing an environment supportive to the creative economy.”

Orleans Cultural District

As part of a cultural district designation, the city or town must participate in the state cultural district signage program. Signs like this one mark different cultural districts across the Cape and Islands.

“Cultural districts enhance a community, support arts and cultural activities and the economic vitality of towns and cities, and provide a welcoming environment for artists, writers, environmentalists, performers, curators and businesses who seek an enriched quality of life,” says Sherry Rhyno, co-chair of the Orleans Cultural District. “Orleans is a wonderful town where I combine my painting, owning and managing a fine art gallery, and volunteering as I give back to this community as a leader of the Orleans Village Center Cultural District. The enthusiasm, creativity, innovation and cooperation realized in this cultural district is exhilarating.”

No two cultural districts are the same—a fact that speaks to the vast diversity and exciting cultural differences that are celebrated across the Cape and Islands. “Each cultural district has a title that speaks to its offerings,” explains Rhyno. “For Orleans, our official designation is the Orleans Village Center Cultural District. Our Village Center is a walkable area. We published a walking tour of the district, complete with art galleries, shops and restaurants, historic markers, sites, museums, community centers and galleries, artist studios, greenspace and recreation, performing arts areas, public sculptures and murals.” The creation of a cultural district requires community members to join together and define the best parts about their district and the best ways in which to promote them. “The MCC knows that each district is different, and the program allows communities to define their district in a way that makes the most sense,” elaborates Gardella. “The two districts on Martha’s Vineyard, the Vineyard Haven Harbor Cultural District (VHHCD) and the Aquinnah Circle Cultural District meet the criteria but are very different from one another.”

“Cultural districts have it all: the arts, history, culture, dining, shopping and natural beauty interwoven with the story of the community,” says Gardella. “They invite people in to take a closer look, to notice the details, to get their feet sandy, spark their imaginations, delight their senses. Our cultural districts should be on the top of everyone’s must-experience list on the Vineyard, and throughout Massachusetts.”

Hyannis Armory

The Hyannis Armory, established in 1958, where President-elect John F. Kennedy gave his victory speech in 1960. Today, the armory is open to the public as part of the Kennedy Legacy Trail.

List of Cultural Districts:

Aquinnah Circle Cultural & Historic District

Barnstable Village Cultural District

Glass Town Cultural District

Hyannis HyArts Cultural District

Nantucket Cultural District

Orleans Village Center Cultural District

Provincetown Cultural District

Vineyard Haven Harbor Cultural District

Wellfleet Cultural District



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