The Massachusetts Cultural Council has voted to establish a Literary Cultural District in Boston. The area will stretch from Copley Square to downtown, the first of its kind in the nation. According to the MCC, the district is a walkable section of Boston that contains a wealth of contemporary and historic literary resources. “It is designed to help communities attract artists and cultural enterprises, encourage business and job growth, expand tourism, preserve and reuse historic buildings, enhance property values, and foster local cultural development.”
The recent vote caps a year-long collaboration between various community partners, creative writing groups, and government entities. Several collaborators located in the district, including Grub Street, the Boston Public Library, the Boston Athenaeum, Emerson College, Suffolk University, audio literary magazine The Drum, and the Boston Book Festival assumed prominent roles in establishing the district and remain as executive partners. The district is also intended to act as a boon to Boston’s poetry and fiction associations by publicizing their work and connecting them with other like-minded groups. Larry Lindner, the Literary Cultural District’s coordinator, working under the auspices of managing executive partners at Grub Street, believes “Organizations that knew nothing about each other will cross-pollinate,” allowing them to better fulfill their missions. To this end, the executive partners and the MCC are encouraging members of Boston’s literary community located outside the district to create relationships with those inside.
The effort represents a public-private partnership, where most of the programming will come from partner organizations, with local businesses providing support. The district’s initiatives are aimed at increasing economic development in the area by boosting tourism and foot traffic to local establishments. “People don’t live in the library. They live everywhere, in restaurants, hotels, and stores. They live in the city,” says Lindner, and the district’s goal is to make literary-themed events more visible to the public through interaction. In this spirit, hotels and restaurants in the area are helping to support the initiative financially and by emphasizing their own literary histories. Mass Poetry plans to place verses in storefronts throughout the area to make poetry part of pedestrians’ daily lives.
The MCC designated this area almost two years after initially conferring with Grub Street, a creative writing center in Boston that spearheaded the creation of the district. Grub Street’s goal is to cultivate a community of authors, improve their writing, and connect them with potential readers. To publicize the district, there will be a web site (BostonLitDistrict.org), a mobile app, installation of two signs in the district’s geographical area, and physical calendars at hotels and kiosks. Larry Lindner states that all of these steps are “making the literary visible. It’s out there. You can interact with it.”