Cultural District Commission

A city or town must establish a Cultural District Commission.

A Cultural District Commission may be established through one of the following models and in accordance with the municipality’s governance structure and the State's statutory requirements:

  1. Create new Board/Commission in accordance with local charter requirements. This requires new volunteers to serve as Commissioners. [Suggested]
  2. Assign to an existing Board/Commission, and create an Advisory Council subcommittee reporting to the existing Board/Commission. This creates a non-voting advisory council and could be an informal working group, where there is some fluidity in membership. This requires additional volunteers. [Suggested]
  3. Assign Cultural District oversight to an existing Board/Commission, if the Board or Commission can meet the community representation requirement (noted below under “Members” section). This could be an existing entity, such as an Economic Development Commission, or it could be the municipality’s governing body (Council/Board of Selectmen). This does not require additional volunteers, but places increased responsibilities onto existing volunteers.
The Cultural District Commission should be able to exercise any power and perform any duties necessary or desirable for the purpose of managing the district, including but not limited to consulting / collaborating with the Office of the Arts, Tourism (state and local) and the DRSO for assistance with marketing, connecting with and/or convening local arts and culture community representatives, asset mapping, advocacy, directing resources, and applying for or soliciting and accepting any grant, contribution, or other funding from any source.


Cultural District Commission members should represent a diverse mix of organizations and businesses. Three-quarters of the membership must represent the arts/culture community. The Cultural District Commission should represent the shared interests of the district. The majority must live or work in the district. The size of the Cultural District Commission should be commensurate with the needs of the municipality and its population, with a minimum of six (6) members.

Cultural District Commission members should include at least one (1) representative from six (6) of the following categories:

  • Local cultural council / arts council
  • Cultural organizations (historical society, museum, ethnic heritage organization)
  • At least one artist that lives and/or works in the district
  • Organizations that represent artists (artist cooperative, etc.) if applicable
  • For-profit creative business i.e. gallery, theater
  • Local business and/or chamber of commerce

A city, town or borough may elect to include additional representatives. This will depend on the assets in the Cultural District and the district’s goals. They can be from:

  • Tourism
  • Historic Preservation/History
  • Leisure and Hospitality Industry (i.e. restaurants, hotels and similar businesses)
  • Educational Institutions
  • Economic and Community Development

Duties and Procedures

The Cultural District Commission should be responsible for developing a management plan and provide oversight with implementation. The Cultural District Commission should convene on a regular basis and operate in accordance with municipality’s governance structure.

The Cultural District Commission must develop:

  • Goals and objectives
  • A management plan
  • A cultural assets map and inventory
  • A marketing plan*
  • Goals and success measures for the district

*The municipality must utilize state Cultural District branding as part of any signage, marketing, promotion, and/or recognition. A minimum of two (2) signs at municipality’s cost is suggested and municipality shall determine the location of signs.

Cultural Districts Commissions maybe asked for data from the DECD and/or DRSO to help measure the impact of the district. The data should reflect the Cultural District’s specific goals. Examples include: visitation data, building occupancy rates, aggregate sales tax in the district, number of full-time jobs, number of artists, box office sales, and consumer surveys. Cultural District commissions must respond to requests for data from the state in a timely fashion