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A Creative or Cultural District is an area with a high concentration of arts and/or
cultural facilities and events that serve as anchors of attraction within their
community. The district reflects the community’s unique cultural heritage through
its built environment and history, showcasing the region’s artists and cultural
traditions while increasing social engagement and visitors. Creative & Cultural
Districts are found in all types of communities from small and rural to large and
urban. They are created by the community to advance the community’s goals.
Creative & Cultural Districts are a catalyst for regional investment ranging from
downtown revitalization, localized economic development and recovery measures,
and serve as an incentive for new or relocating businesses. The role Creative &
Cultural Districts play in providing a vibrant and appealing environment is a major
factor in retaining young citizens and their families, attracting a creative
workforce, and positioning the community as a cultural tourism destination while
supporting existing residents.
Music, dance and theater events, artists’ studios and galleries, historic buildings
and museums, and street fairs and festivals contribute to the quality of life for
residents and visitors alike. Creative & Cultural Districts entice people out of their
homes into vibrant social spaces where families and neighbors engage with their
local talent and cultural assets. Creative & Cultural Districts can offer opportunities
for children, youth and adults to experience lifelong learning through the arts.
Districts are led by the community and provide community-driven solutions to
local problems and needs. Often communities create districts as way to retain and
recruit artists, beautify downtowns, encourage visitation, and engage and elevate
underserved communities. Communities will have increased success in reaching
Hillsboro Cultural Arts District
their goals with this type of intentional planning among a diverse group of
Arts and culture related spending pumps vital
revenue into local restaurants, hotels and retail
establishments. The most recent economic impact
study conducted by the Oregon Arts Commission and
Americans for the Arts provides compelling evidence
that nonprofit arts and cultural institutions are a
significant industry in the State of Oregon; one that
generates $687 million in economic activity
statewide. The investment of $364.1 million by
nonprofit arts and cultural organizations and an additional $323 million in event
related spending by their audiences supports 22,299 full-time equivalent jobs,
generates $469.5 million in household income to local residents, and delivers $53
million in local and state government revenue. The study also refers to the impact
of cultural tourism, stating that non-resident audiences spend more than twice as
much as resident audiences, demonstrating that when a community attracts
cultural tourists, it gains significant economic rewards.
A state-designated Creative & Cultural Districts program would allow the Oregon
Arts Commission to support communities in achieving their economic,
community development and tourism goals related to arts, culture and business. A
state-designated program would provide technical assistance, marketing and
grants to support communities in this work.
Districts develop through the work of a broad group of stakeholders working
together to create goals and programs/projects that support a shared vision their
community. This includes representation from local municipalities, artists, arts
and cultural leaders, economic development, tourism and community members.
They work to identify community needs and problems and build a vision and plan
for their Creative or Cultural District. Existing cultural assets and programs (e.g.
Cultural Plans, Main Street, indigenous place names, events and celebrations)
could be included in the planning process.
The Arts Commission is working with Cultural Planning Group to model a
statewide program. Informed by dozens of interviews with stakeholders, research
into existing programs in the US, and in consultation with other statewide cultural
programs (e.g. Main Street Program), Cultural Planning Group has created program
framework that the Arts Commission will utilize to implement the program.
Art Toledo, OR
The Oregon Arts Commission plans to pilot this program in in 2-5 communities
across the state to support the development and/or expansion of their districts
while learning best practices to inform our statewide program. Communities will
work with the Arts Commission directly in the development of their project,
organizational structure, and key metrics and outcomes.
In addition to partnership with the pilot communities, the Arts Commission is
building a technical assistant program for any community across the state that
wishes to participate, including exploratory, emerging and existing districts.
Technical assistance will include convenings, direct consultation, site visits,
workshops, and support in planning, program development, marketing and
Each participating pilot community would benefit from $200,000 for the biennium
to support projects in the community, organizational capacity and
• Louisiana: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1gs-j7l8R2s
• Oceanside, CA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nN10tHhtdzo
• Austin, TX: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qicdY-VFSk
• Paducah, KY: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PxS6njzdsGY
• Colorado Springs, CO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MaQwoAEmPQI
Oregon Examples in Development
• Hillsboro, OR- The City of Hillsboro recently hired a Cultural Arts District Manager to
coordinate stakeholders, develop new events, increase public art and market cultural
activities in their district.
• Toledo, OR- The City of Toledo contracted with a consultant to engage community
stakeholders in creating an arts district in conjunction with their Main Street.
Changui Majadero at Sisters Folk Festival
• Liora Sponko, Senior Program Manager, Oregon Arts Commission & Oregon
Cultural Trust, Liora.Sponko@biz.oregon.gov
• Brian Rogers, Executive Director, Oregon Arts Commission & Oregon Cultural
Trust, Brian.Rogers@biz.oregon.gov