Over 30 local business owners braved a raw Thursday evening last week to meet at the Vineyard Haven Public Library and discuss plans for creating a designated cultural district in the town of Tisbury.

The initiative is an outgrowth of the MV Arts collaborative to increase the presence of the Island’s creative economy and gather seemingly-disparate organizations under one umbrella to create a special cultural zone, Martha’s Vineyard Museum executive director David Nathans told the Gazette.

“It’s not just an art museum, it’s not just a gallery, it’s not just a playhouse,” Mr. Nathans told the Gazette.

There are currently 14 such districts in the state of Massachusetts, including one in Hyannis. The program was founded by Anita Walker, executive director of the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Ms. Walker brought the idea with her from Iowa, where 35 cultural districts have been created since 2003.

Declaring an area a cultural district is beneficial for businesses which receive “the benefit of putting your area on a bigger map of tourists,” Mr. Nathans said, and for those who visit them, who are able to plan a trip with “a mix of experiences” in mind.

“What we did as a group is say, ‘What’s the natural [district]?’” Mr. Nathans said. “And the natural one is where the boats come in 365 days a year.” From the Steamship Authority pier in Vineyard Haven, he said, it’s just a short walk to Main street, with its numerous art galleries, the Vineyard Playhouse, the Bunch of Grapes Bookstore, the Katherine Cornell Theatre, the public library. A short walk east, meanwhile, leads to the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, more galleries and shops, and the soon-to-be relocated museum.

“That’s another key issue, people have to be able to get from place to place,” Mr. Nathans said. “Once you’re there, you can walk around to each of these places.”

The next step is gathering a complete inventory of the organizations to include in the district, and to hold public meetings with town selectmen, Mr. Nathans said. The actual application process must be initiated by town government.

“We hope to get his process, the formal application process, done on or around Memorial Day,” Mr. Nathans said.


This article has been edited to reflect the fact that Mr. Nathans's comments were spoken directly to the Gazette, not said at the planning meeting.