Brainstorming Session about a Potential South Acton Cultural District

October 16, 2023

On Sunday night October 15, seventeen people came together in Exchange Hall in Acton to brainstorm about a potential South Acton Cultural District, a gathering hosted by the Acton Boxborough Cultural Council (ABCC). Sergiy Georgiyev, co-owner of Magenta Dance Place, offered the third floor historic dance hall for the meeting and joined the discussion.

People in chairs and brainstorming suggestions written on large sheets of paper
Brainstorm session about a potential South Acton Cultural District. Photo: Franny Osman

Representatives of Iron Work Farm (stewards of the Jones Tavern and Faulkner Homestead),  Discovery Museum, ABCC, Acton Boxborough United Way, and a few local business owners, artists, and interested residents heard a presentation by Jin Yang, chair of the ABCC, on what comprises a Cultural District and what steps the community would take to create one. The primary goals of a Mass Cultural Council Cultural District are to:

• Attract artists and cultural enterprises

• Encourage business and job development

• Establish the district as a tourist destination

• Preserve and reuse historic buildings

• Enhance property values

• Foster and preserve local cultural development

Attendees participated in a brainstorming session where they were encouraged to share wild, expansive ideas about the  cultural future of South Acton, and not to “poopoo” anyone’s fantasies. The fact that Exchange Hall itself is for sale served as inspiration for some of the creative ideas about what South Acton could look like in the future.

Participants asked questions about what boundaries the district would have; which land or buildings are vacant; what partners might be engaged; how transportation could enhance access to the area.

If the ideas shared that night were actualized, high school students would dance at a ball; families would walk from the Discovery Museum to a nearby café; artists would show their work in galleries; students would perform at outdoor stages; train riders would enjoy discounts at local establishments—or reduced train tickets; local residents would walk to stores; people would walk under the Main St. bridge; and strollers would visit a historic park along Fort Pond Brook, not only at the 53 River St. site but at a “hidden gem” called the Sawmill Lot, which one resident raved about. Train enthusiasts and historic tourists would find exhibits; folk dancers would enjoy an event at Magenta Dance Place; visitors would use new maps, directories, and improved signs as they navigated paths decorated with flowers in planters.

As a next step, ABCC will convene a second meeting, with the hope that an organizational team emerges to carry the project forward. The group was aware that some creators of Cultural Districts use consultants to help with the application process. Not so long ago, the West Acton Village Merchants Association did just this, and was close to approaching the Select Board with an application for a West Acton Cultural District when the pandemic began. Jin Yang pointed out that some towns, for example Concord, have more than one Cultural District. It was at a tour of the West Concord Junction Cultural District, hosted by Massachusetts Cultural Council Executive Director Michael J. Bobbitt and State Rep. Simon Cataldo, that the idea of a South Acton district was first broached. Jin Yang, Select Board Member Alissa Nicol, and Franny Osman organized Sunday’s meeting. If readers are interested in attending the next meeting about a South Acton Cultural District, they should write to

Franny Osman is a member of the South Acton Vision Advisory Group. 

A group sits in a circle in a large room.
Meeting about a potential South Acton Cultural District. Photo: Franny Osman.


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