Visitors Tour the West Concord Junction Cultural District

June 30, 2023
Mural of multiple people and cultural things happening in West Concord
West Concord mural. Photo: Jeff Vandegrift

On Monday, July 17, State Representative Simon Cataldo and the West Concord Junction Cultural District Committee hosted a walking tour of the Cultural District and a roundtable discussion with Michael J. Bobbitt, Executive Director, and Carolyn Cole, Program Officer, of the Mass Cultural Council (MCC). Fifty or so participants met for coffee and introductions at the Bradford Mills building, then toured the art gallery and the Concord Sign Museum in that space. Wooden signs from beloved establishments gone by (and some still extant) evoked memories and spurred conversation about stores that only recently closed, such as the West Concord Five and Ten and the West Concord Super Market. The Sign Museum is open for self-guided tours weekdays 9 to 5.

Local historians and artists led participants on walking tours, stopping at stores, the train depot, and the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail where it crosses Nashoba Brook. Artists who designed and led the public creation of several murals in the village, photographer Edward Feather and Art for All founder Margot Kimball, described the public and technical processes they used. The murals depict the area’s people, industrial history, transportation, food production, and the Rail Trail.

Luncheon, provided by Debra’s Natural Gourmet, Nashoba Brook Bakery, and Concord Teacakes, was served in the basement of Fowler Library, a welcome respite on a blazing hot day. Debra’s owner Adam Stark attended the event, as did State Representative Carmine Gentile, Concord’s Deputy Town Manager Megan Zammuto, Concord Select Board member Mary Hartman, Carlisle Cultural Council member Mark Levitan, Carlisle Gleason Library Director Martha Feeney-Patten, Acton Select Board member Alissa Nicol, and several members of “the committee with the long name”: the West Concord Junction Cultural District Committee. Representatives from the Chelmsford Cultural Council, Umbrella Arts Center, and other arts and economic development groups also joined.

After lunch, Bobbit, Cataldo, and Cole fielded questions about cultural districts. Bobbit and Cole, who originally met when they were doing theatre in Washington DC, encourage originality and creativity, and coordination with other entities such as transportation providers, as communities create these districts. They said that cultural districts attract tourists and entrepreneurs, and improve quality of life for visitors and members of the host community.

Other participants from Acton included this author; Jin Hong Yang, chair of the Acton-Boxborough Cultural Council; sculptor Meredith Bergmann; sculptor and museum owner Yin Peet; painter and former chair of the ABCC Sunanda Sahay; Acton Economic Development Department intern May Hong; Discovery Museums CEO Neil Gordon; and Acton resident and Carlisle Library Director Martha Feeney-Patten. Over lunch, Sunanda Sahay described discussions about five years ago about forming a cultural district in Acton, and several Acton residents expressed interest in renewing that effort.


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