The Community House, given to the town of Cummington in 1923 by Worcester Warner, currently houses the municipal offices.

On March 22, the rural town of Cummington received a Cultural District Designation from the Mass Cultural Council, the culmination of years of work.

The western Massachusetts town began the process in 2019, when a group of residents, with support from the Selectboard, formed the Cummington Ad-hoc Cultural District Planning Committee. Working alongside Hilltown Community Development to develop an application and work plan, the committee submitted an application in late 2021.

The new Cummington Cultural District has three main goals: community cohesion, collaborative programming and marketing, and enhancing and improving space and buildings through art and culture.

“Our elementary school was closed and sits vacant, and we want to revitalize that space,” said Cummington Selectboard Member June Lynds, the board’s liaison to the committee. “But our Main Street is what is designated as the cultural district. Main Street is unique in a lot of ways. A lot of towns don’t have a walkable main street.”

Main Street, which has remained compact and walkable thanks to the rerouting of Route 9, features many of the town’s cultural highlights. It also runs parallel to the Westfield River.

John Bye, co-chair of the Cummington Cultural District Committee, said the town has a long history of supporting the arts. It has been home to a number of renowned poets, including William Cullen Bryant and poets laureate Richard Wilbur and William J. Smith. Highlights of the town’s cultural significance include the William Cullen Bryant Homestead, the Kingman Tavern Historical Museum, Cummington Community House, Old Parsonage, Cummington Village Church, and the legacy of the former Cummington Community of the Arts.

“Why would a little town with fewer than 900 people measure up as a cultural district? It’s because of our history and what we’ve got, which is an extensive history with the work of and presence of artists of all sorts,” Bye said.

The town also applied for and received a $15,000 grant from the Mass Cultural Council, and the designation puts the town in a stronger position to seek other grants.

The local committee hosted a Full Circle pancake breakfast on April 29 to celebrate the town’s achievement and to gather ideas from the community about putting the funding to use.

“What comes next will come from the folks who live here, not from us,” Bye said.

The state established the Cultural District Designation in 2011 to drive economic growth, strengthen local character, and improve quality of life. Fifty-five communities across the state have received the designation.

“All along we were able to visualize the assets and imagine them as they might be,” Bye said. “This designation will help us to achieve some of that imagination.”

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