Ridgefield considers a ‘cultural district’ in its downtown
With a dozen or more cultural institutions and venues found between the Cass Gilbert Fountain and Ballard Park, Ridgefield is considering applying to the state for a “cultural district” designation designed to promote economic development by raising awareness of the town’s many and varied cultural assets.
The proposal is expected to be discussed at a Board of Selectmen’s meeting scheduled for Wednesday, July 15, at 7:30 in town hall. First Selectman Rudy Marconi said the board will be asked to schedule a public hearing for the proposal, and he plans to recommend a hearing date of Aug. 12.
Ridgefield’s Economic and Community Development Commission (ECDC) announced July 3 that it plans to apply to the state to have an expanded area around downtown Ridgefield be officially designated as a “Cultural District” pursuant to a new law.
In the 2019 legislative session, a bill co-sponsored by State Rep. John Frey was passed, allowing municipalities to create designated cultural districts to broaden awareness of local cultural assets and promote economic development.
“If received, the ‘Cultural District’ designation for our downtown will increase the visibility of the arts on the local level, and be promoted through state and local tourism,” wrote Glori Norwitt of the town’s Economic and Community Development Commission.
The application for creation of the district would go to the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD).
The proposed Cultural District area holds numerous cultural assets including ACT (A Connecticut Theater), the Ridgefield Theater Barn, the Ridgefield Guild of Artists, the Ridgefield Playhouse, the Ridgefield Historical Society, the Ridgefield Library, the Prospector Theater, Ballard Park with its CHIRP summer concert performances, the Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance, RPAC art gallery, Thrown Stone theater group, Lounsbury House, the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Keeler Tavern Museum and History Center.
“As required in the state application, these assets are ‘walkable’ and in one continuous area,” Norwitt said.
Also included within the Cultural District are a myriad of annual cultural activities such as quarterly Downtown festivals — Spring Fling, Summer Stroll, Fall in Love with Ridgefield and The Holiday Stroll —the Ridgefield Independent Film Festival (RIFF), the Jazz, Funk and Blues Weekend organized by the ECDC, the BBQ Festival, Pride in the Park, and numerous musical events at village churches, as well as athletic events from the like Run Like a Mother race to the fall soccer tournament that draws teams from a wide area.
Numerous profit and nonprofit organizations have joined the ECDC’s Cultural District Subcommittee in order to support the application to the state. Subcommittee members are Christine Carnicelli of West Lane Inn, Emily Devoe of the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Alison Greeley of the Ridgefield Library, Hildegard Grob of Keeler Tavern, Selectwoman Barbara Manners of CHIRP, Mark Meacham of the Arts Council, Geoffrey Morris of RIFF and the ECDC, Allison Stockel of the Ridgefield Playhouse, Pam Stoddart of the Guild of Artists, Briggs Tobin of the Historic District Commission and Ridgefield Academy, and Jonathan Winn of Thrown Stone.
At the public hearing the selectmen are expected to schedule, reaction from residents and business owners will be sought after the ECDC details the Cultural District application and answers questions from the public. Also, the ECDC plans to ask the Board of Selectmen to pass a resolution supporting the application to the state.