Arts & Culture Department
The Arts and Culture Department works to fund, promote and present high-quality, community-based arts programming for the benefit of artists, residents and visitors to the City of Northampton. The department works with the arts council to perform tasks assigned to local cultural councils under MGL c. 10, § 58, or successor statutes. The department coordinates the Paradise City Cultural District under MGL c. 10 § 58A. The department serves as the city’s liaison to local, regional, and statewide arts and culture organizations. The department provides administrative, clerical and technical support to the arts council.
The Northampton Arts Council works to support and nurture the arts in the city of Northampton. The Council awards grants twice each year to artists and arts groups from both state and locally-raised funds, and seeks to improve public awareness of the arts.
ABOUT PARADISE CITY CULTURAL DISTRICT
The Paradise City Cultural District is home to a community of unique cultural institutions that attract established national and international artists and support emerging local artists. The Paradise City Cultural District spans an architecturally impressive, walkable and bikeable area encompassing approximately 14 square blocks in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Since 2014, the Paradise City Cultural District has been fostered by the Northampton Arts Council, an incorporated, city-appointed board that works to support and nurture the arts in the city of Northampton.
Welcome to Paradise
As legend has it, renowned soprano Jenny Lind called Northampton “the most beautiful village in the world” and “the Paradise of America”. Her 1851 concert at the Old First Church in on Main Street drew a crowd of 1,800. A year later, she married her piano accompanist, and honeymooned in Northampton for three months before giving a farewell concert at the Town Hall. But Lind’s influence lived on after her departure. Eventually, the nickname “Paradise City” stuck.
Then and now, arts and culture are integral to Northampton’s identity and vitality. Amidst impressive—and largely intact—19th-century architecture, the city’s bustling downtown is brimming with galleries, music stores, artisans shops, antique stores, concert halls, diverse restaurants, cultural organizations, and institutions, including the renowned Smith College Museum of Art and the Academy of Music—the first municipally-owned theatre in the nation. Combined with monthly open studio nights, a plethora of family-friendly festivals and events, and hundreds of concerts per year, downtown Northampton possesses the high volume and eclectic mix of cultural assets, as well as a very cool vibe, envied by any successful arts district.
Today, along with being a charming place to live, work, and visit, the city has attracted a significant cluster of visual, literary, and performing artists and creative entrepreneurs while garnering many distinctive accolades, like:
“Top 25 Arts Destinations” by American Style Magazine, 2000-2009
“Great Cities for a Simple Life” by AARP Magazine, 2009
“Great Places in America” for Main Street from the American Planning Association, 2007
Award for Excellence for the “Best Downtown Shopping District” by the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, 2006
“Ten Great Places to Revel in Cinematic Grandeur,” as reported in USA Today, 2005;
“Top 100 Places to Live” by CNN Money Magazine, 2005
“A Dozen Distinctive Destinations” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, 2001
“Number One Best Small Arts Community in America,” by author John Villani, 2000.
At the heart of this remarkable city is the Paradise City Cultural District, possessing assets and amenities supportive of a thriving arts scene, including: a visible creative sector; easy highway access; bus transit; high-speed Amtrak rail service; an attractive streetscape and skyline; a diverse selection of restaurants, cafés, and coffee shops; and in-city overnight accommodations.
Home to Smith College, Northampton is also among the Five College communities in the Pioneer Valley. College students bring diversity to the city and contribute to its eclectic nightlife. In addition, the Forbes Library, which is located within the cultural district is a valuable community resource that presents an active calendar of cultural programming for both children and adults, ranging from art exhibitions in its spacious community gallery, music/dance performances, writing/author workshops, poetry readings, knitting circles, and storytime. The Forbes Library is also the largest source of primary material on Northampton’s former resident and mayor Calvin Coolidge, and is the only public library in the United States to house a presidential collection.
- The city does not give permission to host events in Pulaski Park because we don't reserve or permit the use of the park, except for City-sponsored events. The park needs to be open to the public at all times. City-sponsored events are scheduled throughout the year, at least 6 months ahead of time, and are done with the maintenance of the park, weather, and the health of the turf in mind, as well as in coordination with events at the Academy of Music. Small areas of the park are used for such things as Fitness in the Park and tai chi classes but all of these things are done with the expectation that there may be others in the space upon arrival and people can not be kicked out of the space as it is a public area. Admission, invitation only or requiring a ticket is strictly prohibited. Sidewalks or walkways can not be blocked Sound can not be amplified. Tents cannot be erected or staked into the ground (including tables, chairs, signs... anything with legs that could pierce the surface) and items can not be rented and dropped off at the park as it is not an event venue. As with most parks, anything carried in must be carried out, i.e. trash, as any overflow trash will attract animals to the area. Pulaski Park is our beautiful downtown park open to the public for all to enjoy. Please respect the rules and help to keep it in the condition you found it in. Consistently, since the park reopened after renovations, the city has not issued permits for any non-city sponsored events in the park. There are other areas that do provide space for events, i.e. Veterans' Field. If you would like more information you can email our Parks & Rec department at email@example.com. @(Model.BulletStyle == CivicPlus.Entities.Modules.Layout.Enums.BulletStyle.Decimal ? "ol" : "ul")>
CITY OF NORTHAMPTON ARTS ORDINANCE - 285-9
Excerpt here: "Anything within a sidewalk, street, or on a public building, excepting property under the jurisdiction of the School Committee, that is considered public art by the Arts Council and is reasonably expected to last longer than 90 days, shall not be installed without a permit from the Arts Council. Public art may include, but is not limited to: murals, sculptures, and art installations."
If you or your organization are interested in creating public art or have questions surrounding your project please contact us by email or (413) 587-1269.
The procedure for determining whether your project should be issued a permit from the Arts Council would start by adding your project inquiry to the agenda of the Arts Council's next board meeting. Board meetings occur every second Tuesday of each month unless otherwise noted. The Arts Council will then vote on whether your project would fall under the umbrella of Public Art. If you project does fall under Public Art, a permitting procedure would commence with the director of the Arts Council.
Street Musician's Permit for Northampton: For permission to perform in downtown Northampton, please download the Street Musician Permit Application and bring it to the Department of Public Works to get it signed. Then take the signed permit to the Police Department to obtain another signature.
Street Performer's Permit for Northampton: For permission to perform in downtown Northampton, please download the Street Performance Permit Application and bring it to the Department of Public Works to get it signed. Then take the signed permit to the Police Department to obtain another signature.
MCC/LCC Fall Grant Program
The Local Cultural Council (LCC) Program is the largest grassroots cultural funding network in the nation supporting thousands of community-based projects in the arts, humanities, and sciences annually.
The program promotes the availability of rich cultural experiences for every Massachusetts citizen.
Administered by 2,400 municipally appointed volunteers, the LCC network consists of 329 councils serving all 351 Massachusetts cities and towns. Each year, local councils award more than $2 million in grants to more than 5,000 cultural programs statewide. These include school field trips, after-school programs, concerts, festivals, lectures, theater, dance, music, and film. LCC projects take place in schools, community centers, libraries, elder care facilities, town halls, parks, and wherever communities come together.
More information can be found: https://massculturalcouncil.org/local-council/northampton/
Current Northampton Arts Council Members
Danielle Amodeo (she/hers, Chair) oversees Communications and Public Programming at the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College. She received her Bachelor's Degree in European Studies from Amherst College and her Master’s Degree in Art History at Williams College. Danielle has worked in communications, education, programming, and outreach at Clark Institute of Art, Creative Time, Dentsu Aegis Network, Frick Collection, Teen Vogue, and New York City Council. She serves on the boards of the Amherst Center Cultural District, the Arts at Amherst Initiative, and the Northampton Arts Council. Danielle believes that art is for everyone and is devoted to working for equity and representation at museums and cultural institutions.
Kent Alexander (he/him/they/theirs) is an anti-racism/ workplace culture consultant. His current clients include Gilburg Leadership Inc., the Western Massachusetts Training Consortium, the Wildflower Alliance of Western MA, the Center for Community Resilience after Trauma, and the Hilltown Land Trust, among others. Kent is serving his third year as the diversity, equity, and inclusion advisor for the ValleyCreates initiative of the Community Foundation of Western Mass. More about Kent’s work can be found at www.mainspring change consultants.com. Kent is also a writer/performer whose work explores the multiple somatic responses to systematic oppression.
Jesse Hassinger (he/him/they/them) is the co-owner of the downtown Northampton restaurant Belly of the Beast, which opened in 2017 and has since been a strong community space for arts and social justice. Jesse has an MFA in Film/Video from the California Institute of the Arts where he focused in experimental film and cinematography. As a life-long lover of the arts in all forms, he is enthusiastic to be able to work with the Arts Council and the greater Northampton community as a whole on furthering access and greater inclusion to the Valley arts scene.
2021 Arts Council Meetings: 1/12, 2/9, 3/9, 4/13, 5/11, 6/8, 7/13, 8/9, 9/28, 10/12, 11/9, 12/14
Council meetings usually take place in the City Hall Hearing Room at 210 Main Street from 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for the up-to-date schedule and details. Currently the meetings take place on Zoom. If you would like to join the Arts Council, please fill out an application online.
Agendas and minutes can be found here: https://northamptonma.gov/1504/Arts-Council
Videos of our most recent meetings are found here: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEes5dK7zAeOYQ25--ulr1Ap6UKP8X1X0