(From the Harwich Chamber of Commerce magazine, 2022)
As we continue toward the designation of two Cultural Districts in Harwich from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, we explore what each of these unique districts will mean to us and how they will be a part of our community and beyond. The importance of arts and culture to our community cannot be overstated.
This process has been in the works for many years. In February 2016, the Massachusetts Cultural Council visited Harwich and shared with the Board of Selectmen that Harwich had been chosen as the only town in the commonwealth, along with five cities, to enter into the Cultural Compact. This was a tremendous honor in its own right, yet Harwich is going one step further. Due to the impressive amount of arts and culture activities happening in town, Harwich is pursuing two Cultural Districts, one in Harwich Center and the second in Harwich Port. When the state officials were here they made it clear that the state rarely recommends that towns establish more than one district at a time, but they felt that Harwich has the necessary energy and commitment.
Economic development goes hand and hand with cultural districts, as it brings additional visitors, businesses, and revenues to a town. Additionally, a Cultural District is about defining the character of the community, as the artists are telling the community’s story. The Harwich Cultural Center building, located at 204 Sisson Road, is a major part of the efforts to foster a cultural economy in town, which includes the state designation of these two Cultural Districts in Harwich.
Harwich Center Cultural District
The proposed Harwich Center Cultural District starts at 204 Sisson Road and ends at Whitehouse Field. This district is “navigable” as we continue to develop its walking components, which will be shared through maps and wayfaring signage highlighting where our cultural assets can be found. One highlight is the repurposing of the building at 204 Sisson Road, which is the Harwich Cultural Center. You will find within this building 24 painters, 4 writers, 6 potters, 3+ photographers, a printer, a carver, a calligrapher, 5 online entrepreneurs, a gallery owner, 7 private instructors, 5 textile/jewelry makers, 5 Pre-K-12 teachers, 4 college professors, 2 nonprofits and 8+ makers, as well as Stitchology, where young students can learn to sew.
During the pandemic, the Cape Cod Makers, located in the Harwich Cultural Center, were asked by Cape Cod Healthcare to make 1,750 mask clips for KN95 masks to allow for a better fit and more comfortable use for healthcare workers. Additionally, the Cape Cod Makers and their team of 80 volunteers produced, 3D printed, assembled, and donated 5,000 face shields to Cape Cod Healthcare.
As we travel through the navigable Harwich Center Cultural District, you can enjoy such features as Brooks Academy, Elmer Crowell Barn, First Congregational Church, Brooks Free Library, Pilgrim Masonic Lodge, Brooks Park, and the Cape Cod Lavender Farm. From the economic development standpoint, other additions to Harwich Center are The Seal Pub & Café and the new Firefly Boutique. We will look to the historic district and historical commission to map the historic properties throughout the district, which will be used as another asset to the Cultural District. There will be many district partners, which are cultural facilities on the periphery of the district that can also be identified as assets to the district.
Our second Cultural District is special because it is connected to the Harwich Center Cultural District by Bank Street, so we can walk to the Harwich Port Cultural District or travel by car and park at the Harwich Chamber of Commerce and venture out along Route 28 and explore.
Harwich Port Cultural District
This proposed district will start at the 802 Main Gallery and make its way along Route 28 ending at Cross Rip Gallery. The Harwich Port Cultural District is unique in that it brings together many industries that depict a variety of businesses, artists, and cultural activities — all adding to the ever-growing vibrancy of the village. As art means many things to people, in Harwich Port some may consider the many restaurants and their talented culinary teams to be artists, as they create their own spin on local fare. From barbecue, seafood, and comfort food with a twist, to longtime favorite waterfront restaurant Brax Landing — and let us not forget five popular ice cream shops — there is something for every palate. Speaking of water, Saquatucket Harbor is home to charter fishing boats, the ferry to Nantucket, Dockside Café, and the Seaside Marketplace Artisan Shacks. At the Artisan Shacks, every week throughout the summer you can explore the talent of local artists, crafters, and makers, and purchase the works of these talented artisans. Continue your walk from the harbor up to the galleries and boutique shopping in the heart of Harwich Port. Along your route through the Harwich Port Cultural District, you will meet small business owners who add to the economic fabric of the district by showcasing local artists’ work, from jewelry, clothing, paintings, and more.
Both the Harwich Center and Harwich Port Cultural Districts will help local artists, crafters, makers, businesses, and organizations improve the quality and range of their offerings. This will in turn benefit local families and our community as a whole. The Cultural Districts focus on enhancing the experience for visitors and residents alike, which will attract artists, cultural organizations, and entrepreneurs. The presence of two state-recognized Cultural District in town will make these Harwich communities even more attractive.
The mesmerizing and innovative works of arts and culture throughout these two districts truly embody the beauty and wonder of Harwich – for all to enjoy.