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Lowell’s Canalway Cultural District: A “Great Neighborhood”

By Dorian Taylor - Lowell's Canalway Cultural District was recently named one of this year's 15 Great Places by the American Planning Association. With a thriving art and music scene, daily cultural activities, several unique public parks, and a wide variety of restaurants, cafés and shops, it's no surprise that over 500,000 people visit the district each year. Here are some reasons to visit, or revisit, the Canalway Cultural District.


The Worker by Elliot and Ivan Schwartz (1985)

Thriving Arts Community

It's not very hard to find beautiful art in Lowell. Spread out across the Canalway Cultural District are more than a dozen public art installations that reflect the city's culture and history including the Homage to Women and The Worker statues. There are also 12 excellent museums and art galleries in the district, such as the New England Quilt Museum, Brush Art Gallery & Studios, Gallery Z Artist Co-op, the Arts League of Lowell and the Whistler House Museum of Art.

Lowell's music scene has also gained traction over the years, and today visitors and locals can find live music playing every week in the District at various cafes, restaurants, art galleries and other venues. In addition to music and fine art, theater performances are also a staple in the district. The Lowell Memorial Auditorium, the Merrimack Repertory Theatre and MCC's new Academic Arts Center are excellent venues to see musicals, comedies, dramas and music.


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Daily Cultural Activities

With over 100 free public and private events, performances and activities, there is always something to do in the Canalway Cultural District. Along with 20 annual festivals, such as City of Lights and the Lowell Folk Festival, there are regular live music performances, movie screenings, children's programs, intimate gallery openings, athletic events and much more.

To see an updated calendar of fun and interesting activities to do in the city visit: www.likelowell.com/calendar


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Shopping and Dining

There are 60 eateries, coffee shops, and restaurants in the Canalway Cultural District offering an extensive variety of cuisine and flavors that reflect Lowell's diverse culture. On top of a great dining selection, many of these restaurants are conveniently located within walking distance to performance venues and one-of-a-kind shopping destinations. Before or after your meal, be sure to explore the district's unique shops and check to see where live music is playing to keep the good times going.


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Public Parks

The District includes several public parks, each with unique landscapes and features. If you're feeling up for a walk, explore the district's Riverwalk for scenic views of the city and the Merrimack River. If you're looking for a spot to relax, stop by the Whistler House Park or Lucy Larcom Park to catch up with a friend, read a book, or just take in the views. Be sure to stop by the Lowell National Park Service Visitor Center to pick up maps, make trolley tour reservations, and plan a great visit to the city.


The Lowell Public Art Collection: Past, Present, and Future

The Lowell public art collection that we know today began to take its shape during the 1980’s when six works of public art were installed between the years 1984-1989. Lowell native and Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas was key to this boom in public art as he sponsored several pieces and created a public art committee in 1987 to explore new ways to present public art in the city. During these formative years, the Lowell public art collection had become one of the country’s most important visual arts projects.

“Pawtucket Prism” by Michio Ihara (1989)

“Pawtucket Prism” by Michio Ihara (1989)

Before Lowell was the public museum that we know and love today, the city’s only public art consisted only of traditional monuments, statues and murals like many other cities had at the time. During the late eighties however, the city introduced several contemporary art pieces such as the “Homage to Women,” “The Lowell Sculptures,” and the recently restored “Pawtucket Prism.” Installing six public art pieces between ’84 and ’89 was an impressive accomplishment for the City of Lowell and the result was a collection of art that not only visually enhances the city, but reflects Lowell’s rich history and culture.

George L. Duncan Fountains (2012)

George L. Duncan Fountains (2012)

In recent years, the city has added several more pieces to its diverse public art collection, each having their own unique theme and relation to Lowell. With hydraulic systems playing such a vital role in Lowell’s industrial era, Enterprise Bank added a public art installation in 2012 that mirrored the cities canals, spillways, and waterfalls. The result was the George L. Duncan Fountains, which consists of three weathering steel stacks, each slightly modified to move water differently.

New Mural Decatur Way (2018)

New Mural Decatur Way (2018)

In 2016 the Decatur Way Path was established to display local artists’ murals, poetry installations and other artwork. These artists include students from 26 local schools, UMass Lowell Art Prof. Stephen Mishol, poet Paul Marion, muralists Donald Maker and Kurt Ledoux of Lowell, and artist Liz LaManche of Boston.  This blend of art pays homage to Lowell’s impressive mills and canal ways like many of the past installations do, but it represents the city’s modern culture and values today as well.

Lowell Street Piano. Art by Margo Thach (2018) - Photo Courtesy of Karen Frederick

Lowell Street Piano. Art by Margo Thach (2018) - Photo Courtesy of Karen Frederick

The latest edition to Lowell’s ever expanding public art collection is also an instrument. In October of 2018, the city unveiled its first Street Piano to support the city’s growing music and art scene. The piano was donated to the city by Lowell Resident Paul Belley, and has been transformed into a work of art itself by local artist Margo Thach. Thach has designed the piano with gold accents that capture several themes of Lowell, including a textile mill, the City Hall clock tower and images of Cambodian culture.

Concept art for “Hydro”

Concept art for “Hydro”

The development of Utopia Park located in the Hamilton Canal Innovation District has provided the necessary space for another special public art installation. Artist Nancy Selvage was chosen to create “Hydro,” a large stainless steel fixture with a fluid, abstract design that resembles Lowell’s natural waterfalls and its turbine waterfalls as well. The project is being led by the Cultural Organization of Lowell (COOL) in partnership with the city, Lowell National Historical Park and others.

Foundation of “Hydro”

Foundation of “Hydro”

Fall Art Preview: Museum and Gallery Exhibits

Fall is a great time to get out and explore Lowell's thriving art scene! From now through October and November, several local galleries and art studios will be hosting special events and displaying unique art exhibits. From painters to quilt makers, and jewelers to woodworkers, Lowell's creative community provides a wide variety of art styles that can be seen at these exciting fall exhibits.


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From September 26th through December 30th, The New England Quilt Museum, the only institute in the Northeast solely dedicated to the art and craft of quilting, presents "The Fabric Collage Quilts of Susan Carlson." This 32 piece display of Carlson's "fabric collage" technique captures her artistic evolution over three decades, and provides an abundance of color, texture and imagery for observers to enjoy. Visitors can expect to see quilts featuring portraits, birds, fish, insects, fish and a twenty-foot crocodile!


Image courtesy of LNHP

Image courtesy of LNHP

Start the season off right by visiting The Brush Art Gallery between now and November 3rd to view their commemorative exhibit celebrating the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Lowell National Historical Park in 1978. A reception will be held on Saturday, September 29th from 2-4 PM, and the exhibit will feature historical items, interactive elements, and a preview of what the national park could look like in the future!


"Pine Trees at Dusk and Dawn" by artist Victoria Voner

"Pine Trees at Dusk and Dawn" by artist Victoria Voner

Two locally loved art galleries, The Whistler House Museum of Art and The Brush Art Gallery and Studios, have brought their creative minds together to collaborate on a one-of-a-kind exhibit called “Creative Fusion: The Brush at The Whistler.” This collection will feature creative works from each talented Brush artist that display their own unique style, skill, and vision. With the help of The Whistler House curatorial staff, this exhibit will be a cohesive collection of art that represent the thriving artistic community of Lowell. The show will run from September 26th to November 3rd, and an opening reception will be held on September 29th from 1-3 PM in the Parker Gallery.


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From September 27th to October 7th, Gallery Z showcases their love for their city with "The Spirit of Lowell", a collection of 2-D multimedia work submitted by local artists. These pieces will display the spirit of Lowell by depicting Lowell's rich history and beautiful buildings, and the city's favorite author, Jack Kerouac. Visit the gallery's café for a freshly brewed hot or iced coffee, and see how each of these local artists envisions the spirit of Lowell. 


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UnchARTed Gallery has been home to many unique and interesting exhibits, and their latest collection "Totally 'Normal' & Stranger Than Fiction" is no exception. This exhibit will display the whimsical, quirky artwork of Lowell artist, M. M. Moyer, and his latest limited-edition art book "An Animal Alphabet A-Z" will also be available for purchase at the gallery. This collection will be on display from October 2nd to November 3rd, with receptions and book-signings on October 4th and 6th from 4-8 PM. UnchARTed also has an in-house café, so you can enjoy pizza, craft beer, wine, or a sandwich while checking out Moyer's "Normal" art work. 


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On October 6th and 7th, Western Avenue Studios hosts their annual Artoberfest, where guests can enjoy great food from a gourmet food truck, craft beer from the local Navigation Brewing Company, and of course, an extensive display of local art. From 12-5 PM, participating artists will open up their personal studios for anyone to come admire their work, learn about their artistic processes, and purchase their artwork. With Western Avenue Studios being the home to more than 300 working artist, you can expect to meet a wide variety of creatives, such as  fiber and glass artists, jewelers, metal workers, painters, photographers, potters, printers, woodworkers, sculptors and more! 


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On October 7th from 2-4 PM, there will be a garden party hosted by the Arts League of Lowell celebrating the third season of the Gates Block Garden. Wine and refreshments will be available at this year's celebration, and the garden exhibit will feature the works of the talented scrap-metal sculptor Madeleine Lord. Her art will be displayed until October 28th, so you can stop by whenever you want to relax, and enjoy her creative collection of repurposed scrap-metal in a calming garden setting. 

Experience Destination Lowell

Our favorite weekend of summer is finally here! The Lowell Folk Festival begins tonight with the Flag Parade at 6:30 PM and official festival kick-off starting at 6:55 PM! There will not be a shortage of things to do throughout the weekend, but if you are unsure where to start, Destination Lowell is the perfect spot! We will be on Merrimack Street with plenty of information showcasing Lowell's unique and vibrant Arts and Culture scene. Immerse yourself in all things Lowell as Destination Lowell provides the opportunity to experience the many different cultures and lifestyles that we have right here in Lowell.


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Destination Lowell higlights Lowell's rich community resources. There will be many local organizations with information on topics such as Lowell Celebrates Kerouac, a nonprofit organization the mission of which is to promote a better understanding and appreciation of Jack Kerouac's life and literature and the Lowell Cultural Council, whose mission is to promote excellence, access, education and diversity to improve the quality of life for all Lowell residents. Stop by the Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust table to meet their environmental educators, check their upcoming programming, or learn about their projects. Make sure you visit these booths and learn what makes Lowell the cool city that it is and how to contribute to making it even better!


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If you haven't experienced the creative, artistic spirit in our great city, Destination Lowell will change that for you. Keep an eye out for the "Lobster Roll", a human powered machine shaped like a giant lobster that will be part of the Lowell Kinetic Sculpture Race booth. Discover Lowell Makes, a makerspace which offers shared equipment, classes, and opportunities to teach and network. Western Avenue Studios, one of the "must see places" to visit in Lowell, will also be there. Find out what makes this artist community a destination for creatives seeking studio space in the city.


Photo Courtesy of Boston GreenFest

There will be restaurant and retail booths - Crepes and The City, Fuji Restaurant, Lowell Burger Company, All Star Lounge, Humanity BoutiqueGaleria De Los Andes-Boutique - all of which are located on Merrimack Street. There will also be demonstrations from Mill No. 5, stores such as Crose Nest, Dress and Trousers,Dandelion District. Red Antler Apothecary will transform an empty storefront into a pop-up shop for the weekend!


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There are so many ways to represent Lowell's unique, rich and vibrant cultural scene. Some additional booths that will be located within Destination Lowell are the UMass Lowell Kayak Center, International Institute of New England the Merrimack Antique Bottle Club and the Lowell Historical Society. There are many other places to experience, so make sure you come by and see us this weekend! Check out the Destination Lowell section on the Folk Festival website here.

Escaping The Heat in Lowell’s Museums and Galleries

Summer is in full swing and starting to heat up! Luckily there is a lot happening in July, and there are many places in Lowell to help you escape the heat, enjoy local art, live music and more.


Photo by John Phelam

Photo by John Phelam

Through July 18th, the New England Quilt Museum has the exhibit "Beyond the Border Wall: The Migrant Quilt Project" on display. The museum is located at 18 Shattuck Street and will host two more exhibit openings this month. "H2oh!" will be open on July 11th and "Material Girls Quilt Guild Exhibition" opens on July 18th.


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The Arts League of Lowell, at 307 Market Street, has the "New England Members'" exhibit on display until August 5th. This exhibit depicts a variety of iconic images that represent New England's charm, strength and character. To compliment the New England exhibit, starting July 5th "The Tiny Brush: Botanical Paintings in Two Styles" will be on display through July 29th. These pieces highlight the beauty of nature, especially in New England.


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Picasso was right: "Youth has no age." The Loading Dock Gallery's July Show, "Artful Age"  proves the saying true. Curators Linda B. Dunn and Pamela Wamala have worked in parallel for close to a decade, leading art classes for senior centers, continuing care residences, and rehab facilities. In Artful Age, their students' work shines with joy. "Art reawakens old interests and sparks new ones," notes Dunn.The show runs July 5-29 and the opening reception is Saturday, July 7, from 4-6 PM. 


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Discover More Galleries and Museums

There's plenty of art to see elsewhere: "The Allure of Venice" at the Whistler House Museum of Art featuring works by Boston artist Walter Franklin Lansil has been extended through July 21.Stop by Gallery Z for their annual Co-op Artists Exhibition, thru July 29th.The Studio Artists at the Brush Gallery remember Deirdre McCullough Grunwald with their annual group show entitled "Reflections - Homage to a Friend". Also check out these other exhibits: Ayer Lofts Art Gallery - Opening July 7, "Invest in the Future", thru July 29.


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Other Cool Places to Visit

The first Saturday of every month, Western Avenue Studios & Lofts opens its doors and invites visitors to explore five floors of many types of arts created inside the walls. You can speak with the artists about their work, learn about their inspirations behind each piece, allowing you to further appreciate each work of art. Western Avenue Studios is located at 122 Western Avenue.


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Mill No. 5 is a great place to spend some time on a hot day. There are many unique shops with varying hours, as well as Coffee and Cotton and the Luna Theater. There is often live music at Coffee and Cotton along with a delicious food and drink menu. The Luna Theater features both old and new films and hosts live Jazz musicians every Thursday. On Sunday during the Farm Market the Luna hosts the Magical Mystery Movie Club starting at 11:30 AM. The movie is always G or PG and is never revealed in advance!


To find out more about all of the great galleries and museums in Lowell, click here.

For more events happening around Lowell, check out our calendar.

Lowell Folk Festival: A Summer Must-Do

It's that time of year again! The 32nd Annual Folk Festival will be will be returning to downtown Lowell with a full lineup beginning with the parade of flags from Lowell's City Hall Plaza to Boarding House Park on Friday July 27th, at 6 PM and then continuing with the finest in traditional music, craft and food throughout the weekend. There is so much culture to be shared and even more memories to be made; this is a summer festival you won't want to miss! 

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The Music

First and foremost, Folk Fest is a showcase for music from all different cultural backgrounds. The festival features five stages of traditional music, from Africa, Hawaii, Columbia, France, Cape Verde and much, much more! Check out the list of this year's performers on the Folk Festival website which includes a map and more information on what to expect! 


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The Food

There will be over a dozen different ethnic groups sharing their delicious cuisines. From Polish to Greek, Asian, Latin, Burmese and everything in between,  all the different aromas will be guiding you on a trip around the world without having to leave Lowell! The food booths will be set up in various locations so you are able to ignite not only your taste buds, but all your other senses while enjoying the art and music all around you.


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The Local Culture

Make sure you stop by Destination Lowell along Merrimack Street! Destination Lowell presents Lowell's vibrant culture and highlights why Lowell is a great destination to enjoy history, art and creative activities all within feet of each other. It's no secret that our Canalway Cultural District is lively and the perfect destination for a summer day. Come check what this year's Destination Lowell has to offer and experience for yourself why "There's a Lot to Like about Lowell!"


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The Artisan Crafts

The Lowell Folk Festival in collaboration with the Brush Art Gallery & Studios, presents Art in the Courtyard: an arts and fine crafts marketplace. This exciting collaboration will provide an opportunity for visitors to view and purchase some of the finest art and craft works being produced.

Art in the Courtyard takes place on Saturday, July 28, noon - 7:30 pm and Sunday, July 29, noon - 6 pm in the shaded, brick-lined courtyard between the National Historical Park Visitor Center and the Brush Art Gallery. 


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The Fun

Festival-goers are in for great fun along Shattuck Street with numerous interactive opportunities.The Lowell National Historical Park Staff will be organizing interactive crafts for all ages. Everyone is invited to try out the traditional games offered by the Recreation Department, which will include ring toss, bean bag toss, muffin tin game, and the ever popular box hockey which was invented in Lowell.


A Summer of Celebrations

There is so much to celebrate in Lowell throughout the summer!  There are multiple festivals scheduled for the next few months that you will not want to miss! Join us as we celebrate not only what makes our community so unique, but also what brings us all together!

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On Saturday, June 16th, Merrimack Street will be transformed into a pixie marketplace for the Midsummer Dream Festival. From 12- 10 PM, this festival will celebrate music, art, theater, magic and costume for both kids and adults. The marketplace will include vendors, crafting areas, a cosplay contest, a fairy house promenade and a traveling production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” that will lead you on an exciting journey through downtown from scene to scene.

Also on June 16th, the African Festival runs from 11 AM- 7 PM at the Sampas Pavilion, 500 Pawtucket Boulevard. This year’s theme for the festival is "African Culture: Our Strength, Our Heritage, Our Gift to Mankind." It will feature live music, dancers, crafts, food and more!


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Lowell celebrates Independence Day at LeLacheur Park! Starting at 7 PM on July 4th, there will be tons of activities for families to enjoy, including fireworks starting at 9 PM! Get there first! The first 2,000 attendees get a free American Flag. The Swampland Kids Area will be open and there will be balloon animals and face painting. You can sit in the stands to watch the fireworks or bring your own blanket and sit in the outfield. Click here for more information.


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July 27th-29th it's the Annual Folk Festival! Folk Fest always provides the best in traditional music, ethnic foods and artisan crafts. All weekend there will be an abundance of live music, family activities and more to enjoy. Performing artists range from blues to salsa to beatboxing and everything in between! The craft area will have rug hooking, Norwegian Rosemaling, wooden flute making and more. There is no better way to spend a weekend than enjoying delicious food, live music and great people!


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On August 5th, immerse yourself in culture at the Puerto Rican Festival. From 12 PM- 10 PM, come to JFK plaza to experience more music, craft vendors, and delicious food!

The 17th Annual Blues’ N Brews Festival will rock JFK Plaza on August 11th. This event is rain or shine and will feature performances by Matt Schofield, Dana Fuchs, John Nemeth and Erin Harpe. The brews will include ciders, ales, lagers, meads and more. There will be craft vendors, food trucks, food booths, prizes and giveaways!


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On August 18th, the 22nd Annual Lowell Southeast Asian Water Festival will run from 9 AM to 7:30 PM at the Heritage State Park’s Vandenberg Esplanade. Spend the day along the Merrimack River and enjoy South East Asian food, live music, dancers, vendors and traditional boat races.


There are many other events planned for the coming months in Lowell. Make sure you check out the calendar so you don’t miss out on the fun!

Spring into Art

There is no better way to celebrate the arrival of spring than seeing beautiful art around the city! The upcoming months will have great opportunities to view inspiring artwork that will make you want to keep coming back! Stretch your legs after this long and exhausting winter and see the superb exhibits up on display.

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Explore Lowell’s history in a new, exciting way! The Branding Lowell exhibit at the Mogan Cultural Center highlights the branding and design used in Lowell since its founding in 1836 up to the present day. There will be merchandise available for purchase and 100% of proceeds go towards Lowell High School’s Visual Arts Program. Branding Lowell will run through the spring and summer daily at the Mogan Cultural Center with a satellite location at Mill No. 5. Follow the link for more information.


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Other Exhibits Happening Around Lowell

Nancy Bernardo will give a public lecture at UMass Lowell O’Leary Library about her works and current show “Decorative Debris” In this exhibit, Bernardo uses transitory texts from the early 20th Century to show the beauty in everyday imagery. The lecture will begin at 3:30 P.M. followed by a reception at the University Gallery in Mahoney Hall, from 5-6 PM. The exhibit will continue until April 21st.


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Meanwhile, at the Arts League of Lowell, the exhibit "Honoring Gaia: Mother Earth" has been on display since March 1st and run to April 22nd. This exhibit honors Gaia, Mother Earth in mythology, life, birth, and the regeneration of our planets fragile ecosystems in the face of dangerous climate change. Visit the website for more information.


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On March 1st, the "Visual Voices" exhibition opened at the Whistler House Museum of Arts Parker Gallery. This exhibit features works by students in grades 9-12 from Lowell High, Greater Lowell Technical High, and Lowell Catholic High. "Visual Voices" was started in 2002 by art teacher and local artist Lolita Demers and has grown into a biennial city-wide art event. A reception and award ceremony will be held on April 7th from 2-4 PM.


Quietus

Emily Sandagata’s mixed media work blurs the boundaries between painting, sculpture and textile art, incorporating found objects, natural materials, and earth-based pigments. Her latest show "Quietus," is on view at UnchARTed Gallery through April 7. Don't miss this terrific exhibit that explores themes of death, survival, transformation, growth and decay.

Get Inspired in Lowell

Lowell is home to many artists, musicians, actors and other creative people. Having all this creative spirit generates a vibrant atmosphere that continues to help local artists follow their dreams and do what they love. Here are some ways that people in the City of Lowell can help inspire you as well.


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Art

From the month of March through May, local artist Dave Phaneuf’s work will be on display at TreMonte Pizzeria. Dave’s work is of local buildings and reflects his love of historic architecture and recording of subtle street views. His work is done in detailed pen and ink, enabling you to see the beauty in something you may have previously seen as mundane. Find out more about Dave's display here.  Another local artist, Scott Stephens, will have his work on display from March through May as well. Scott’s artwork will be displayed at the Mandarin Asian Bistro. Scott, a graduate of Lowell High, is showing his intricately layered collages that are inspired by his music, travels and his studies at Mass College of Art. Check out Scott’s work and challenge your mind to interpret these elaborate collages. Find out more about Scott's display here.

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Western Avenue Studios is a five acre complex that nurtures the arts and artists. The complex has three buildings that consist of 250 work only studios, 50 live/work lofts and cooperative artist run gallery, The Onyx Room Performance space. Whitsett Guitar Works and Navigation Brewing Company are also located here. Western Ave Studios has created an inspiring and supportive community for the artists who utilize their spaces, and many of them host classes in their studio. There is a wide range in the types of classes you can take. If you want to experience this creative hub for yourself, check out their website here.

An exhibit that incorporates both art and history opens on March 24th at the Mogan Cultural Center. The Branding Lowell exhibit will highlight the branding and design used in Lowell since its founding in 1836 up until the present day. Many of the local artists will be in attendance on opening day.


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Music

The Lowell Philharmonic Orchestra provides classical and pops music, and provides concerts that are comfortable and engaging for all ages. Founded in 1987, they have performed all around the greater Merrimack Valley, with a mission to inspire others through music, foster future generations of musicians and music lovers by actively encouraging area youth to become involved with local music. The LPO incorporates young musicians into their winter family concert each year and high school students are encouraged to join.

The Hearing Room is an art center and listening room that hosts regular events for local artists to share their work. Every Tuesday, they host an open mic night that welcomes music, poetry, storytelling, or comedy, encouraging original material. On Thursday’s The Hearing Room hosts a “mostly acoustic jam” where all levels of experience, genres, ages, and voices are welcome. Twice a month there is a songwriters club that makes sharing your materials and getting feedback (if you want) much easier as this event is informal and supportive. For more events at The Hearing Room, click here.

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The Luna Theater is another spot that offers regular events. Every Thursday, the Luna  hosts the “Luna Sessions,” with live jazz music being played by some of the most talented local artists. They also host “Weirdo Wednesdays,” an evening of Cult Cinema from all eras and multiple genres. This event is free and you don’t know what will be showing until 7:30 PM on Wednesday nights! Keep up with the events at the Luna Theater by checking our calendar.

Warm Up with Art, Culture and Food

The Bomb Cyclone has hit Lowell this week and while this is bound to create problems for drivers and residents, it is also an opportunity for adventurous locals to bundle up, go out and find ways to have fun in the city. From open studios to new theatrical productions, there's a lot to like about 2018!


Image courtesy of Merrimack Repertory Theatre

Image courtesy of Merrimack Repertory Theatre

Merrimack Repertory Theatre's KNYUM

From January 10th to February 4th, the Merrimack Repertory Theatre will run the world premiere of KYNUM. Written and performed by Vichet Chum, the son of Cambodian immigrant parents, the one-man play tells the autobiographical story of a guy working the night shift at a New York hotel and going to class by day, downing cups of coffee as he tries to learn Khmer, the language of his family's home. In the process he will awaken to parts of his heritage, both beautiful and excruciating, which shine through only in his wildly luminous dreams. 

Tickets and times available here.
 


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Start Your New Year With Art at Western Avenue

What better way to acquaint yourself with Lowell's art scene than to visit Western Avenue Open Studios, this Saturday, January 6, noon to 5 p.m. This monthly event gives people a chance to browse through unique studios and chat with artists in their environment. Visitors can expect to see a wide range of art including jewellry, ceramics, textiles, paintings, sculpture, printmaking, photography and many other media. 

For more information on other galleries and museums click here.
 


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Shop Local and Fresh at the Farm Market

The Farm Market at Mill No. 5 begins the new year on January 7th. Local and fresh produce, baked goods, home and body care products and much more are available on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For more information, visit the Farm Market's Facebook.
 


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Enjoy Local Dining

Take refuge from winter weather in the many local restaurants and coffee shops. With plenty of places to choose from, this is the perfect time of the year to explore new dining opportunities and revisit old time favorites. From casual to fine dining, the Lowell food scene has it all!

For a directory of restaurants in Lowell please click here!
 

Four Festive Ways to Celebrate the Holidays

The holidays are an exciting and joyful way to spend time with family and friends and rejoice on all of the wonders of life.  Whether you’re looking for fun activities or you’re still looking for the perfect holiday gift, there’s much to do in the city this time of year.  Here are four festive ways to celebrate the holidays:


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‘Tis the Season for Holiday Movie Classics!

Watching movies is a great way to enjoy time with family and friends.  Not only can these films bring you joy, they have the ability to bring out the holiday spirit in anyone.

Step out for a night in the city and enjoy Ralphie Parker and his family’s holiday adventures in the 1983 classic A Christmas Story which will be playing at The Luna Theater on Sunday, December 10th.  Clarence gets his wings in It’s a Wonderful Life at the Pollard Memorial Library on December 15th and at The Luna Theater on December 16th.  Don’t get stuck "Home Alone" and catch Chris Columbus’ beloved comedy classic at The Luna Theater on December 24th.


Photo by Meghan Moore

Photo by Meghan Moore

Celebrate with Music and Theater

Traditions such as music and tales about discovering the marvels of the season are great opportunities to enjoy the holidays and make new memories.

Running from now to December 24th, Merrimack Repertory Theatre’s A Christmas Carol is a holiday classic that is bound to bring out the festive in anyone.  There’s more holiday fun for all ages on Saturday, December 9th at the Pollard Memorial Library for Jingle Jam.  Then, experience orchestral entertainment on Saturday, December 9th at the Lowell Philharmonic Orchestra Holiday Concert.  If you’re looking for more local orchestras, join the UMass Lowell String Project’s Winter Showcase on Thursday, December 14th.  There’s also the 2017 Holiday Pops Tour, coming to the Lowell Memorial Auditorium on Sunday, December 17th, that captures the magic of the holidays with their signature Sleigh Ride and other classic holiday music.


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Deck the Halls with Art and Treasures

The arts can be another great place to look for inspiration.  The various shows and receptions available not only provide you with a look into the local art scene, but also enhance your holiday experience with activities that can become new traditions.

Join Western Avenue Studios (WAS) for their Holiday Open Studios on Saturday and Sunday, December 9th and 10th for endeavors that include browsing art, speaking with artists, and purchasing unique gifts.  The Arts League of Lowell is displaying their Holiday Treasures Members’ Show reception on Saturday, December 9th where special holiday-themed art treasures can be purchased.  Loading Dock Gallery’s show, Winter Lights: Gifts for the Holidays, will run to Sunday, December 31st and features hand-made products from soaps to furniture.  There’s also Ayers Loft Gallery’s Peace on Earth members’ show reception on Saturday, December 9th.  This show, which will run to Thursday, January 4th, is a reminder of the joyful times ahead while shining a light on local artists and their work.


Photo courtesy of The Vintage Witch

Photo courtesy of The Vintage Witch

Walkin' in a Crafty Wonderland

Holiday-themed markets offer creations from local artisans that might change the way you do holiday shopping and prepare for festive times, and can help you find new activities to incorporate into your holiday traditions. 

Unique gifts and art from over 30 local artists are available at WAS’ Handmade Holiday Shopping Night on Thursday, December 14th.  Then there’s The Holiday Oddity Market on Saturday, December 9th at Mill No. 5 where you can find gift options for that someone on your holiday gift list with an eccentric taste.  Do some lunchtime shopping at The Brush Art Gallery and Studios on Friday, December 15th for Soup and Shop and enjoy complimentary soup while browsing through the available art and other creative products.  Then, on Saturday, December 16th, Mill No. 5’s It’s a Wonderful Market has more vendors of vintage, handmade and artisanal goods that are perfect for the holidays.

Fall Activities and Fun Things to Do in Lowell

By Yanicel Martinez - Already mid-fall, a great time to get creative, take in some great entertainment and prepare for the upcoming holidays. Below are some ideas to enjoy November.


Crafts

Get your creative juices flowing with arts and crafts and workshops.

Arts and crafts workshops are a great way to get creative.  Check out the Fall into Fun Crafternoon on Friday, November 17th and the Make & Take Craft on Wednesday, November 15th at the Pollard Memorial Library and the Arts and Crafts Night with Anabelle on Thursday, November 16th at Coffee and Cotton. can present you opportunities to exchange ideas, learn new skills and above all, socialize! Visit Western Avenue Monthly Open Studios on Saturday, November 4 where you can meet the artists and learn all about their work.


Photo Courtesy of the Moscow Ballet

Photo Courtesy of the Moscow Ballet

Treat yourself to some quality entertainment.

Fall brings a whole host of new events to look forward to. For example, attend Balefire Productions' staging of "Sherlock Holmes: A Study in Scarlet" at Gallery Z from Thursday, November 16th to Sunday, November 19th, a dinner/theater experience. Community concerts are another way to spend time with friends and family. Events such as the Lowell Philharmonic Orchestra Family Concert on Saturday, November 11th at the Lowell Catholic High School. And don't miss the Moscow Ballet's Great Russian Nutcracker at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium on November 28, a favorite holiday tradition. 


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New and classic movies sure to entertain.

Watching a film is a great way to enjoy a fall afternoon or evening with friends and family. Love hummus? Screening at the Lowell National Historical Park Visitor Center on Tuesday, November 14, HUMMUS! The Movie. The Luna Theater has a variety of movie options starting with The Witches playing on Sunday, November 12 followed by Loving Vincent on Friday, November 17 and Matilda on Sunday, November 19. The Pollard Memorial Library also has its own movie night with Blush on Thursday, November 9th.


Holidays

Get into the spirit of giving by shopping early for the holidays

Shopping for the holidays has already begun! It can be exhilarating or stressful, but in the end you can enjoy it and feel excited as the holidays approach. Check out Lowell's many galleries, specialty shops and markets for old school shopping where you can see and handle the merchandise - New England Quilt Museum, Brush Art Gallery and Studios, Western Avenue Studios, For flexibility and the foodie on your list go for a gift certificate at any of Lowell's great restaurants. Community events such as the Friends of the Pollard Memorial Library Children's Shopping Day on Saturday, November 25th at the Pollard Memorial Library is a great way to shop at a reasonable price.


October - Literature, Art, Science and Cultural Happenings

This month the spirit of Halloween festivities radiates through the air and various historical observations start coming to our attention. Culture also courses through the city as anniversaries and receptions celebrate the arts and the community.  Enjoy events highlighting history and celebrating arts and culture in October. Here's a sample of the events you can find on our calendar!


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Reception for Vast! Mad! Striving! Exhibit

This exhibit, part of Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Festival, opens on October 6th from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Lowell Telecommunications Corporation. It presents the work of artists in various media through the perspective of Jack Kerouac. Attendees will experience Lowell as it is today while embodying the soul of the city. Live music, poetry, art and refreshments will also be offered.


Photo by John Suiter

Photo by John Suiter

Ghosts of the Pawtucketville Night Kerouac Tour

Part of Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Festival, on October 8th, take an evening walk led by Roger Brunelle through the streets of the Pawtucketville neighborhood where Jack Kerouac spent his adolescence. The walk begins at 6 p.m. at Cumnock Hall in UML’s North Campus. Participate in readings from Kerouac’s talk-writings at the cottages and tenements where he lived and attended school. For the end of the tour, walk to Ste Jeanne d’Arc Church where Kerouac saw a vision of the BEAT-ific Generation.


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EVOLUTION Artist Reception

Sophy Tuttle’s evolution work will be showcased on October 14th from 7 to 9 p.m. at Gallery Z.  Tuttle is a fine artist, illustrator and muralist based in Boston. Join her in sharing her experiences and love for the natural world at this reception. Enjoy light refreshments and the beer and wine cash bar as view her work.

For more information, visit Gallery Z’s Facebook.


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Lowell Reads: Harvard Observatory Photographic Plates Presentation

Join staff from the Harvard College Observatory as they talk about their experience with photographic plates on October 21st at 1 p.m. at the Pollard Memorial Library. Listen to the staff recount their digitization and transcription project with the Smithsonian. Attendees will receive a special discount code for tickets to the Merrimack Repertory Theatre’s production of Silent Sky.

More information available here.


Photo courtesy of the African Community Center of Lowell

Photo courtesy of the African Community Center of Lowell

African Community Center of Lowell – 1st Anniversary Celebration

Celebrate the accomplishments of the African Community Center of Lowell’s first year of operation with the Anniversary Celebration on October 29th from 3 to 6 p.m. at Eliot Church. Experience African and American cuisine and enjoy non-alcoholic beverages. Listen to guest speaker Sarah Dryden-Peterson’s talk and learn more about the African community and culture.


The Art Takeover: A Month of Creativity and Play in Lowell!

Creativity will take center stage this month as local artists and a diverse range of organizations and businesses join together to support the city's art scene with exciting community events. Gather with friends and come experience Lowell with new eyes - explore the city, meet local artists and connect with Lowell's creative community.


Photo by David Winthrop

Photo by David Winthrop

Lowell Kinetic Sculpture Race

After last year's successful turnout, the Lowell Kinetic Sculpture Race is back this year on September 23. Billed as "a spectacular racing spectacle", the event pits human-powered art sculptures against one another in a race through city streets, over a mud pit and across the Merrimack River. Artists, builders and do-it-yourselfers will bring their one-of-a-kind creation to race for victory. LKSR is the only race of this kind in New England, and not only expands the artistic diversity of Lowell, but reinforces it as a hub of innovation. 


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Creaticity: Lowell Art & Maker Festival

Creaticity: Lowell Art & Maker Festival is a brand new two-day event intersecting art, design, music, performance and public space. The free event will feature the work of over 50 local artists and makers and will highlight the character of the historic buildings on Market Street in downtown Lowell. Come and discover local art and entertainment from Lowell and beyond!


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A Little Bazaar at Mill No. 5

After a summer break A Little Bazaar returns to Mill No. 5 on September 2. This year they'll be expanding the marketplace to every Saturday of the month! 
If you like handmade, kooky and unique items, this place is for you. It's the kind of stuff you don't find in malls or big box stores. Visitors are invited to spend the day walking around the former textile mill and make exciting and fun discoveries at every turn.
 


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The Royale at MRT

If you're in the mood for the theatre, then don't miss the chance to see the new power-packed, award winning boxing drama "The Royale" at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT). The 90-minute show is inspired by the life of Jack Johnson, the first black man to fight for the title of World Heavyweight Champion. The 2013 play by Marco Ramirez has received acclaims nationwide, including the Off-Broadway run at Lincoln Center that landed Obie, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle awards.

More information is at www.mrt.org/Royale
 


Six Things to Do in Lowell That Your Kids Will Love

By Allison Lamey - Lowell’s rich history, compact size, and diverse mix of festivals and events make it a great city to explore with kids. I asked my kids (three boys aged 9, 6, and 2) what they like to do most in Lowell. Here are some of their favorites.

1. Music, Art, Theatre, Oh My! 

There’s no better place to cultivate an appreciation for the arts in your kids than in Lowell.
The Cultural Organization of Lowell maintains a calendar of exhibits and events that are sure to please kids of any age.  Some of our favorites include the Lowell Summer Music Series free concerts at Boarding House Park and the many community events organized by Made in Lowell.  For the budding artist in your home, many galleries in Lowell offer youth classes and you can watch artists at work during first Saturday of each month at Western Avenue Studios.  My six year old is particularly fond of the glass blowing demonstrations at Mill City Glassworks!  

Movies

2. Free Movies

Our go to spot on a rainy afternoon is the Magical Mystery Movie Club at the Luna Theatre in Mill No. 5.  Every Sunday at 11:30 a.m. they show free movies, rated G or PG, that are unannounced until the start of the show – hence the “mystery”!  House lights are kept a bit brighter than normal and you’re free to come and go so there’s no pressure to keep active kiddos confined to a seat for 90 minutes.  As an added bonus the seats are so comfortable your little one (or you) may get in an unexpected nap.  

Trolleys

3. Trolleys

Trains are a big favorite in my house so the National Park Service trolley rides are a go to activity for us.  They offer free rides between the Visitors’ Center and the Boott Mills Museum throughout the day.  For a longer, more educational experience NPS offers several guided tours, for a small fee, that delve into the history of the canals and mills that shaped Lowell.  When you’re done your little ones can make believe they’re a trolley conductor on the child-size replica at Mack Plaza.  

Picnic

4. Picnics on the Waterfront

Lowell offers several great spots to lay down a blanket and picnic along the Merrimack River.  Our favorite spots include the Vandenberg Esplanade along the VFW Highway, Sheehy Park on Pawtucket St. near UMass Lowell South Campus, and the Riverwalk behind the Tsongas Arena.  All three locations have walking paths that are stroller, bike, and pet friendly.  The Esplanade and Sheehy Park are also a great spot to watch rowers and kayakers.  

Spinners

5. The Lowell Spinners 

Lowell proudly boasts its minor league baseball team, the Lowell Spinners, and it affiliation with the Boston Red Sox.  The stadium offers great views from any seat, fun entertainment between innings, and a kids’ play area if your little ones get restless.  The affordable prices mean you can bring the whole family and still have money for peanuts and cracker jacks. 

Eat

6. Eat!

Lowell’s growing reputation as a cultural food hub means there’s something to please everyone no matter how sophisticated their taste buds may be.  Lowell has a great variety of restaurants offering classic American cuisine and ethnic dishes representative of Lowell’s diverse population. While we have our favorites in every neighborhood our kids love to eat downtown where they can people watch until their meals arrive.  You can check out the great variety of restaurants here.  My nine year old wants to make sure I also mention that after dinner you can pick up a yummy treat from one of several downtown shops including Sweet Journey, Little Delight’s Bakery, or Sweet Lydia’s. Dessert is healthy for you when it’s made local, right?  

Take a Walk on the Art Side

The Lowell Folk Festival is all about traditional music, ethnic food and culture - lots of culture and art! If you come for the festival, there are plenty of galleries and museums to visit and plenty of artistic inspiration to be found in neighborhoods across the city. We invite you to explore your surroundings and enjoy Lowell's creative scene while taking in the sights and sounds of this incredibly diverse music festival.

Decatur Way - Photo Courtesy of Liz LaManche

Decatur Way - Photo Courtesy of Liz LaManche

1.  Lowell Public Art Walk

Outdoor art is all around in Lowell! Whether you're walking downtown or exploring our neighborhoods, you're sure to see a variety of original works that reflect the city's history, ethnic heritage and contemporary life. Our self-guided tour encourages residents and visitors to chart their own course and discover the public sculptures, murals, memorials and historic monuments that make Lowell unique. Visit Lowell Public Art Walk to learn more and discover local treasures near you.

Photo Courtesy of the Lowell Folk Festival_Higgins _ Ross

Photo Courtesy of the Lowell Folk Festival_Higgins _ Ross

2. Art in the Courtyard

Under the tents in the shaded, brick-lined courtyard between the National Historical Park and the Brush gallery, you will find Art in the Courtyard, a high-traffic  spot featuring some of the finest art and craft work by local artists. This venue provides an opportunity for visitors to meet the artists and learn about the  techniques and processes that go into creating their works. Art in the Courtyard is coordinated by the Brush Art Gallery and is one of the best
places  to view and purchase art and fine crafts at the Lowell Folk Festival.

ALLGalley

3. Pop Up Art Show

If you're looking for a respite from the over-stimulation of the festival then head over to the Arts League of Lowell and check out the work of their talented artists in a special pop up show of small works especially chosen for the Folk Festival weekend. Works are no larger than 12 x 12 inches or smaller and all priced at $100 or below. This is your chance to find something lovely and unique from Lowell!

QuiltMuseum

4. Threads of Resistance

Located in downtown Lowell, The New England Quilt Museum is the only institute in the Northeast solely dedicated to the art of quilting and the second-oldest quilt museum in the United States. Their new exhibit titled "Threads of Resistance", on view now through September 9, 2017, proves that the art of quilt-making is alive and kicking. This national exhibition, organized by the Artist's Circle, features 64 juried works of fiber art, contemporary quilts, and art quilts designed to express a range of emotions from anger and sadness to hope and empowerment. Inspired by the words of Martin Luther King, Jr, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter".

explore

5. Discover other Galleries and Museums

There's plenty of art to see elsewhere: Stop by  UnchARTed Gallery  and check out the abstract map prints by the artist Jennifer Carland of Carland Cartography! Also check out these other exhibits:  Gallery Z   - Reflections II, thru July 30 -  Ayer Lofts Art Gallery  - Lowell Loves Art, thru July 30 -  Loading Dock Gallery  - The Cultural ARTbeat, thru July 30 -  LTC Gallery  - Opening August 3: Japan: Tradition and Inspiration, thru August 31 -   Whistler House Museum of Art  - Opening August 5: Contemporary Art Quilts 2017, thru September 1.
 

Destination Lowell - A Showcase of Lowell's Best

The 31st annual Lowell Folk Festival will bring the best of traditional music, food and crafts for all to enjoy.  This year’s Destination Lowell will offer visitors a more engaging, interactive experience by transforming Merrimack Street into hubs of activity, entertainment, outdoor sports and local vendors. We hope that festival visitors will soon discover why There's a Lot to Like about Lowell! Here are some things to look forward to.

1.  Art, Culture and Heritage

Located at the entrance of Destination Lowell between Shattuck Street and Palmer Street, the Art, Culture and Heritage area will feature a dozen local organizations offering information, giveaways and more!  Lowell Celebrates Kerouac, Western Avenue Studios and Merrimack Repertory Theater are some of this year’s participants.  Come experience Lowell’s rich and vibrant cultural scene!

2. Outdoor Fun, Sports and Recreation

As you walk further down Merrimack Street, you will see Destination Lowell’s first of three activation areas.  This area creates the perfect setting for outdoor recreation and sports organizations to promote themselves, while engaging attendees through interactive activities involving crafts, games, music, sports and fitness.  For those who love competition, this is the hub for you! Destination Lowell will provide giant outdoor games such as cornhole, checkers and jenga for all ages to enjoy while listening to some beautiful folk music in Downtown Lowell’s historic setting. 

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3. Events and Happenings

Once you’ve experienced the fun and entertaining activities at the recreation area, continue strolling down Merrimack Street to the next area that Destination Lowell has set up for you.  There are plenty of things to do at the events and happenings hub, located between Kirk and John Street. This area creates spaces for local companies like Made in Lowell, DIY Lowell, Lowell Kinetic Sculpture Race and the Puerto Rican Festival to promote upcoming events and provide information on ways to get involved. 

Derek Soohoo Pottery

Derek Soohoo Pottery

4. Lifestyle

The last area is the lifestyle hub.  This area will serve as a great way for participants to stay relax and unwind as Destination Lowell partners with Mill No. 5 to promote a healthy lifestyle. The Red Apothecary and Derek’s SooHoo Pottery are some of the local businesses that will have exhibits and demonstrations for all to enjoy!

 

Come check what this year’s Destination Lowell has to offer and experience for yourself why people believe Lowell is the number one festival city, as it continues to host the largest free folk festival in the United States! The Lowell Folk Festival seeks to present the finest traditional music, dance, crafts, ethnic food and cultural treasures that make up Lowell’s diverse community.   This is a free event.  For more information visit: http://lowellfolkfestival.org/

Even More Reasons Why Lowell is Heaven for Creatives

Art entrepreneurs create opportunities, jobs, culture, products and services that help drive our economy. With over 600 artists and makers residing in Lowell, the city has a great infrastructure that provides invaluable support to the creative community. (Read the first part of the article here).
 

1. Creative Resources

Over the last 10 years the Lowell Cultural Council Program (LCC) has supported hundreds of community-based projects in the arts, humanities and sciences annually allocating funding within the Lowell community on behalf of the Massachusetts Cultural Council. These funds provide economic support for community events that reach residents of all ages. This year alone the LCC funded 42 projects for a total of $61,645.

Pictured above is Barbara Poole's 'Veils of Color', a public art project funded by the LCC.

Pictured above is Barbara Poole's 'Veils of Color', a public art project funded by the LCC.

2. DIY Community

The spirit of do-it-yourself is alive and well in the city. Organizations like DIY Lowell, a citizen-led initiative that connects and empowers Lowellians, are essential to creating positive change. Residents can submit ideas and implement small-scale community projects to enhance the quality of life in the city's neighborhoods.

For PARK(ing) Day Lowell, DIY Lowell and the National Historical Park transformed three metered parking spaces on Merrimack Street into a pop-up park for the day.

For PARK(ing) Day Lowell, DIY Lowell and the National Historical Park transformed three metered parking spaces on Merrimack Street into a pop-up park for the day.

3. Cultural Partnerships

The Cultural Organization of Lowell provides information, advocacy and services to individuals, organizations, institutions and agencies involved with the local creative economy. Commonly known by the acronym "COOL" this nonprofit plays a key role in the city helping to strengthen the vitality and economic growth of arts and culture in Lowell. 

4. Makers Culture

As the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution, Lowell continues to attract makers and innovators. Organizations like Lowell Makes are succeeding in efforts to bring together local artists, engineers, makers and thinkers to provide the tools and learning resources where individuals can gain and practice modern skills with a community of creative-minded people making all kinds of things.

5. Inspired Innovation

The first of its kind in Massachusetts, New Vestures is a fashion and textiles co-working makerspace. Founded in 2012 by artist, designer & educator, Diana Coluntino, New Vestures aims to support a community of fashion designers, entrepreneurs and innovators who believe that creative, sustainable apparel, textile design and manufacturing practices will improve lives and better the world. 


For more information on these organizations and more public arts attractions in Lowell, please visit likelowell.com.