culture

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”

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!

Lowell Opens its Doors and Lights Up A Bridge

Doors Open Lowell takes place this Friday and Saturday, May 4th and 5th. In its 17th year, this event allows the community to experience Lowell’s history in a whole new way. We typically are only able to admire the outside architecture of the different buildings that gives Lowell its historic character. Open doors provide an inside view to 31 buildings, as well as many “Doors Open XTRAS” open from 6-9 PM on Friday and from 10 AM- 1 PM and 1 PM- 4 PM on Saturday. There will be shuttle stops on May 5th connecting the different locations. Click here for the map.


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A new addition this year is the Swamp Locks Gatehouse located on Dutton Street. This gatehouse began operating in 1796 and was the second of three locking locations built on the Pawtucket canal. There have been many reconstructions of the gatehouse over the years and the current one is a restoration of the 1859 version. Swamp Locks will be open for tours on May 5th from 10 AM – 1 PM.


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From 6 PM- dusk on May 4th, you can climb aboard the New Orleans “streetcar named Desire,” a Doors Open XTRA The streetcar will depart from Dutton Street, behind the National Street Car Museum. Lowell’s first electric streetcar system began operating in 1889, and their final run was in 1935. The streetcar, New Orleans No. 966, currently in Lowell as part of the “On Track” exhibit, is one of the famed cars that transported people through the French Quarter and inspired Tennessee Williams’ play “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Built by Perley-Thomas of High Point, North Carolina in 1924, it ran throughout the city until 1964.


Photo courtesy of Barbara Poole

Photo courtesy of Barbara Poole

 Another XTRA this year is the Spalding House. Built in 1760 and located at 383 Pawtucket Street, the Spalding House is the third oldest surviving house in Lowell. The house was purchased in pounds and schillings because at this time we were still under the rule of England. The Spalding House was also known as the Moses Davis Inn and was a refuge for barge keepers bringing lumber down the Merrimack River before the canals were built. This historic site also features a lighting collection representing lighting sources throughout its history. The house will be open on May 5th from 1-4 PM


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The Franco American School will also be one of the buildings open for tours. Dating back to the 1870’s, the Franco American has been home to prominent Lowellians, an orphanage and a school. The building is currently being converted into residences, but the character and the history will be preserved. The estate has 14 Stations of the Cross and a Grotto reflecting its history as a Catholic orphanage and school. After 108 years, the Franco American has found yet another purpose to serve to the community of Lowell. Franco American will be open on May 5th from 1-4 PM.


Photo courtesy of GLCF

Photo courtesy of GLCF

Don't miss it! The Cox Bridge Lighting is happening on May 5th! Thanks to the generosity of donors at the Greater Lowell Community Foundation, the Cox Bridge has been outfitted with LED lighting that will highlight the architecture of the bridge and create a colorful display on this Lowell landmark, announcing holidays and special events. Come join us for fun, food, and entertainment before the switch is officially flipped. More info here

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!
 

Looking Back at the Origin of City of Lights

As the annual City of Lights Parade and Celebration approaches, I spent an afternoon at the UMass Lowell Center for Lowell History and looked through Father Armand "Spike" Morissette’s collection of documents from the early days of the City of Lights Parade. What began as a project and symbol of “Faith in Lowell” has now become an honored tradition for the city’s community and the beginning of holiday season festivities.  Below are some of the events’ traditions that began in the 1950s and have evolved into today’s celebration.


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Lighting the City

The City of Lights organizers wanted to demonstrate the vibrancy and joy of the holiday spirit and decided there was no better way to do so than to light up the city with lights.  Lighting of public buildings, monuments, stores and homes was encouraged.  The lights would not only fill the streets with local residents enjoying the brilliant display, but also bring people from neighboring communities to experience the beauty of a city glowing in light.   After a hiatus and a decline in the number of lighting displays, the City of Lights theme was resurrected in the late 1980s/early 1990s through a partnership between the city and private businesses.  Some 50,000 new lights and unique decorations were installed.  A holiday stroll grew into a holiday parade.  Nowadays, the tradition continues with an estimated 60,000 lights that bring the holidays to life and serve as the official start of the holiday season for many.  The City of Lights program from the 1952-1953 season began this honored tradition, one that is as popular as ever six decades later.


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Music and Poetry

With holiday singalongs, caroling, concerts, movies and more fun entertainment in the City of Lights Parade this year, it’s no secret that the community loves to be entertained.  The origin of the City of Lights shows that this tradition goes back to the 1950s when music and poetry defined the entertainment of the Parade at the time. Songs like “Lights On In Lowell Town” written about the City of Lights by Paul Bordeleau and Henry Fournier were the embodiment of bringing the holidays alive in the community. Poems were the other big form of entertainment, with a poem called “Christmas Lights” being printed on the back of the City of Lights 1952-53 program book.  Other poems were included in the actual event, with local poets being chosen to have their poem become the “Official City of Lights Poem” every year.


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Contests and Activities

Nowadays, the Parade includes a multitude of activities such as the Festival of Wreaths, Photos with Santa, Strolling Carolers through Downtown and more. In the 1950s, many of the activities revolved around garnering participation for the City of Lights project. Contests helped do this, especially when it came to decorating. Home decoration contests allowed the community to get involved in the celebration and to show how festive they were in decorating their home. These contests had first, second and third place plaques that were awarded. Today, downtown stores compete in a window decorating contest and eateries compete in the Hot Chocolate Competition.  It’s delightful to see how the activities have grown through the years and how the spirit of the early City of Lights program continues today and displays Lowell’s love for holiday festivities.

Canalway Cultural District Renewal

Following the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s approval for the renewal of the Canalway Cultural District designation, the city’s district will expand to include the west side of Dutton Street along the Suffolk Canal and the Hamilton Canal District from Thorndike Street to Central Street along the Merrimack, Lower Pawtucket and Hamilton Canals. The district creates a framework to spotlight artists, performing and fine arts organizations, historic preservation groups, creative businesses and events and festivals that are part of the community.


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Encompassing the heart of downtown Lowell and its canalway system, the district consists of preserved historical sites, cultural facilities, museums and galleries, performance venues, events and festivals that happen throughout the year. To facilitate moving through the district, way finder kiosks and brochures will be redesigned to include a map that highlights the district’s assets. The Cultural Affairs and Special Events office will also update the likelowell.com website with new district information.


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District goals are to sustain and support existing artists, cultural institutions and ventures as well as encourage new cultural development, economic activity and new job creation. As a result of the restoration of most of Lowell’s historic mills and buildings, the district’s promotional success can lead to the redevelopment of remaining structures. Continued success can aid in strengthening the identity of the city and celebrating its history, diverse communities, arts and culture.


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The canalway features 5.3 miles of functioning canals and were used to power the city’s mills during the Industrial Revolution. Today, the system creates electrical power as well as provides links for Lowell National Historic Park boat tours, showcases public art and can be used as a palette for special lighting of gatehouses and flowing waters. Along these canals, historic buildings and mills have been restored for commercial, residential, artistic and professional uses. Other businesses —coffee and pizza shops, restaurants, diners and retailers—are also located within the district.


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The district includes the Merrimack Repertory Theatre, Lowell Memorial Auditorium, New England Quilt Museum, Whistler House Museum of Art, Brush Art Gallery and Studios, the Lowell National Historical Park and more. District events include open studios, gallery shows and festivals such as the Lowell Folk Festival, Summer Music Series, Kerouac Festival, Winterfest and many others. Upcoming events and festivals hosted in the district are sure to continue to celebrate the creative and historic aspects that make the city a diverse hub for arts 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
 


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/

The Mill Yard: Lowell's New Outdoor Hotspot

Looking for the perfect way to celebrate the end of a long week?  Well, we have just the event that will get you outdoors and keep you entertained for hours!  Friday Nights is returning to The Mill Yard with delicious food, beautiful art, music and a beer garden for all to enjoy. 

1. Friday Nights and The Mill Yard Grand Opening

While Friday Nights, sponsored by Made in Lowell, has been an ongoing event, this week’s festivity is going to be something you will not want to miss!  With food trucks, local vendors and live entertainment, it’s the perfect setting for family and friends to enjoy this social event at a beautiful venue surrounded by mills and canal ways.  Friday Nights begins at 5 pm, with the grand opening of The Mill Yard starting at 6.

In addition to Made in Lowell’s monthly Friday Nights celebrations The Mill Yard venue will serve as a prime outdoor location aimed at enhancing community engagement, offer space for entertainment, showcase local musicians and expand the city’s collaboration with food trucks.

The Mill Yard will provide the perfect setting for families, friends and foot-truck aficionados and will be available to host a variety of artisan markets and private functions.  Come celebrate Lowell’s first ever community food truck park at the grand opening event tonight at 6 pm!

2. Art is in the Air

If you want a break from all the excitement at The Mill Yard, there is a lot to do in the surrounding area that will keep you entertained.  The Mill Yard’s location is within sight of some cool public art.   “Veils of Color,” created by artist Barbara Poole, fills the windows of a former mill wall with brightly dyed panels of fabric representing the dyes that used to be dumped in the canal when the Appleton Mills Dye House was operating.  Nearby a pop up art park has been created from concrete blocks and jersey barriers, part of the City’s effort’s to creatively transform construction and security materials.  When not being used for Folk Festival and other street closing security, they will be on display in the park, located across the Lower Pawtucket Canal in the Hamilton Canal District.

3. Mill NO. 5 and its many amenities just a footstep away

Photo: millno5.com

Photo: millno5.com

The fantastic thing about The Mill Yard is its centrally located right across the street from Lowell’s vibrant Mill No. 5.  The quaint shops and weekly farm market in this renovated mill building are open all week long.  Mill No. 5’s Luna Theater is always showcasing films and shows, with an upcoming comedy movie Band Aid this Friday night starting at 7:35pm.  By expanding the use of The Mill Yard and making it an urban oasis for current and future district residents and businesses, local shops will be busier than ever! 

4. The Breathtaking Western Avenue Studios

If you’re an art lover looking for something to do after grabbing a bite at Lowell’s new food truck park at The Mill Yard, the Western Avenue Studios located just around the corner is where art comes alive.  The space has over 300 artists and 250 studio spaces for local artists and provides exquisite art for the public to see.  The Western Avenue Studio is home to the largest artist’s community on the eastern seaboard of the U.S.  The studio has art classes and art exhibits year round.  The current Gallery show is The Cultural Artbeat which runs through July 30th. 

 

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.