Salem, Mass., Cultural Sector Development

The Boston Globe today reports on the Peabody-Essex Museum (PEM) in Salem, Mass., planning to expand its exhibition and curatorial space, a major step forward for the already formidable museum. This is worth noting in Lowell because we must keep our eye on the regional competition in the creative economy. The arts and cultural tourism make up one of the strongest sectors in the state’s economy, and Lowell has banked on culture as a development strategy going back to the late 1960s. The strategy has served the city well, but it is important to keep moving forward with better and more innovative programs, more impressive facilities, and aggressive messaging about what Lowell has to offer. The Boston museum network has grown and improved in the past 20 years. Boston has added new music festivals. Salem, like Lowell, pushes a blend of arts and heritage. On the drawing board in Lowell is a renovation of the Smith Baker Center as a commuity cultural center. The cost will be a fraction of what PEM expects to spend on its new gallery and collections spaces. PEM is $570M along into a $650M fundraising campaign. The goal is $300M for expansion and improvement and $350M for the endowment. These figures are staggering. Lowell has to at least try to keep up with the pace being set by nearby cultural hubs. We have strong assets in the visual, performing, and literary arts, as well as in our historical resources, not to mention the distinctive waterways.

Here’s the Globe article for details on the PEM plans.