Odd Neck: Re-Branding Culture
By: Erica Szuplat, July 23, 2012
An acquaintance who moved to the Cape from Western Mass pointed out that the Berkshires had christened themselves “America’s Premier Cultural Resort” in order to attract arts tourism and business.
That terminology certainly wouldn’t fit the character of the Cape, but I wondered whether this sort of branding could have an impact.
The Massachusetts Cultural Council seems to think so.
Since 2010, via an Economic Development bill, they have been naming small regions in the state as “cultural districts.” Eight blocks in Hyannis comprise the 6th and most recent designation. Though it does not offer direct financial support, it’s a status symbol that affords areas more ease in placing signs on highways and facilitates other funding opportunities.
Defining the Cape
There is real value in promotion and official recognition of an area can pave the way for growth. But if you are like me, the word “cultural” might make you a bit squeamish.
On one hand, the definition literally refers to artistic pursuits of all varieties. On the other, it connotes a loftiness that seems at odds with the down-to-earth, self-sufficient type of creativity characteristic of the Cape.
In fact, the Visitors Bureau in the Berkshires examined their old branding vocabulary and unveiled an update in 2007. The mountain in the logo was re-imaged with more artistic flair and the tag line simplified to Nature, Culture, Harmony.
In short, they wanted their brand to be something more people could identify with.
Take a tip from Paris
I recently traveled to Paris for the first time, arguably the world’s most famous artistic city. I noticed that “Rive Gauche” is still commonly seen on signs for all sorts of businesses.
Rive Gauche refers to the Left Bank of the river Seine where artists, philosophers, students, writers and musicians once made their home. Over time, their bohemian lifestyle became synonymous with Parisian culture.
Similarly, it didn’t take a government directive to come up with Impressionism. The description “impressionist” was once a slanderous term to describe a new artistic style. Coined as an insult by traditionalists, the Impressionists nonetheless co-opted the term and made it their own.
Today, one neighborhood on the Left Bank has done its own re-branding, thanks to local gallery owners who form the association Art Saint Germaine de Prés.
I happened upon one of their annual art nights, during which galleries were holding simultaneous art receptions. The street was closed to traffic and the atmosphere festive with a steady stream of art lovers. I noticed a modern logo on banners posted next to balloons on lampposts advertising the event.
On the Cape, geography has historically limited such a visible centralized art area.
But portions of the arts community are beginning to follow the lead of Cape towns, partnering up to share expenses and regionalize services.
The Cape Cod Potters offer pamphlets listing studios from P-town to Woods Hole along with a map on where to find them. And The Cape Cod Theater Coalition recently launched a collaborative website where listings can be found for productions at 17 theaters Cape-wide.
These organizations seem to be taking the reigns of marketing while maintaining their individual identity.
I wonder if there is a way to brand the entire Cape as an art region without an official stamp of approval. Is there a way to partner, promote and increase visibility in a way that is authentic and organic?
How would you re-brand the Cape arts scene?