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Norwalk’s new arts district awaits formal designation from the state

“I love Wall Street” artwork in the proposed arts district area (Photo credits: Malik Brizan-Reed)

Norwalk is on the verge of receiving state recognition for its burgeoning arts and cultural district. Marc Alan of the Arts and Cultural Commission spearheaded the initiative after attending a seminar on Connecticut’s new arts and cultural legislation

Municipal cultural districts must meet several conditions to be designated by the state: They must be in Connecticut, have defined boundaries, contain cultural facilities and assets, and be walkable. Norwalk’s arts district, which meets all conditions, promises to enrich the city’s cultural landscape while driving economic growth.

Sabrina Godeski, director of Business Development and Tourism, said the move to officially brand the district came after “we realized that we were essentially already functioning as an arts and cultural commission. By formalizing this district, we could better package our efforts and make the area more appealing to visitors.” 

The proposed district spans key downtown areas—Wall Street, West Avenue, and South Norwalk—which are walkable and where the historic district overlaps.

State officials have praised the initiative. During a walking tour of the area last month,  officials were impressed by how well Norwalk has integrated arts and culture into the community.  

“They were so impressed that they want to use our application as a model for other large municipalities,” Godeski said.

Alan emphasized the importance of local leadership’s support in bringing this district to life. “I had gained Mayor Rilling’s direct support in 2022, which is what led to the Arts Commission transitioning to the Arts and Cultural Commission, a necessary and legal requirement to the establishment of a District,” Alan said.

Looking back on the journey, Alan said he has supported the district for over ten years. “I could not be more pleased to see this finally becoming a reality … I’ve been promoting the idea of an Arts District in Norwalk, with a desire to see it officially recognized by the city, since I first moved to the Wall Street area in 2011. So when the State of Connecticut created the Cultural District designation, I saw the opportunity for Norwalk to finally establish our own Arts and Cultural District. I am thankful for having a mayor who understands and supports the hugely positive impact that Arts and Culture have on our quality of life.”

Ethan Issac, part owner of Factory Underground Tech, a music and audio-video school located in the proposed arts district radius, said, “I think it’s a good thing, and it’s much needed.” He added, “Wall Street has lots of unfinished buildings and empty storefronts. I think having an arts district in an area that thrives with creativity will glue together the community so that it can be a successful part of Norwalk.”

The district will also facilitate collaborations with local artists. “All of our commission members are involved in the arts or cultural realm in some way,” Godeski said. This includes muralists, musicians, and the owners of the Norwalk Conservatory of the Arts.

As Norwalk awaits an official designation letter from the Connecticut Office of Tourism,  the city is already planning its next steps, with solid support from the mayor’s office as well as the Common Council. “We’ve been doing the work already, but this designation adds a new layer for marketing and fundraising,” Godeski said. 

Comments

2 responses to “Norwalk’s new arts district awaits formal designation from the state”

  1. John Levin

    Wonderful. Great work, Marc Alan! It would be good to see a map of the designated district, or, alternatively, a link to the application.

  2. Becca Stoll

    All in favor of this! Hopefully it drives more foot/bike traffic and economic activity to the area, and can motivate us as a city to expand public transit and microtransit access to the area, especially from East Norwalk and the immediately surrounding areas.

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