Arts & Culture Department

Northampton Arts Council

The Arts and Culture Department works to fund, promote and present high-quality, community-based arts programming for the benefit of artists, residents and visitors to the City of Northampton. The department works with the arts council to perform tasks assigned to local cultural councils under MGL c. 10, § 58, or successor statutes. The department coordinates the Paradise City Cultural District under MGL c. 10 § 58A. The department serves as the city’s liaison to local, regional, and statewide arts and culture organizations. The department provides administrative, clerical and technical support to the arts council.

The Northampton Arts Council works to support and nurture the arts in the city of Northampton. The Council awards grants twice each year to artists and arts groups from both state and locally-raised funds, and seeks to improve public awareness of the arts. Its goals include maintaining and preserving the rich and diverse cultural heritage of Northampton, programming such annual and monthly events of interest to the community as Transperformance, First Night Northampton, Cinema Northampton, Silver Chord Bowl, KidsBestFest, Summer Concert Series, and advocating on behalf of the arts community.

Paradise City Cultural Arts District Logo

Paradise City Cultural District Map

Paradise City Cultural District Map


The Paradise City Cultural District is home to a community of unique cultural institutions that attract established national and international artists and support emerging local artists. The Paradise City Cultural District spans an architecturally impressive, walkable and bikeable area encompassing approximately 14 square blocks in Northampton, Massachusetts. 

Since 2014, the Paradise City Cultural District has been fostered by the Northampton Arts Council, an incorporated, city-appointed board that works to support and nurture the arts in the city of Northampton. 

Welcome to Paradise

As legend has it, renowned soprano Jenny Lind called Northampton “the most beautiful village in the world” and “the Paradise of America”. Her 1851 concert at the Old First Church in on Main Street drew a crowd of 1,800. A year later, she married her piano accompanist, and honeymooned in Northampton for three months before giving a farewell concert at the Town Hall. But Lind’s influence lived on after her departure. Eventually, the nickname “Paradise City” stuck. 

Then and now, arts and culture are integral to Northampton’s identity and vitality. Amidst impressive—and largely intact—19th-century architecture, the city’s bustling downtown is brimming with galleries, music stores, artisans shops, antique stores, concert halls, diverse restaurants, cultural organizations, and institutions, including the renowned Smith College Museum of Art and the Academy of Music—the first municipally-owned theatre in the nation. Combined with monthly open studio nights, a plethora of family-friendly festivals and events, and hundreds of concerts per year, downtown Northampton possesses the high volume and eclectic mix of cultural assets, as well as a very cool vibe, envied by any successful arts district. 

Today, along with being a charming place to live, work, and visit, the city has attracted a significant cluster of visual, literary, and performing artists and creative entrepreneurs while garnering many distinctive accolades, like:

“Top 25 Arts Destinations” by American Style Magazine, 2000-2009

“Great Cities for a Simple Life” by AARP Magazine, 2009

“Great Places in America” for Main Street from the American Planning Association, 2007 

Award for Excellence for the “Best Downtown Shopping District” by the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, 2006 

“Ten Great Places to Revel in Cinematic Grandeur,” as reported in USA Today, 2005; 

“Top 100 Places to Live” by CNN Money Magazine, 2005 

“A Dozen Distinctive Destinations” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, 2001

“Number One Best Small Arts Community in America,” by author John Villani, 2000.

At the heart of this remarkable city is the Paradise City Cultural District, possessing assets and amenities supportive of a thriving arts scene, including: a visible creative sector; easy highway access; bus transit; high-speed Amtrak rail service; an attractive streetscape and skyline; a diverse selection of restaurants, cafés, and coffee shops; and in-city overnight accommodations. 

Home to Smith College, Northampton is also among the Five College communities in the Pioneer Valley. College students bring diversity to the city and contribute to its eclectic nightlife. In addition, the Forbes Library, which is located within the cultural district is a valuable community resource that presents an active calendar of cultural programming for both children and adults, ranging from art exhibitions in its spacious community gallery, music/dance performances, writing/author workshops, poetry readings, knitting circles, and storytime. The Forbes Library is also the largest source of primary material on Northampton’s former resident and mayor Calvin Coolidge, and is the only public library in the United States to house a presidential collection.

For more information visit the Paradise District Website



Excerpt here: "Anything within a sidewalk, street, or on a public building, excepting property under the jurisdiction of the School Committee, that is considered public art by the Arts Council and is reasonably expected to last longer than 90 days, shall not be installed without a permit from the Arts Council. Public art may include, but is not limited to: murals, sculptures, and art installations."

Download Copy of Ordinance

If you or your organization are interested in creating public art or have questions surrounding your project please contact us by email or (413) 587-1269.

The procedure for determining whether your project should be issued a permit from the Arts Council would start by adding your project inquiry to the agenda of the Arts Council's next board meeting. Board meetings occur every second Tuesday of each month unless otherwise noted. The Arts Council will then vote on whether your project would fall under the umbrella of Public Art. If you project does fall under Public Art, a permitting procedure would commence with the director of the Arts Council.

Street Musician's Permit for Northampton: For permission to perform in downtown Northampton, please download the Street Musician Permit Application and bring it to the Department of Public Works to get it signed. Then take the signed permit to the Police Department to obtain another signature.

Street Performer's Permit for Northampton: For permission to perform in downtown Northampton, please download the Street Performance Permit Application and bring it to the Department of Public Works to get it signed. Then take the signed permit to the Police Department to obtain another signature.

MCC/LCC Fall Grant Program

The Local Cultural Council (LCC) Program is the largest grassroots cultural funding network in the nation supporting thousands of community-based projects in the arts, humanities, and sciences annually.

The program promotes the availability of rich cultural experiences for every Massachusetts citizen.

Administered by 2,400 municipally appointed volunteers, the LCC network consists of 329 councils serving all 351 Massachusetts cities and towns. Each year, local councils award more than $2 million in grants to more than 5,000 cultural programs statewide. These include school field trips, after-school programs, concerts, festivals, lectures, theater, dance, music, and film. LCC projects take place in schools, community centers, libraries, elder care facilities, town halls, parks, and wherever communities come together.

Some of our funding priorities are:

--Northampton-based artists.

--If you reside in another city, your project must be held in Northampton, Florence, or Leeds.

--Work demonstrating the highest artistic/cultural merit.

--Projects that include a public component that clearly benefit the residents of Northampton such as an exhibition, literary reading or performance held in Northampton.

--Non-profit cultural and educational institutions that offer programs and events which bring arts and culture to a Northampton audience.

--Projects that are feasible.

--Schools, not artists, should apply for projects that take place in schools.

Find more information about the Fall Grant Round

Northampton Arts Council Board Members 2019

Community and Visual Arts: Ellen Augarten has been a portrait photographer for over twenty-five years, specializing in fine black and white images of her favorite subject: people. She’s on the grant review committee and the exhibition committee.

Business Management: Kathy Murri (Treasurer) graduated from Hampshire College, followed by a M.Ed. from Westfield State and an MBA from the Isenberg School at UMass-Amherst. For the past 16 years she has been the Business Manager at the Montessori School of Northampton. Prior to that she ran a boutique booking agency for folk/acoustic/blues/world artists and published a monthly folk/acoustic music events newsletter called Folkfare. In her spare time she creates crochet art and accessories using fiber and up-cycled materials. 

Presenting: George Myers* (Chair) is the general manager of the Amherst Cinema. He has extensive knowledge of the Northampton Art Scene, night life and music scene. Booked national, international tours for musicians. Curates film series.

Printmaking and Exhibitions: Esther White is an artist and arts organizer based in Northampton, MA. Esther's art practice includes printmaking; textile dyeing and needlework; publishing photocopied artists' books and zines; and organizing community art events and spaces.

Communications & Publicity: Sarah Gibbons is the director of marketing & communications for the College of Humanities & Fine Arts at UMass Amherst, where she advises and oversees publicity for the Departments of Art, English, Music & Dance, Theater, and more. She is a seasoned writer, designer, and PR professional who has written about arts and culture for local press and promoted art and live music productions at local and national levels. 

Theatre: Alan Schneider has been a performer, stage director, producer, designer and technician for opera and theater for twenty-five years. His work as a professional opera and concert tenor has taken him all over the U.S., to the Caribbean and Israel. Backstage, he has worked as a scenic carpenter and fabricator, currently serving as the Assistant Technical Director at the Smith College Department of Theatre. Alan is a native of the Pioneer Valley, an alumnus of Umass/Amherst, and holds both a M.M. and postgraduate Opera Institute diploma from Boston University.

Freeman Stein is a retired educator and restauranteur. He has lived in Northampton/Florence for over thirty years. He has written grants and evaluated programs in education and the arts. He helped to develop an coordinate a visual and performing arts program for a public middle school, has worked with a wide range of artists and arts organizations to develop programs for students and teachers, and was a founding member of a public secondary school. 

Courtney Hummel (Clerk) has been a Producer for 10+ years, focusing largely on video production. She has a Master's Degree in Digital Cinema from DePaul University. She also runs her own production company, Back Bar Productions, with partner Kelsey O'Brien. 

Rachel Hart is the Outreach Manager at Amherst Cinema where she raises support for the non-profit theater through memberships, donations, grants and volunteers. Prior to this she was the Associate Director of the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, NY and a Film Programmer and Administrative Director at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco. She earned her MA in Film Studies from San Francisco State University, where she also taught a course on Cinematheque Management. Rachel received her BA in Philosophy and Film from Clark University. 

Eamonn Edge

Lori Steiner

Kevin Pomerleau


Board meetings take place in the City Hall Hearing Room at 210 Main Street from 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM on the second Tuesday of every month. Please email us for the up-to-date schedule.

2019 Board Meeting Schedule: 1/8, 2/12 (rescheduled 2/26), 3/12, 4/9, 5/14, 6/11(cancelled), 7/9, 8/13, 9/10, 10/8, 11/12, 12/10