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 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 a 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.