A key aspect and challenge for the success of any cultural district is its ability to attract (and retain) visitors, cultural institutions, investors, artists and creatives, as well as its engagement with and ability to retain existing local residents, artists and creatives in their home district and city.

Although all arts and cultural districts and destinations depend on the specific concept, context, objectives, location and local culture and identity, several elements emerge such as those influencing and contributing to their attractiveness. A strong, distinctive and appealing identity and brand image serves as one of the key factors shared by successful and attractive cultural districts.

The aim of this research is to identify and analyze how different cultural districts and destinations around the world (both members and non-members of the Global Cultural Districts Network – GCDN) are building, managing and promoting their brands in order to position their district among their various targets and stakeholders. We also consider how this contributes to the success and attractiveness of the district in terms of attracting and retaining visitors, cultural institutions, investors, artists and creatives, as well as in the engagement and retention of existing local residents, artists and creatives in their home district and city.

CULTURAL DISTRICT_Alserkal Avenue _Quoz Arts Fest

By identifying and analyzing the various brand strategies, management and promotion practices among different cultural districts around the world, we aim to showcase both the common and less common practices employed in the field. This will hopefully be able to help the cultural districts participating in the research as well as other cultural districts and destinations to identify potential tools to be implemented in their own specific contexts.

Another research aim is to provide a conceptual framework on cultural district identity and branding that may help managers of cultural districts to understand the relevance of brand management and its related concepts. In doing so, this will also serve as a comprehensive guide for use in brand review exercises and in the districts’ day-to-day brand management and promotion.

This research will also provide information for further studies on “cultural district branding and brand performance” so that we can understand the relationships between brand strategy, management and promotional practices and their effectiveness in terms of brand performance and attractiveness. This may help cultural districts design future brand building, management and promotional strategies based on this analysis.

Quartier des Spectacles - rue-sainte-catherine

The current research has been based on an analysis of information provided by various representatives from cultural districts around the world, including their main brand building, management and promotional practices. Both GCDN members and a selection of other non-GCDN cultural districts and destinations are featured. An overview is provided with several relevant examples.

The information, analysis, conclusions and recommendations outlined in this research report have been based on answers given to questionnaires. Telephone/Skype interviews were also conducted by the Future Places research team with various relevant representatives of the districts, with such representatives also providing information, data, and reports for analysis. This gave us the opportunity to consider a variety of perspectives on best practices even within the same district. Note that some answers have been subject to interpretation by the Future Places research team based on the team’s expertise and experience with cultural district branding and identity.

Best practices were gathered and identified from conversations and knowledge and information exchanges with a range of participants representing 20 cultural districts around the globe. The 16 districts listed below provided enough information to contribute to the outcome of this research.

The 16 districts:

  • Grand Center Arts District, St. Louis
  • Bras Basah Bugis (BBB), Singapore
  • Festival of Arts and Ideas, New Haven
  • Quartier des Spectacles, Montreal
  • Melbourne Arts Precinct
  • West Kowloon Cultural District, Hong Kong
  • Helsinki Design District
  • Adelaide Festival Centre
  • L’Hospitalet Cultural District, Barcelona Metropolitan Area
  • Dallas Arts District
  • Alserkal Avenue, Dubai
  • Central Sydney Cultural District
  • Lincoln Rd, Miami Beach
  • Poblenou Urban District, Barcelona
  • Brooklyn, New York City
  • Times Square Alliance, New York City