Leading the creative Gateway City

Walking around downtown with a city’s mayor, you get to know pretty quickly how things are going.  For Jim Ruberto, the four-term mayor of the Gateway City of Pittsfield, MA, things are looking up.  It’s been a pretty good summer for the city and you hear that from shop owners and constituents you meet along the way, and see it in the vibrant store fronts and public art displays along the city’s main street.

That wasn’t always the case in this small industrial city in Western Mass.  It has taken a long time to recover from the economic and social consequences of losing the city’s largest employer, G.E.  Over lunch a local restaurant, the Lantern—really good burgers, we talked about what’s made Pittsfield a better place to live, work, and play.  “Arts and culture has brought new businesses into downtown, like the Tony-Award winning Barrington Stage, Co. and the historic Colonial Theatre,” said Mayor Ruberto.  They have “helped rebrand the city as a creative hub for arts and innovation.”

But the Mayor wanted to talk about more than just economic development.  Reflecting on the value of creative placemaking in Pittsfield, he said that arts and culture has “broadened tolerance and created a more inclusive community; bringing people to a better understanding of their neighbor.” 

While we know how important arts and culture are to economic development, it is refreshing to hear the leader of a creative city like Pittsfield promote the social capital benefits of creative placemaking.  Ten years after 9/11, we could use more of this kind of leadership.  Hear about Pittsfield from Mayor Ruberto here and learn more about MassINC’s unique Gateway Cities project here.

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