Gold Coast Arts Center founder and executive director Regina Gil...

Gold Coast Arts Center founder and executive director Regina Gil with Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth at the center on Jan. 16, 2018. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Officials in the Town of North Hempstead are developing a cultural master plan, the first in town history and the only such plan under development on Long Island.

The town council last month approved spending $94,600 to hire a Massachusetts-based planning firm that will help craft a road map of how North Hempstead’s cultural attractions will improve over time. The goal is to make improvements and aggressively promote the town’s cultural attractions so that more residents and out-of-towners will patronize parks, museums, art galleries and festivals, thus improving North Hempstead’s overall economy.

CivicMoxie of Brookline, Massachusetts, will spend a year getting to know North Hempstead’s art scene, and the company will deliver a plan on how and where town officials should pump more public funding into arts and culture projects, Supervisor Judi Bosworth said.

“Having a cultural master plan gives you the ability to see what you can do to make this [North Hempstead] a real destination place so that you’ll have people from outside the community interested and amazing cultural opportunities for people who live here,” said Bosworth, adding that suggestions from CivicMoxie might find their way into the town’s long-term capital plan.

Bosworth noted that having a cultural master plan will help North Hempstead look favorable when applying for arts-related grants from New York or the federal government. North Hempstead received $49,500 in state funds in 2015 that town officials will match and use to fund CivicMoxie’s work.

Cultural master plans differ from capital plans or budgets, Bosworth said, because capital plans focus on buildings or resurfacing roads. The cultural plan is “about sharing culture and traditions with one another,” Bosworth said.

The first phase in creating a cultural master plan is taking inventory of every cultural site within town limits, which North Hempstead completed in December 2016. Town data show that North Hempstead has more than 230 cultural institutions, including the Art Guild of Port Washington and the Gold Coast Arts Center in Great Neck Plaza.

The center’s founder, Regina Gil, said the upcoming cultural master plan will raise her organization’s visibility.

“For us, the hardest and most expensive thing to do is get the word out,” said Gil, adding that she’s excited for the finished plan. “This is what we live for, to get a broad visionary approach on how to integrate the arts into everybody’s lives.”

North Hempstead’s plan is unique for the area. No town in Nassau or Suffolk has a similar plan, officials from each location said. However, other cities across the country, including New York City and Boise, Idaho, have adopted cultural master plans.

Johnette Isham, executive director of Realize Bradenton, helped create a cultural master plan for the Florida city a decade ago. She said city officials put together their plan with the emphasis on “how arts and culture could activate economic development.”

For example, part of Bradenton’s plan was to develop a major cultural festival. In 2012, the city launched the Bradenton Bluesfest, which draws a crowd of 3,000 from 35 states and 14 countries, Isham said. Overall, the cultural plan has improved Bradenton, Isham said.

“There has been more restaurants and shops,” she said. “Our river walk has been redeveloped and millennials are more engaged in civic participation.

The Town of North Hempstead identified the number of cultural resources that it plans to boost in its first cultural master plan. As of December 2016, the resources have been categorized into different areas.

78 | Historic sites

70 | Natural sites and parks

39 | Commercial arts businesses

24 | Arts and culture organizations

15 | Public libraries

5 | Festivals and events

3 | Arts and culture spaces

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