Application Process


Applications for the pilot cohort were solicited through an open call beginning in early 2017 with the goal of selecting a small group of districts that represent the many possible manifestations of cultural districts present in California. 

Only partnerships were eligible to apply, ones that include, at a minimum, a cultural non-profit or artist collective, a local business or business association, and a branch of local government and/or a community development corporation.  In addition, to be eligible for certification, the cultural district must have at a minimum completed a preliminary cultural asset survey or inventory as part of the finalist application phase.

Ensuring that all interested parties have a good understanding of the full array of cultural assets present in the district will be critical to its long-term success.  A comprehensive approach to cultural assets helps to ensure authenticity and the preservation of homegrown assets, a key priority of the California Arts Council.

The application and review process had three steps, including an open call for initial letters of intent, site visits for semi-finalists, and an invited finalist application.  A multi-disciplinary and multi-sector selection panel, along with representatives from other state agencies that are partnering on the initiative, reviewed applications and recommended districts to proceed as semi-finalists. Those semi-finalists received site visits, and a final application was conducted for districts recommended for designation. Members of the California Arts Council voted to award designation during a public meeting on July 10, 2017.


1.    Letter of Intent (January 31, 2017 to
March 29, 2017)

The Letter of Intent (LOI) phase will be open to all communities interested in receiving state certification and in participating in the pilot cohort by helping the California Arts Council finalize the cultural districts initiative.  Applicants will be asked to provide detailed information for consideration, as outlined in the Application Overview & Instructions document. In addition, applicants will need to provide three letters of support from individual community members or artists located in the proposed district beyond the participating partners.

Click here to view archived video of  an informational webinar originally presented on February 15, 2017.

2. Semi-Finalist Selection and Site Visits (April/May 2017)

A diverse panel will review the letters of interest, grouped by type, and select a representative group of approximately 20 semi-finalists to receive site visits.  The primary purpose of the site visits will be to meet with the applicants and confirm the information provided in the LOI and provide additional insights for the final application review process. 

At the time of selection semi-finalists will be reminded that all finalists will be required to submit a basic cultural asset inventory, completed within the last three years, as a part of the final application.  The California Arts Council is providing a simple methodology for completing an initial cultural asset inventory that will help ensure that districts have a good understanding of the array of authentic cultural resources shaping the district, from places and organizations to people, history and events.

3.    Finalist SELECTION (June/JULY 2017)

A diverse group of finalists will be invited to submit additional application materials for final review. It is expected that the final districts will be announced in early July 2017.