The cultural district certification process, managed by the California Arts Council, will be the core of the California Cultural Districts program. It will start with a two-year pilot in which a small representative cohort will actively participate in shaping the final certification process and related benefits and services. This initial group will be selected through an open application process, and will play a critical role in ensuring, through their feedback and experience, that the full program, once launched, is accessible and supportive. And that it works for various types of cultural centers, in a wide variety of urban, suburban and rural settings.


District Benefits

It is expected that the pilot cohort of certified cultural districts receive an array of benefits that will include the following:

  • Official state certification – each district will enter into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the CAC certifying state designation as a cultural district for a period of five years and granting the district the right to use the state cultural district brand in its marketing
  • Branding materials – including the state cultural district logo, as well signage and banner templates
  • Technical assistance - including at a minimum an annual convening session, as well as peer to peer and other group learning opportunities given available resources
  • Joint marketing support – leveraging resources from state tourism partners
  • A stipend – $5,000 per district per year, for two years, to be used to support participation in the pilot process that will lead to the refinement of the design of the cultural districts program
  • Participation in developmental evaluation – the pilot cohort will receive support from the consulting team conducting the developmental evaluation of the cultural districts program, including at a minimum one site visit per year

Pilot Cohort Approach

An initial cohort of ten to fifteen districts will be selected through an open application process.  Applications will be solicited in early 2017 with the goal of identifying a small well rounded group of communities that are diverse in make-up, geography and purpose, and that represent the many possible manifestations of cultural districts present in California.

The pilot districts will represent a typology that includes the general categories listed in the table below.  It is important to note that in regard to the cultural focus, it is likely that many districts will include aspects of each, but will have a higher concentration of one of the three categories.  So, for example, a district might be rural, focused on cultural consumption and established, etc. Districts will be asked to identify according to this broad typology during the application process.





cultural production



cultural consumption



cultural heritage