ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Carolyn Cole is the new director of the Lynn Cultural District.
By BILL BROTHERTON
LYNN — Carolyn Cole, who grew up in the Pine Hill section of the city, remembers elementary school field trips to the “shoe museum to make paper shoes.”
It started a love for the arts that continues to evolve. Cole is the new director of the Lynn Cultural District, having been promoted from her position of program manager. She succeeds Kate Luchini, who is devoting more time to her burgeoning jewelry business and other artistic endeavors.
Making those paper shoes unleashed a creativity that has stayed with Cole. As a youngster, she took acting classes in the LynnArts building, participated in the theater program at English and Bishop Fenwick high schools and got a scholarship to New England Conservatory, where she studied and trained. After earning a musical theater degree, she acted in Rhode Island, moved to New York City, got an office job on Wall Street and landed a few singing and acting gigs. She moved to Washington, D.C., in 2011 after winning the role of Tracy Turnblad in the Signature Theatre’s production of “Hairspray.”
“After about three years, I started really missing Lynn. I missed the community. So I moved back to my parents’ basement,” she said, then laughed. That was a little less than two years ago, and she’s been active in the arts community since returning. She took odd jobs, taught musical theater to school kids and gave voice lessons at School of Rock in the LynnArts building. She volunteered with Arts After Hours, Girls Inc. and other nonprofits. She met Emily Ruddock, the director when Lynn was first designated as a Cultural District, and got involved. She, Luchini and Drew Russo, executive director of the Lynn Museum, teamed as formidable leaders of the city’s growing arts coalition.
She’s come full circle.
“I love to meet people and I’m always asking how I can help,” said Cole. “I learned so much from Kate, and Drew and his staff have been so supportive. I am so happy to be here, to be home where so much is happening.
“I’ve met so many people who say ‘Nothing is going on in downtown Lynn. Where do I park? Where do I eat?’ Well, so much is going on in downtown Lynn. I tell them about six places to park, seven places to eat, places to shop, places to see art and music and black-box theater. This Lynn Museum is a gem. People who come here for the first time can’t believe how wonderful it is. The same with the LynnArts gallery,” she added. “There’s a lot of incredible talent in this city.”
In her new role, Cole will continue to work with the museum and LynnArts, reaching out to the community in a collaborative effort to get the word out about Lynn’s arts and culture scene.
“I’ve lived in New York and D.C.; I’ve traveled to many of America’s biggest cities … I’ve never been to a place as special and unique as Lynn,” said Cole. “I joke that I was born at Stop & Shop, in aisle seven,” she added, referencing Lynn Hospital, the former occupant of that parcel.
Cole and her husband of eight years, Michael Fogarty, an NCAA basketball official, are expecting their first child, a girl, next month. It was Michael who suggested they move to Lynn, and Carolyn was only too happy to accommodate him. “We met in Rhode Island, he followed me to New York and I took him around with me all these years and places,” she said, smiling. They have bought a house in the Euclid Avenue/Wyoma Square area.
“People ask ‘How are you going to run a Cultural District and raise a baby at the same time?’ That’s just what a woman does, isn’t it?” said Cole.
Russo said Cole is bright, creative and talented and he is looking forward to working with her in her new position. The two grew up in Lynn and took acting classes together.
“Carolyn has a tremendous work ethic. Everyone enjoys working with her. She loves theater and the arts and has been a successful singer, actor and teacher. We are so lucky to have her here in Lynn,” Russo said.
The Massachusetts Cultural Council believes a thriving creative sector is a powerful economic development asset. In support of this, the MCC’s Cultural Districts Initiative was authorized by the state legislature in 2010 and implemented in 2011. Lynn was approved as one of the first five Cultural Districts.
These cultural districts help local arts, humanities and science organizations improve the quality and range of their public programs so that more local families can benefit from them. They enhance the experience for visitors and thus attract more tourist dollars and tax revenue. And they attract artists, cultural organizations, restaurateurs and entrepreneurs of all kinds, enhancing property values and making communities more attractive.
Lynn’s Cultural District designation expires in June, and a committee is now working toward renewing and expanding the program for another five years. A recent meeting at the Lynn Museum was led by Cole and attended by representatives from the arts community, the city of Lynn, the city of Peabody, Mass Development, The Lynn Area Chamber of Commerce, the Food Project, the Lynn Food and Fitness Alliance, the media and others.
Bill Brotherton can be reached at [email protected].