Lowell, the fourth largest city in the state of Massachusetts, with a population of 103,229 (2006), was originally founded as a planned textile manufacturing center along the Merrimack River. The industry attracted many immigrants and migrant workers who over the years have contributed to the city's eclectic arts and entertainment community. After a period of economic decline from the closing of the textile and other manufacturing industries, the city has begun to rebound and rebuild. Notable restorations have been the old mill district and part of the Lowell National Historical Park.
Other attractions of note are the Canal Walk, Lowell-Dracut-Tyngsboro State Forest, Lowell Memorial Auditorium, New England Golden Gloves center, Tsongas Arena and Vandenberg Esplanade, where residents and visitors can walk, bike, swim and picnic along the banks of the Merrimack River. Performing and visual arts are thriving in the city with the help of the Angkor Dance Troupe, the Brush with History Artist Gallery, Merrimack Repertory Theater, Play by Player's Theatre Company, The Revolving Museum, Standing Room Only Players, Western Avenue Studios, Whistler House Museum of Art, and the Center for Lowell History, which is located on the campus of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.
Annual events in the area celebrate the city's rich history and love of culture and music. Some of these events include Bay State Marathon, Lowell Folk Festival, Lowell Southeast Asian Festival and Winterfest. The city has also served as the setting of several literary works, such as those by Jack Kerouac in
Visions of Gerald and
Doctor Sax; Katherine Paterson in
Liddie spins a tale of a young woman fighting for workers rights at the fictional Lowell Mill; and in
Call the Darkness Light, Nancy Zaroulis in tells a story of a young woman left alone after her father's death and the struggles of life in the mid-19th century.