News from the North Carolina Arts Council

August 23, 2012

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Five Communities Selected for SmART Initiative Pilot Programs

The communities of Burnsville, Durham, Greensboro, Wilson and Winston-Salem have been selected for pilot projects for the SmART Initiative, a program of the North Carolina Arts Council.

North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources Secretary Linda A. Carlisle made the announcement today in Greensboro, as well as releasing FY 2012–13 arts grants, totaling $6.5 million that will be distributed to arts organizations around the state.

For a complete list of grant awards by county, click here.

A total of $135,000 will fund the five SmART Initiative projects that use the arts for leveraging local creative talents and creative assets to stimulate community prosperity and growth. All the projects involve public and private partnerships.

“The SmART program will influence business development, inspire downtown revitalization and historic preservation, build community pride of place and stimulate the growth of more creative businesses,” Linda A. Carlisle, Secretary, N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, said. “Government and the private sector working together in communities, large and small, can invest in the state’s creative industry to ensure that North Carolina continues to be a place where businesses want to be, people want to live and visitors want to explore.”

The projects will be divided into two phases. Phase One grants include the City of Wilson ($30,000), Durham Arts Council (30,000) and the Toe River Arts Council ($15,000). Work will start on these projects this fall. Phase Two projects include the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County ($30,000) and United Arts Council of Greater Greensboro ($30,000). These grants will start in February/March 2013.

“Partnerships between nonprofit organizations, the private sector and local communities make a big difference in our state,” Wayne Martin, N.C. Arts Council Executive Director, said. “Arts organizations and other nonprofits are catalysts that reenergize downtowns, attract visitors and build community pride. Achieving the goals of the SmART Initiative is key to our state’s future growth and well-being.”

In addition to the SmART Initiative grants, Secretary Carlisle announced $6.5 million in grants for arts programs and projects across N.C. for the 2012–2013 fiscal year. Funds will be distributed to almost 300 organizations and will reach all 100 of N.C.’s counties. The Grassroots Arts Program, a per capita–based funding program, will send $2.3 million to communities for local decision making about which programs will receive support. In the State Arts Resources category, $2.3 million will be dispersed to organizations that are among the top employers of artists and arts administrators statewide for general operating support.

Arts Council grants catalyze support from corporations, foundations and local governments generating almost $17 in matching funds for every $1 invested. Arts Council–funded projects attract more than 9.2 million participants and over 2.5 million of these are children.

In announcing the grants, Secretary Carlisle underscored the impact of the grants to N.C.'s economy and creative industry, specifically in regard to the relationship between the arts and the workforce skills that will ensure our state’s future prosperity.

More than $537,000 in grants will be invested in Arts in Education programs and projects for students from pre-kindergarten through the 12th grade. Arts in Education grants will place professional artists in the classroom with more than 26 artist residencies and allow students in about 20 counties the chance to experience dance, music and theater through the cARTwheels touring program.

The Arts and Audiences category will award $395,000 for project grants to help organizations build broad participation in their arts programs.

Below are highlights of the SmART Initiative pilot grant programs:

Phase One

City of Wilson: The Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park project emerged from a grassroots effort to conserve artist Vollis Simpson’s monumental kinetic sculptures and relocate 29 whirligigs to downtown Wilson. As part of this major cultural tourism and arts-driven economic development initiative, stakeholders are designing the Whirligig Park and planning a downtown arts and cultural district anchored by the park attraction. They request resource team assistance with the development of an artisan/industrial district, an adjacent indoor museum dedicated to Simpson and to the intersections of art and science, park lighting design, earned income planning, and a cultural assets inventory for Wilson County.

Durham Arts Council: Durham boasts four informal cultural districts or hubs with significant clusters of arts assets anchored by major facilities: the city center (Durham Arts Council, Carolina Theatre and future Durham Museum of History); the downtown south edge (American Tobacco Campus and Durham Performing Arts Center); the downtown east side (Golden Belt); and the downtown west side (Duke University’s Nasher Museum of Art). Durham’s SmART proposal involves using wayfinding, public art in transportation and streetscapes, and green spaces to enliven and link areas between these hubs. The goal is to stimulate connectivity, walkability and storyline between four informal cultural hubs anchored by major cultural facilities in the downtown.

Toe River Arts Council, Burnsville: The Toe River Arts Council will create a historic and cultural district for the center of Burnsville; expand its public art program; more effectively market local arts; undertake an effort to combine natural and cultural programs into a single facility featuring a convergence of art, quilt, historic, hiking, river and scenic driving trails; develop a tourism plan; and merge existing assessment and economic development plans that have not yet been implemented.

Phase Two

Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County: The Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County will conduct a planning study for a designated theater district that complements the adjacent Arts and Center City/Core Districts of Winston-Salem. This plan would assess the potential for the theater district to contribute to the overall downtown development plan goals and would analyze elements including: the potential for more retail and entertainment venues; affordable housing and residential development; job space and corporate relocation opportunities; effect of development on the surrounding community; preservation of historic resources; tourism promotion; design of sidewalks/greenways/parks; creation of more deck parking rather than surface parking; public transit; and streetscape improvements.

United Arts Council of Greater Greensboro: The United Arts, in partnership with Elsewhere Artist Collaborative and other public/private partners, proposes to investigate downtown’s cultural geography as integrated hubs for significant arts-driven economic development. Leaders across all sectors will work to imagine an evolving map of creative catalysts, places, people and financial/business opportunities. The SmART Greensboro proposal aims to connect, reposition and leverage historic and neighborhood downtown assets to redefine the character of Greensboro and catalyze economic and social vitality.  

For additional information about the SmART Initiative visit the Resource Center at

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