SmART Communities Program

Smart Communities

The SmART Communities program demonstrates how the arts transform downtowns and fuel sustainable economic development.

The SmART Communities program invests in arts-driven economic development and creative placemaking projects that celebrate the unique character of North Carolina communities. SmART Communities establishes partnerships of arts, government, business, economic development, and nonprofit leaders that collaborate on transformative arts projects to support growth and public engagement.

Projects range from the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park in Wilson, N.C., one of our first SmART Communities projects, to a transportation gateway plan that will bring visitors off of the highway into the crafts rich mountain town of Burnsville, N.C., to the eastern N.C. community of Kinston that serves as the hub for the African American Music Trails of Eastern North Carolina and home to the Kinston Music Park

In each SmART community, creative placemaking projects have animated public spaces, revitalized downtowns, and amplified the success of local businesses.

Seven towns are in the SmART Communities program and are using art to revitalize their downtowns.


Once the world’s largest tobacco market, Wilson is now the home of Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park. With the N.C. Arts Council's support, the City of WIlson and local partners relocated thirty of acclaimed visionary artist’s monumental “whirligigs” from his rural farm home in Lucama, restored them to their original condition and built a park to display them in downtown Wilson. More than $50 million in private development has occurred in downtown WIlson since the project began. The park opened in November 2017 and is a national model for creative placemaking.