Kinston is enjoying a renaissance with visitors flocking to this eastern North Carolina capital to enjoy its small-town charm and big-city amenities. Famous for its barbeque, Kinston’s culinary options expanded when Chef Vivian Howard returned home to open the popular restaurant, Chef & the Farmer, featured in the PBS series A Chef’s Life. Local developer Stephen Hill launched Mother Earth Brewing Company and has renovated more than 60 houses into affordable artist studios and residences.

The Kinston Music Park pays tribute to the African American musical heritage of eastern North Carolina and is a popular site on the African American Music Trail. Known as the birthplace of Funk, Kinston’s musical legacy includes five founding members of James Brown’s band in the 1960s, all of whom take their place among the transformative artists in jazz, gospel, funk, R&B and popular music that hail from eastern N.C. 

Public artist Vicki Scuri was hired to create a SmART Vision plan as a tool for placemaking that includes artistic wayfinding elements such as murals, pavement surface treatments and creative signage that reflects Kinston’s history and cultural assets. The first SmART project was a large-scale photography exhibit that covered the vacant storefronts in downtown. The exhibit includes 45 photographs of musicians from Kinston and surrounding counties featured in the African American Music Trail.

Community and Economic Impact

  • New galleries, restaurants, bars, a boutique hotel, a distillery, and the Mother Earth Motor Lodge are contributing more than $40 million in private investment downtown
  • The City of Kinston invested $3.2 million in downtown streetscape improvement projects in 2018–2019.
  • The Kinston Music Park hosts annual concerts featuring African American musicians from across North Carolina.
  • The City of Kinston was awarded an NEA Our Town grant to create a downtown mural program that will fund up to ten original outdoor public murals by August 2020.

Kinston SmART Communities Programs