SmART Initiative

Image of West Gateway from Burnsville Highway 19E Art Plan

The arts in North Carolina have long been a catalyst and cornerstone of downtown and neighborhood revitalization. Even during the recent recession, dozens of new art museums, theaters, and arts centers were built in communities large and small across the state, energizing city centers and small-town main streets. To capitalize on this surge of public and private investment in North Carolina’s downtowns a blue ribbon task force was appointed to create an arts-driven economic development plan for the state. From the task force’s report, the SmART Initiative was born.

What is a SmART community? One broad definition is that these are communities that use their distinctive arts and cultural assets to revitalize neighborhoods and downtowns, instill a strong sense of place and pride in residents, attract creative workers and cultural visitors, and create sustainable economic development.

SmART Cities and Towns
View a presentation of the four demonstration projects the N.C. Arts Council is funding in Burnsville, Durham, Kinston, and Wilson.

Project Links


Image of "Durham's Back Porch" from Durham's SmART Vision Plan

SmART Vision Plan

SmART Durham Website


Through the SmART Initiative, communities:

  • Work as a partnership that includes the arts, economic development sector, local government and private developers.
  • Create a local resource team that works with N.C. Arts Council staff and expert consultants.
  • Envision plans broad enough in scope and scale to transform the community in a significant way, reflect its unique characteristics and demonstrate strong potential for sustainable economic development.
  • Engage community and key stakeholders through public and individual meetings and focus groups.
  • Develop a fundraising plan that seeks contributions from private, federal and other state sources for implementation of projects.

Grants of $15,000 to $30,000 are provided to selected communities for three to five years to plan and implement SmART projects. We regret that new communities are not eligible to apply at this time. When funding becomes available, we will post a call for applications.

A renovated house in Kinston’s Arts and Cultural District available to artists through the SmART Kinston Artist Relocation Program


The SmART Initiative Task Force Report
The 25-page report features case studies of notable projects and recommendations for arts-driven economic development practices and policies.

Creative Placemaking
Written by Ann Markusen and Anne Gadwa Nicodemus, this 2010 white paper, commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts, has had a tremendous influence on the work of the N.C. Arts Council.

Exploring Our Town
Case studies of more than 70 National Endowment for the Arts Our Town creative placemaking grants.