Introducing Nine New Inclusive Public Art Projects ZSR awards $1.6 million in grants to organizations using public art to open the door to conversation in NC communities


Photo caption: in Durham, El Futuro’s mural and community garden space creates a peaceful and welcoming gathering place for the greater community to enjoy for years to come. The mural was created as part of ZSR's Inclusive Public Art Initiative. Photo courtesy of El Futuro


A mural that reflects the experiences of the Coharie Tribe in Clinton, NC.  

A recycled metal sculpture that centers adults with physical, mental and developmental disabilities in Hendersonville.  

A modular, durable reinterpretation of a gigantic quilt in Raleigh that uplifts and honors women who have been incarcerated. 

These are just a few of the projects that the second cohort of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation’s (ZSR’s) Inclusive Public Art Initiative will complete over the next two and a half years.  

In the initiative’s second cohort, ZSR awarded grants totaling $1.6 million to nine organizations across North Carolina, spanning the state from the Qualla Boundary to New Bern. 

The second cohort expands the Inclusive Public Art Initiative through a $2 million partnership between ZSR and the Mellon Foundation, the nation’s largest supporter of arts and humanities. The partnership supports grant awards; planning grant awards to semifinalists; and administration and communication activities, including a partnership with PBS North Carolina to document the projects.

ZSR launched the initiative in 2018 with grants totaling $450,000 to 10 organizations. Through the new cohort, the initiative will continue to support art that spotlights women and people of color in North Carolina whose stories have been untold or under-told. It also aims to catalyze community conversations that result in a shared and fuller understanding of our common history — and common bonds — as North Carolinians. 

Here are the newest Inclusive Public Art Initiative grantee organizations and project sites. Check out our microsite for descriptions of each project, including additional community partners involved.

  • Arise Collective (Raleigh) 
  • City of Washington (Washington)  
  • Coharie Intra-Tribal Council (Clinton) 
  • Highland Neighborhood Association (Gastonia) 
  • Hola Carolina (Franklin) 
  • Hope Center of Hendersonville (Hendersonville) 
  • Museum of the Cherokee Indian (Qualla Boundary) 
  • North Carolina African American Heritage Commission (Winnabow) 
  • Tryon Palace Foundation (New Bern) 

“All of these organizations are committed to telling their communities’ narratives authentically, and we are thrilled to partner with them in this work,” said Tiki Windley, ZSR Program Officer. “We also know that these projects are not just about the art, and we look forward to seeing communities come together, engage diverse voices, and build new connections through the process.” 

“Expanding this initiative in partnership with the Mellon Foundation is an incredible opportunity for North Carolinians, and we are grateful,” said Joy Vermillion Heinsohn, ZSR Executive Director. “During our initial cohort, we saw firsthand that inclusive public art is a powerful tool for community-building. We look forward to seeing how these new projects expand North Carolinians’ collective understanding of our history, who we are in the present moment, and who we want to be going forward.” 

Organizations were selected from 90 applicants who submitted Letters of Intent in March 2022. From the Letters of Intent, ZSR’s Public Art Advisory Committee assisted the Foundation in narrowing the pool and recommending 20 semi-finalists to ZSR’s Board of Trustees in May 2022. The semi-finalists were awarded $5,000 planning grants to engage their communities in the process of determining the art medium, design elements, and the installation location. ZSR’s Board of Trustees awarded grants to the nine organizations named above in May 2023.