ZSR Announces Inclusive Public Art Grant Recipients Initiative that seeks to use public art to open the door to conversation in communities


The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation (ZSR) is excited to announce that Trustees have awarded Inclusive Public Art grants, totaling $450,000, to ten communities across North Carolina.

ZSR’s Inclusive Public Art initiative is one of three initiatives that the Foundation is supporting under its Exploratory, Visionary Ideas Strategy as part of All For NC: Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation’s Framework for Grantmaking and Learning. ZSR’s Exploratory, Visionary Ideas Strategy will evolve over time, supporting different initiatives from year to year.

ZSR believes that art can open the door to conversation. The Foundation’s investment in Inclusive Public Art is intended to help share stories of diversity, equality, inclusion and equity as they relate to the people and places of North Carolina, especially those whose stories are often untold. ZSR’s hope is that this effort will catalyze community conversations that can result in a shared, and fuller, understanding of our common history – and common bonds – as North Carolinians. This initiative aims to include historically marginalized people in the decision-making processes about art in public places and is intended to spark healthy dialogue among members of the community. The community engagement aspect of these grants is just as important as the art installations themselves.

“ZSR is looking forward to partnering with communities across the state as they showcase contributions and achievements of North Carolinians, especially women and people of color, whose story in a particular part of the state has not been or is not often told,” said Joy Vermillion Heinsohn, assistant director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and lead staff managing the initiative. “We are grateful to these grantees and their communities for bringing these stories to light and providing opportunities for all of us to learn more about our shared history as North Carolinians.”

ZSR has launched a microsite to share information about all ten Inclusive Public Art sites, which are located across the state. This microsite will grow over time and is intended to share the stories that will be depicted in the art, as well as to follow the progression of each community’s project and to reveal the final installations. This may include, for example, renderings, drawings, and photos from community meetings, as well as images of the final installations, be they murals, archways, or sculptures. The microsite also is intended to serve as an informal toolkit for other communities across the state that might be interested in engaging in similar community-led inclusive public art projects.

ZSR also is excited to announce its partnership with UNC-TV Public Media North Carolina, which will be working with the Foundation to capture and document the experiences and conversations of all ten grantee communities as they undergo the process of telling these important stories through public art.

Below is an alphabetized list of Inclusive Public Art sites with brief descriptions. Please visit our microsite for more extensive descriptions of each project.

Asociación De Mexicanos En Carolina Del Norte (AMEXCAN), Greenville, NC

This project will lift up the story of migrant farmworkers in Eastern North Carolina by creating a mobile sculpture – a school bus that includes art (inside and outside) and audio that will share stories from migrant workers themselves. The bus will have a permanent home in a public park, but also will travel to schools and other community events, as well as to farmworker camps.

City of Rocky Mount, Rocky Mount, NC

The City of Rocky Mount will work with the Black Light Project to create eight, permanent, large-scale photographic installations in multiple, prominent, public locations around the City. The installations will highlight the contributions of African American males. Through a community nomination process, the stories of “everyday heroes” will be uplifted, creating counter-narratives to the images of Black males that often are portrayed in mainstream media.

Eastern Carolina Christian College, Roanoke Rapids, NC

This project tells the story of Mrs. Sarah Keys Evans – a young, African American woman in the Women’s Army Corps, who refused to move to the back of the bus in Roanoke Rapids on August 2, 1952, was arrested, and whose legal battle was seminal in the fight for equal rights. The proposed artwork will tell this important story through eight mural panels and two bronze plaques mounted on two semi-circular brick walls. It will be located in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Park, an active community space in Roanoke Rapids.

El Futuro, Inc., Durham, NC

This project will depict the contributions, story and struggle of the Latinx community through a mural in Durham’s emerging Reuse Arts District in the Lakewood neighborhood. The neighborhood houses the organization, El Futuro. The mural will be adjacent to a community garden and will be integrated into the practice of the organization, which focuses on mental health and trauma within the Latinx community.

Haliwa-Saponi Indian Tribe, Hollister, NC

This project will tell the story of the Haliwa-Saponi Indian Tribe and facilitate conversations surrounding the Tribe’s identity within the context of colonialism, segregation, and political climates of the past. Through the process of creating two distinct murals, the project team will continue to engage the community in discussions about identity, while also highlighting the contributions and achievements of native residents despite historical challenges.

Louise Wells Cameron Art Museum, Wilmington, NC

This project honors five of the regiments of the United States Colored Troops (USCT), who were victorious in the Battle of Forks Road during the Civil War, through the creation of a figurative cast bronze sculpture with impactful audio elements. This commemorative sculpture will be used to tell the under told narrative of the USCT at the battle’s historic site in Wilmington.

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, Salisbury, NC

The goal of this project is to increase levels of community engagement and social cohesion through individual storytelling that highlights how racial, cultural, and ethnic diversity of communities makes them stronger and more resilient. This will be done by constructing audio-enabled benches, strategically located within public spaces throughout Rowan County, that tell community members’ stories of the past and present in their own voices.

The Church Mouse Ministries, Inc., Robbinsville, NC

This project will celebrate the achievements and recognition of the women of the Snowbird Cherokee community through a collaborative mural located in the town center of Robbinsville. The community-engaged process will continue to build relationships and trust across lines of difference while celebrating this under told and important story.

United Arts Council of Catawba County, Hickory, NC

This project will tell the story of “The Untouchables” football team’s legacy of victory in the 1960’s during the era of segregation at an African American high school in Hickory. The community will celebrate this incredible achievement through a sculptural archway and mural placed strategically at the entrance of the team’s former field.

University of NC School of the Arts, Winston-Salem, NC

This project seeks to honor the history of the African American communities displaced and segregated by the construction of Interstate 40 and redlining in the City of Winston-Salem. Through a community engagement process, project leaders will lift up narratives related to the former Kate Bitting Reynolds Memorial Hospital, a public medical facility that served African Americans in Winston-Salem. A large-scale photo-mosaic mural will be placed in a central location in East Winston.

ZSR received more than 80 Letters of Intent from interested applicants in October 2018. ZSR’s Public Art Advisory Committee (PAAC) – comprised of a demographically and geographically diverse group of North Carolinians who possess expertise in art, public art, history, public history and/or community engagement – assisted the Foundation in narrowing the pool and recommending 20 semi-finalists to ZSR’s Board of Trustees in November 2018. The 20 semi-finalists were awarded $5,000 planning grants to engage their communities in the process of determining what the art installments would be and where they would go. The ten sites named above were then awarded grants in May 2019.

Visit ZSR's Inclusive Public Art Microsite