Inclusive Public Art

The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation (ZSR) believes that art can open the door to conversation. Our investment in inclusive public art is intended to 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 or under told. After an impactful inaugural IPA cohort of 10 grantees, we know that this effort can catalyze community conversations that result in a shared and fuller understanding of our common history — and common bonds — as North Carolinians.

During the Foundation’s yearlong listening and learning tour across North Carolina, it was evident that legacies of racism and segregation are pervasive in many communities we visited, but are not often discussed in public unless there is a major issue involving race. Combined with the national reckoning regarding public art, monuments and race, the Foundation wanted to explore how art could serve as a starting place for people to engage in important — even difficult and courageous — conversations about their communities’ past, present and future.

In January 2022, ZSR and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation – the largest supporter of arts and humanities in the U.S. – announced a $2 million partnership to expand and continue our Inclusive Public Art initiative across North Carolina. The partnership, which includes $1 million from both the Mellon Foundation and ZSR, will support commemorative and artist commissions specifically focused on underrepresented narratives and communities.

The Inclusive Public Art initiative aims to diversify the voices included in the decision-making processes about art in public places and is intended to spark healthy dialogue. The community engagement aspect of these grants is just as important as the art installations themselves, and ZSR is looking for communities that will authentically involve a cross-section of people, groups and organizations in telling, discussing and perhaps even producing the story(ies) depicted in the art.

ZSR recognizes that we are launching this initiative during a spike in the COVID-19 pandemic and believes that the health and safety of your community is of utmost importance. As such, we understand that community engagement may require different approaches. We saw the creative ways that the first IPA cohort navigated these challenges and the positive impacts that the projects have had. Please reach out if you have any questions or concerns.

We are seeking Letters of Intent (LOI) for public art projects that express/ demonstrate/ depict one or more of the following:

  • The contributions or achievements of a North Carolina person or group, especially women and people of color, whose story in a particular part of the state has not been or is not often told;
  • The ways in which the racial and ethnic diversity of our communities makes our communities better; and/or,
  • The ways in which cultural differences strengthen our communities.

Grant amounts for the second cohort will be flexible, with an anticipated range from $50,000 to $200,000+, allowing for projects that encompass grassroots visual storytelling to large-scale iconic public artworks. We encourage potential applicants to think boldly about the artistic possibilities for commemorating and memorializing stories that uplift diverse, fuller narratives of who we are as North Carolinians. Grant funds should be used for community engagement, documentation, art creation and installation.

Download a printable summary of ZSR's Inclusive Public Art initiative.

In May 2022, ZSR selected semifinalists to receive a $5,000 planning grant and an invitation to submit a full application in January 2023.

ZSR held a webinar for interested applicants and other attendees to learn more about the Foundation's Inclusive Public Art initiative and for ZSR to answer general questions as well as questions related to the Letter of Intent process. Click here to view the webinar. This webinar is also available with Spanish subtitles.

If you have questions about ZSR’s Inclusive Public Art initiative, please contact Project Coordinator Brenda Miller Holmes at