Inclusive Public Art Initiative

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.

Our inaugural Inclusive Public Art (IPA) Initiative launched in 2018 and included a cohort of 10 grant partners whose projects were completed in 2021. 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. Through the first cohort, we saw that inclusive public art can catalyze community conversations that result in a shared and fuller understanding of our common history — and common bonds — as North Carolinians. 

In June 2023, ZSR announced nine new IPA Initiative grant partners. ZSR Trustees awarded grants totaling $1.6 million to the organizations, whose projects span the state from the Qualla Boundary to New Bern. The second cohort is supported by a $2 million partnership between ZSR and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the largest supporter of arts and humanities in the U.S. The partnership, which includes $1 million from both the Mellon Foundation and ZSR, supports commemorative and artist commissions specifically focused on underrepresented narratives and communities.

Organizations were selected from 90 applicants who submitted Letters of Intent in February 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.

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

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