Raney Rogers

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Kinston is steadily becoming an Arts and Cultural District for tourists and locals as well.  Don’t think so?  Have some doubts?  In my opinion not only is it happening, it will continue to happen and indeed become a “destination for the arts” kind of culture.  I have seen it before.  And it starts with close to the same blueprint that all small North Carolina towns get created for them by industrious and forward thinking groups of young folks usually hailing from NC State on a small town revitalization mission.  I watched it happen in the small mountain town of West Jefferson.  West Jefferson is now a tourist destination for the Arts, dining, shopping, river sports and so much more.  Kinston is no different and it is showing! 

In my work with the Mitchelltown Arts and Cultural District “smARTists” we all get to see firsthand what actually getting art up and around the town can do.  The Smart Kinston City Project Foundation awards two art grants a year to projects that enhance, educate and entertain the community.  Most recently Maximillian Mozingo received a grant to offer “Art Kits” at Middlegrounds Coffee and other businesses in Goldsboro as well. Kids could pick one up for free to glean hours of creativity and fun maybe they would not otherwise receive.  Jamil Burton has painted a number of murals and one most recently on Blount Street depicting the agricultural history of Kinston.   Among our newest smARTists, Pat Rooney painted the audacious and colorful abstract on Heritage Street.  Alicia Shapiro ran a billboard on Heritage Street depicting her digital images and also for a brief corresponding period of time in New York under the same title.  This is just an example of how smART Kinston artists have contributed and created beauty and growth.   Then there are a myriad of projects done by other art organizations and artists in the area and outside which benefit us as well. 

Probably one of the most riveting impacts I have seen through art was when the smARTists gathered and painted the first crosswalk in the A&C District.  (We are not all painters but believe everybody should wield a  brush occasionally) Passersby loved craning their necks and looking as they politely turned around to help us keep it fresh until it dried.  We got thumbs up and smiles and even some shouts of approval.  Then a group of young kids walked by and slowed their gait to watch as we all dotted colors up and down the path and stopped.  One of the artists asked if they would like to do that sometime and the face of the elder youth lit up like a lamp.  He said, “Really?  We could do that too?”  Then of course excitement in the others followed suit.  Art changes lives.  Kids that do art are smarter and are more stable in addressing life’s situations.  There is proof.

The point being, art is being created and put out there for you to see whether you want to or not.  And, who would not want to?  I watch visitors to the area on a beautiful day walking around, stopping to look, read or take in everything we have here.  We have an amazing opportunity here to touch lives.   They are eating in our restaurant-we need more.  They are shopping in our businesses-we need more.  They are enjoying our hospitality and we are giving it to them…from the incredible Pearson Park Christmas lights to the history of Kinston.  Not only do they want that, they need it and we are providing it for them and it is making a difference.  So much so that we are being noticed.

A building has just been purchased on Queen Street set to burgeon into an Arts and Cultural Center…with performance stage, studios, workshops, gallery,  event rooms…who knows what will actually blossom.

It has been said that “If you build it they will come.”  Queen Street was redesigned and adorned, businesses have begun to appear, the people will come.  Be ready.

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