The Arts & Cultural District is a 12-block residential area just west of downtown Kinston and the smART Kinston City Project Foundation’s home base. In the Arts & Cultural District, or the ACD, smARTists live and work, public art is on display, and new and long-term residents live side-by-side in colorful mill houses. SmART Kinston Founder Stephen Hill was instrumental in the revitalization of the neighborhood, which was beset by blight and vacancy.
There are over 50 homes in the ACD affiliated with smART Kinston, which are rented out to local and relocated artists, long-term neighborhood residents, and other Kinstonians working in and around downtown. The ACD is also home to several public art installations facilitated by smART, including Thomas Sayre's tobacco barn inspired earthworks Flue and Rose Clark's Living the Arts metal sculptures.
The Arts & Cultural District is bordered by the Neuse River and occupies the southern portion, below the railroad tracks, of Mitchelltown, a nationally recognized historic district. It’s a stone’s throw away from downtown restaurants, the Farmer’s Market, two craft distilleries, and a riverfront park and amphitheater.
Read more about the history of the ACD
It wasn’t always this way. Not long ago, 1 in 4 homes in the Arts & Cultural District were vacant. Yards were overgrown and infrastructure was neglected. The Queen Anne and Victorian style homes lining Mitchell Street, the gateway to Mitchelltown, were boarded up and showing signs of decay. Local residents were frustrated by the blight and disinvestment of a neighborhood that was once held in such high esteem.
In 2012, smART Kinston Founder Stephen Hill and several partners began to change the course of Mitchelltown. Residents got organized, holding community meetings to develop a vision and action plan for the area. Neighborhood advocates worked with City Council to re-invest in the area's infrastructure, improving sidewalks and streetlights and eventually installing amenities like bike lanes and a river walk. The City also approved an Arts and Cultural District zoning overlay, allowing for live-work spaces and signaling the local government’s commitment to the neighborhood’s vitality.
Founder Stephen Hill set about the hard work of rehabilitating and preserving the ACD’s 60+ abandoned houses, bringing new life and occupants to southern Mitchelltown. In 2014, the smART Kinston City Project Foundation was established to support the neighborhood’s revitalization through its creative placemaking initiatives and artist relocation program. The once abandoned historic homes of the ACD are now recognizable by their colorful hues, picket fences, and smARTist occupants.
Today, smART Kinston, its many partners, residents, and new investors continue to work together to improve the ACD, preserve Mitchelltown’s history, and enhance quality of life for residents.