City receives arts grant


From Staff Reports

Monday, June 17, 2019

The City of Rocky Mount is one of 10 communities recently awarded $450,000 in Inclusive Public Art grants by the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.

The $45,000 grant will help fund the city's work with the Black Light Project to create eight large-scale photographic installations in various locations around the city. The installations will highlight the contributions of African American men.

Through a community nomination process, the stories of “everyday heroes” will be used to create counter-narratives to the images of black men that often are portrayed in mainstream media.

“This is a big win for our department, for the city as a whole — but more importantly for those individuals who will be highlighted by this project,” Rocky Mount Parks and Recreation Director Elton Daniels said. “Rocky Mount has a rich history and an even brighter future. A lot of this city’s success is due to everyday unsung heroes. Due to the generous contribution from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and other partner organizations, these heroes will be unsung no more."

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, according to a press release from the foundation.

The 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.

“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,” Joy Vermillion Heinsohn, assistant director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and lead staff managing the initiative, said in the press release.

The Greenville-based Black Light Project is a creative partnership of founder and director Tonya Lynch and photographers Bryce Chapman and Randy Curtis. The project is designed to challenge the media’s common and often negative narrative about black men by highlighting the positive narratives of real everyday black men who are the rule, not the exception.

The public art installation is an outgrowth of an in-process exhibit that is being curated in partnership with the Imperial Centre for the Arts and Sciences. All the locations for the installations are managed by the Parks and Recreation Department, with the exception of Rocky Mount Mills.

Nash County sites include the Imperial Centre, Rocky Mount Mills and the South Rocky Mount Community Center. Edgecombe County sites include R.M. Wilson Gymnasium, the Booker T. Washington Community Center and Stith-Talbot Park.