Starting at the grassroots

The art pop-up opens in the Selma NC Visitor Center Sept. 15 to Dec. 15, 2018, supported by a grassroots arts program subgrant awarded by the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources

I’m just now sitting down to knock out my August blog post. With good reason! I spent the last four weeks working on a grant, and we won it!

This is the fourth time I’ve competed for an arts grant to help weave a creative community in Selma, North Carolina. My first three attempts – for an artist fellowship, an artist residency and a regional art grant – all failed.

Each time I applied though, my projects became clearer in my head. That’s because the applications were literally business plans. When you have a business plan, you have a path forward.

Still determined, I attended a grant workshop at the Johnston County Arts Council in July. Executive director Darlene Williford was frank about the steps and tips we applicants needed to pay attention to, to compete for the grant. I absorbed as much as I could and went back to Selma, armed with her encouragement.

There, I worked with other local writers from the Johnston County Writers Group and volunteers from the Max G Creech Selma Historical Museum to plan out four street-level arts projects that we could accomplish even if we had to raise all the money ourselves (we do have to match the grant):

  1. the opening of a 3-month art pop-up in a vacant building,
  2. storytelling programs at the museum / senior center / public library,
  3. the building and art installation of a musical bench, and
  4. a one-day writers conference in the new civic center.
music bench
The Tinkering Studio offers a guide to making a musical bench at

All four projects would help #ActivateSelmaNC during the Town of Selma’s rebranding campaign. The projects would involve people working together as a community. The projects would also pull the museum and writers group into stronger, more vibrant organizations.

Historian Eric Jackson regales local residents, visitors and business owners about the former French Country Inn, a bygone restaurant that drew many to Selma, NC.

I wrote the grant and we submitted it. By August 10 I was notified that we were among nine other organizations who had won the grants, and we had won the full amount we requested. Now we’re on our way! The fundraising to match the grant has begun. The art pop-up opens Sept. 15 through Dec. 15 in the Selma Visitor Center. The first program in the storytelling series took place this past Friday evening at the museum and the Fourth Friday at the Selma Museum programs continue through next May. The bench is targeted to be built by veterans and students, and installed on Valentine’s Day 2019 during a “Heart for Selma” promotion. The writers conference is scheduled for April 6, 2019, and we are narrowing our list of presenters and book talk/book signing author now.

Museum board chair Kenneth Revels and volunteer Mary Fuller.

All four of these street-level projects will take place thanks to the grassroots arts program subgrant, which is supported by the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

This means so much to the writers, museum volunteers and residents of Selma. Thank you, NC Arts Council and Johnston County Arts Council!


This project was supported by the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.


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