Happy Hill Partnership

The Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts works in partnership with the Happy Hill Neighborhood Association to present Happy Hill Arts, a place-based arts and cultural initiative in a historically African American community adjacent to the University.

Additionally, in 2019, UNCSA, in partnership with the Kenan Institute and the Winston-Salem Department of Community Development, was recomended for a $50,000 Our Town grant from the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) to support an artist-led cultural restoration project in the Happy Hill neighborhood. 

Happy Hill Arts

Happy Hill Arts sponsors cultural arts activities and events that engage both its youth and adult populations, thereby enhancing and enriching the quality of life and educational opportunities for residents. The Happy Hill Summer Arts Program, launched in the summer of 2017, offers participating children diverse experiences, including dance, drumming and photography classes, as well as field trips to arts and cultural destinations in Winston-Salem. In April 2018, Happy Hill Arts added After-School Arts, providing an opportunity to build on the success of the summer program and provide more consistent interaction with the community.

Project Goals

  • Expose Happy Hill children (Grades 1-5) to a positive experience with art, culture, and learning
  • Enhance cognitive abilities and skills such as critical thinking and problem-solving, that will support greater academic success through the arts
  • Instill communal knowledge of and pride in the historical significance of Happy Hill
  • Instill knowledge of African American history, identity and achievements
  • Foster greater involvement by the parents of Happy Hill in enriching and improving their lives and the lives of their children, using such vehicles as communal meals and music to restore a sense of community
  • Support community-based creative leaders of color

In May 2018, the Winston-Salem Foundation presented Happy Hill Arts founders Amatuallah Saleem and Rebecca Bryant Williams with an ECHO Award, presented to local individuals and organizations that are building social capital.

The program is led by the Happy Hill Neighborhood Association with technical and administrative support from the Kenan Institute.

Our Town Grant

In 2019, UNCSA, in partnership with the Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts and the Winston-Salem Department of Community Development, was recommended for a $50,000 Our Town grant from the National Endowment of the Arts to support an artist-led cultural restoration project in the Happy Hill neighborhood. The grant was announced in May 2019 by the NEA.

The grant supports research and planning for the three-part Happy Hill Cultural Restoration Project. Led by a coalition of artists, residents and community leaders, the project will identify and build upon the historic neighborhood’s community assets, reenvision housing development, and create a master plan for reengaging the community through arts programming.

UNCSA, through the Kenan Institute, was inspired to apply for the grant after partnering with the Happy Hill Neighborhood Association on Happy Hill Arts.

The project includes three parts:

  • Cultural asset mapping: The first part of the cultural restoration project, cultural asset mapping, includes data collection, outreach and engagement through surveys, focus groups, research and oral histories to inventory key cultural and historical resources. The working group will identify the community’s most valued assets and will develop strategies to improve or expand them.
  • Community Innovation Lab: For the second part, the Kenan Institute with its resident partner, EmcArts, facilitated a Community Innovation Lab with Happy Hill residents, city officials, business and faith leaders, artists, academics and others to explore barriers to restarting housing development in Happy Hill, opportunities for development and what role artists can plan in reenvisioning housing in the community.
  • Cultural master plan: The final component of the project, a cultural master plan, is led by a nonprofit consultant team, who will meet with artists, residents, city officials, university representatives, funders and other stakeholders to kick-start visualizations for the cultural master plan. The public will be invited to participate in developing the plan for community reengagement though arts programming, telling the story of Happy Hill, and finding creative uses for properties.


For more information about the Happy Hill Partnership, contact Liza Vest at vestl@uncsa.edu or the Happy Hill Neighborhood Association at hhnaofws@gmail.com.