Board Chairman and smART Kinston Foundation Founder Stephen Hill is an entrepreneur and advocate for the arts, historic preservation, and downtown revitalization. He’s the visionary behind Mother Earth Brewing and Spirits, Mother Earth Motor Lodge, the O’Neil boutique inn, Discovery Insurance, and the Red Room, among other projects.
Stephen chose to build his brewery and other businesses in downtown locations because of his love for his hometown of Kinston and passion for historic architecture. As a longtime member of the North Carolina Arts Council, he was part of the creation of the NC SmART Initiative and saw a model that he believed Kinston could use.
Drawing from that experience, he advocated for the creation of the Arts & Cultural District, SmART Kinston’s home turf, and began buying homes in the area, renovating them, improving the appearance and safety of the neighborhood, and preparing to begin recruiting artists to Kinston.
Already he and other business owners, especially Vivian Howard and Ben Knight of Chef and the Farmer had laid the groundwork for the Arts & Cultural District by encouraging employees – many of whom are part-time artists – to move into the “rainbow” houses.
As the owner of one of the businesses responsible for putting Kinston on the culinary and craft beer maps, he believes the community has even more potential to grow – potential that the SmART Kinston City Project Foundation will help unlock.
Because of his efforts working to create the Arts & Cultural District and to grow downtown Kinston, Stephen was named the Kinston-Lenoir County Chamber of Commerce’s 2014 Citizen of the Year.
“Fifty years from now, when someone asks how Kinston was able to change the whole character and fabric of its downtown, the answer will be easy – it was because of Stephen Hill,” wrote local attorney John Marshall in his nomination letter.