Murfreesboro Cultural Arts 2023 Laureates

We are honored to welcome the 2023 Cultural Arts Laureates, Kara Kemp and Mike James!

Kara Kemp

Performing Arts Laureate Kara Kemp

Kara Kemp is a Murfreesboro native with an eclectic career in management and creative arts, who fosters collaboration and connection through storytelling, coaching and community involvement. She brings a whole-brain coaching approach of innovation and creativity to businesses and performers at various stages in their careers. A champion of people and their stories, she is creator and producer of the Bloom Stage, a multi-genre art series, and the national award-winning storytelling event, United We Style. She facilitates art-focused wellness retreats and an Adult Summer Camp in the summer. Her most recent accolades have been United Way of Rutherford and Cannon Counties Volunteer of the Year 2021, Athena International Leadership Award Nominee 2021 and Nashville Business Journal’s Women of Influence 2022.

Kara’s professional accomplishments and community outreach activities highlighting her love of the arts encompass thirty years of well-rounded experience. She believes that arts and innovation are at the center of strong cultures, and she supports activities with her time, actions and donations.

Mike James

Poet Laureate Mike James

Mike James began writing as a 15-year-old out of South Carolina, today he makes his home in Murfreesboro. Over the past 20 years, Mike has taken it upon himself to share his love of writing throughout the community a number of ways. He's conducted writing workshops at senior centers and retirement homes. He has also visited elementary schools and middle schools to talk with students about the joys of writing and the joys of reading. Additionally, he has worked with visual artists in collaborative projects as a way to grow his work in other directions. Mike has developed friendships with dozens of poets throughout the country.

He has published in hundreds of magazines and has performed his poetry at universities and other venues throughout the country. He has been nominated for multiple Pushcarts, as well as the Paterson Poetry Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. His many poetry collections include: Leftover Distances (Luchador), Parades (Alien Buddha), Jumping Drawbridges in Technicolor (Blue Horse), Crows in the Jukebox (Bottom Dog), and Portable Light: Poems 1991-2021 (Redhawk.) In February 2023 he was named poet laureate for Murfreesboro, Tennessee. His newest collection, Back Alley Saints at the Tikka Bar, is forthcoming from Redhawk in April.