Murfreesboro Cultural Arts Announces 2023 Laureates


The City of Murfreesboro Cultural Arts has announced the 2023 recipients of the Murfreesboro laureate honor. Poet laureate Mike James and Performing Arts laureate Kara Kemp were selected from a talented pool of artists to represent the City of Murfreesboro.

The Murfreesboro Cultural Arts Laureate Program is a notable honor for local artists, providing recipients with further opportunities to educate, advocate, and represent the community through their own creative initiatives. Laureates serve a one-year term from February 2023 until January 2024. In its sixth year, the Cultural Arts laureate program has expanded the range of artists eligible to apply.

About the Laureates

Poet Laureate

Mike James began writing as a 15-year-old out of South Carolina. Over the past 20 years James has shared his love of writing at community events such as writing workshops at senior centers and retirement homes. He has visited elementary and middle schools to share with students the joys of reading and writing. Mike has worked with visual artists in collaborative projects, expanding his work in other directions.

James’ works have appeared in numerous magazines, and he has performed his poetry at universities and other venues throughout the country. He has been nominated for multiple Pushcart Prizes as well as for the Paterson Poetry Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. His poetry collections include Leftover Distances (Luchador Press), Parades (Alien Buddha Press), Jumping Drawbridges in Technicolor (Blue Horse Press), Crows in the Jukebox (Bottom Dog Press), and Portable Light: Poems 1991-2021 (Redhawk Publications). His newest collection, Back Alley Saints at the Tikka Bar, will be published by Redhawk Publications in April.

Performing Arts Laureate

With an eclectic career in management and creative arts, Kara Kemp is a Murfreesboro native 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.

Kemp’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 support activities with her time, actions and donations.

Information about the laureate program and submitting for the 2024 laureate honor can be found at, or by contacting Susan Hicks, Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation, at (615) 893-7439, ext. 6129, or

Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation Department is dedicated to providing vibrant public spaces and inclusive programs delivered with visionary leadership and caring staff that engage the individual and strengthen the quality of life of our community.