Murfreesboro’s New Laureate Program


Murfreesboro is booming. This year, it was in Forbes’ list of America’s Top 25 Fastest Growing Cities, and it’s honestly no surprise. Over the last 20 years, our population has doubled (1) (2) as folks take advantage of our town’s great housing market, strong community vibes, and our proximity to Nashville. Middle Tennessee State University also brings people in from all over the world. With our ever-expanding numbers, we have developed a lush arts community that is proving to be ahead of the curve with its brand-new Laureate Program.

Now, most folks hear the word “laureate” and find themselves initially grinning and nodding with approval, then later sneaking off to hurriedly google it to make sure they remember what it is (myself included). So I’ll save you the trouble. Cultural Arts Murfreesboro, who created our town’s laureate program, describes a laureate as:

“…a person who has been honored for achieving distinction in a particular field. A Laureate is officially appointed by a government or conferring institution, and is often expected to create art in their medium for special events and occasions.”

The program creates space for three laureates – Poet Laureate, Painter Laureate, and Photography Laureate – to contribute to the community and highlight their field. This summer, I had the pleasure of attending the induction of our new laureates who were selected based on their merit as a professional in their craft and their desire to enrich our community through the arts.


Ginny Togrye will serve as Murfreesboro’s Painter Laureate. Her bachelor’s degree in science and her minor in art give her an expanded approach to the visual arts, and she hopes to use her background in marketing and public relations to reach the community with a focus on underserved children.

Check out her work on her website here:


Our Photography Laureate is Jessica Nelson, who has a foundation in fine arts and journalism photography. A long-time volunteer with multiple organizations, she hopes to continue to work especially with Stepping Stones Safe Haven and the Women and Children’s Homeless Shelter during her time as laureate.


And finally, our very first Poet Laureate is none other than MTSU Write poetry mentor Kory Wells! Kory is the principal founder and curator of Poetry in the Boro, a monthly reading and open-mic series for poetry and spoken word proudly sponsored by MTSU Write. She is the author of the poetry collection HEAVEN WAS THE MOON and is published in numerous literary publications.

Find out more about her work at


Poetry in the Boro participants came out to support Kory and to commend the city for their choice to fund such an incredible program.

Each Laureate received a title, a trophy, and a $500 honorarium, along with a promise of administrative support for their projects this year. We can’t wait to see what each laureate comes up with, and how the writing community is impacted by Kory’s expanded influence and, of course, her poetry.

If you’d like, you can read more about our new laureates here.

And you can watch the full induction right here on Cultural Arts Murfreesboro’s Facebook Page here.

To learn more about MTSU Write visit our website at, and be sure to check out our social media! We’re on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

Written by Amy Roberts, MTSU Write Intern


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