Realize Bradenton Logo
Shop Donate
Realize Bradenton Logo

Courtney Smith: Bradenton’s Emerging Cities Champion

In the summer of 2020, Courtney Smith saw a call for proposals put out by 8 80 Cities and funded by the Knight Foundation, and she knew she had an idea cooking that would be perfect for her home town of Bradenton. “What I really wanted to do was something out of the ordinary, something that would surprise people.” She wanted “to create an experience that will contribute to entrepreneurial attraction and investment in downtown Bradenton.”

Courtney Smith envisioned a way to cast a spotlight on the talent and resources we have locally in order to raise awareness about the creative people who are ready and willing to do the work to take Bradenton to the next level. When her proposal was accepted and she was honored as an Emerging Cities Champion, Courtney sprang into action.


Courtney’s visionary proposal involved selecting local businesses to be featured in artwork on empty commercial storefronts downtown to ignite the imaginations of people who live, work and play in Bradenton, and spark ideas about how our downtown might be activated.  


For those of you who don’t know Courtney, who grew up in Bradenton and has lived here most of her life, she is a quiet and powerful force. Smith shared with Realize Bradenton that she is actually an introvert. She admitted, “when I found out I got the Emerging Cities Champion award, I thought to myself ‘Oh no! Why did you do this? Now you have to talk to people!”

And talk she did!  She rolled out an open call for business proposals, and soon learned that there is “an incredibly supportive network in Bradenton for shepherding new ideas. Each connection I made yielded a new connection and everyone wanted to help in some way.”

Courtney worked with Friendly City Forward, requested advice from the Manatee Chamber of Commerce and Realize Bradenton, and consulted with Bradenton’s Architectural Review Committee to get approval for her plan.  She is very grateful to the folks at the Keeton’s Center who have committed their commercial windows for their visible available space downtown. They have been excellent business partners for the project, and appreciate Smith’s energetic force and ideas. Jean Burke from the Keeton’s Center told Realize Bradenton that “Courtney’s project is a dream come true for us as we finish the Keeton’s Center and await our Certificate of Occupancy. The project helps us to highlight the existing structure and gives people an overview of how it would/ could look like when 100% occupied.”

It is important to Courtney that home grown artwork is spread across the windows at the Keeton Center, which sits in the center of town, across from the downtown post office. “We see corporate commercial renderings all the time, but it’s a completely different experience to be able to point to the building and say “hey that’s my neighbor’s dream.”

Courtney says she has learned so much through this project. In her words, she realized “if I can get out of my own head and do the assignment I am meant to do, it sets everybody else up to flex their skills and talents. “In that sense,” she says, “we all need each other.”  Courtney Smith is truly an Emerging Cities Champion and we are lucky to have her in our corner.


Courtney Smith asks that you please cast your vote for the entrepreneur you would most like to support! The winning entrepreneur will win funds to contribute to bringing their dreams to life.

The participating Bradenton entrepreneurs are:
Ashley Burns: Happy Juice
Ashley Ciferno and Oscar Almazon: Segunda Vida
Kristie Kindstrom: Your Honeycomb
Stephen Boyes and Holly Dunn: Every Body Yoga

Learn more about these visionaries and cast your vote for your favorite. Voting ends June 10, 2022. 

Skip to content