Mission Driven Cool

We are a 501(c)(3) jazz presenting non-profit organization located in Durham, NC. Our mission is to present, promote and preserve jazz-influenced music. We present high quality live music concerts in unique venues throughout the Triangle. Our two major programs are Art of Cool Festival and StArt of Cool.


Art of Cool Festival (AOCFEST) is a progressive jazz and alternative soul music festival located in downtown Durham. The goal of this program is to expand the audience for jazz-influenced music. The festival is typically held the last weekend of April. The goal of the festival is to expand the audience for jazz and soul music. The first festival was held April 25-26, 2014. The festival is scheduled to return in late April 2015.


StArt of Cool (SOC) is a jazz education program that launched June 23-28, 2014. SOC is a pilot program that provides education for students in the 3rd-7th grades interested in learning more about the performance and fundamentals of jazz. The goal of SOC is to not only be a annual jazz camp but develop into an after-school program in 2015.

The Art of Cool Project is a creative philanthropic project spearheaded by trumpeter and educator, Albert Strong IV, and Cicely Mitchell, DrPH of Al Strong Music Productions.

Click to download our 2012 Annual Report


On the third Friday of August 2011 Al Strong Quartet+1 performed at the first After Hours Concert at LabourLove Gallery to a standing room only crowd. This performance was to provide the local jazz musicians with a unique venue space to hold private concerts. It was also a chance to infuse visual arts with the live jazz concerts as Kelly Dew did live painting during the performance. Given the success of the first concert LabourLove Gallery continued to provide the musical and visual art experience through the remainder of the year.

On November 9, 2011 The Art of Cool Project (AOCP) was incorporated as a nonprofit entity. The founders of AOCP decided that the concert series could be the foundation for an area jazz and art presenting organization.  The AOCP resolved to present at least 1 monthly concert featuring a variety of local musicians ranging across idioms. Since its inaugural concert in August the AOCP quickly gained a reputation of standing room only concerts hosted at LabourLove Gallery at Golden Belt in downtown Durham, NC. The AOCP has been described as “a strong addition to Durham’s bubbling music and art community.” (Eric Tullis – The Vinyl District, Chapel Hill, NC)

In the summer of 2012 Art of Cool completed Startup Stampede 3.0 and became the first nonprofit to complete Startup Stampede. This is a big achievement that is sponsored by the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Durham Inc., We are the winners of the Pitch Challenge sponsored by Pruvop. We pitched for our Festival idea.

The AOCP has been described as “a ripe Triangle jazz advocacy organization…curating snazzy nightlife options for area listeners.” (Eric Tullis – IndyWeek.com). The AOCP has featured the area’s best local talent and regional talent.

After an amazing inaugural launch on April 25-26, 2014 Art of Cool Fest (AOCFEST) is making a splash onto both the local and regional music scene, as well as gaining national attention. Over the weekend, AOCFEST hosted over 3500 music lovers and approximately 40 bands on eight stages in downtown Durham, North Carolina.