SRU alumnus curating community as supervisor of North Carolina park


Adam Bell in Cary Park

Adam Bell, a 2010 Slippery Rock University, gives a tour of the construction site earlier this summer at Downtown Cary Park, a $68-million venue in the heart of Cary, North Carolina. Bell is the park’s supervisor of programming.

Feb. 7, 2024

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. — Adam Bell became part of a community on a 660-acre rural campus at Slippery Rock University. Now, as a professional, Bell is responsible for building a community around a 7-acre urban park in the heart of one of the fastest-growing cities in the country.

Bell is the supervisor of programming for Downtown Cary Park in Cary, North Carolina. A 2010 SRU graduate with a degree in communication-public relations, Bell is not designing blueprints or even swinging a hammer to build the new $68-million public gathering space. He's responsible for what people will do there now that the park is finished. This includes organizing concerts, movies, arts and food festivals, yoga classes and wedding receptions.

"My job is amazing," said Bell, who describes himself as a "community curator" on LinkedIn. "I have the opportunity to impact people's lives daily. Downtown Cary Park is a free park that's open seven days a week, so to be able to invite our citizens to this park and offer them cultural-enriching programming is extremely important to me and I'm happy to be able to serve the community."

Although Downtown Cary Park was completed in November 2023, the project itself was 20 years in the making, long before Bell embarked on his career or even enrolled at SRU. But as Bell's career progressed, he developed the skills to become the right person in the right place to guide programming at what can be considered the model for how a contemporary city park should function.

"Downtown Cary Park is a park like no other," Bell said. "Yes, there is park in the name, but this is really a modern, world-class venue."

The park is intended to bring people together and offer a variety of things to do, regardless of age or physical ability. It has a botanical garden, waterfalls, walking bridges, an amphitheater, a grab-and-go food market, a pavilion and plaza, picnic areas, multiple dog parks, and a splash pad and playgrounds that include two play structures in the shape of cardinals.

"People are hungry for the arts and outdoor recreation," Bell said. "Being able to offer these types of programs and experiences to our residents really gives me energy."

Bell didn't always have this type of energy. A native of Butler, Bell enrolled at SRU as a biology major with the intention of going to medical school to become a cardiologist.

One day Bell was doodling during a class when a fellow student involved with the University Program Board noticed and tapped Bell on the shoulder and said, "Hey, you're creative; why don't you join our organization." UPB is a student-run organization that brings a variety of entertainment and educational programs to campus. Bell also joined a fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. His involvement at SRU directly led to him becoming an event planner.

"That set me on the path to where I am now, because I was really enjoying organizing events," Bell said. "(Being at SRU) really shaped and molded me. I was able to take advantage of the clubs and organizations, and because of that, I've been able to make a career out of it."

After graduating from SRU, Bell earned his master's degree in counseling psychology and college student personnel administration at James Madison University. While there, he worked as a graduate assistant, including a year coordinating camps and conferences at JMU. In 2012, Bell took a job at Elon University in North Carolina as the assistant director of student activities, where he advised the Student Union Board and booked programing and major events for students.

He was hired by the Town of Cary in 2015 as festivals and events supervisor. A year after the Downtown Cary Park broke ground in 2021, his role became exclusively focused on event management for the park.

"I took this job because I wanted to continue creating experiences for people," Bell said. "Our main goal is to provide a place of community and a place of belonging."

Downtown Cary Park opened Nov. 19 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a full slate of activities of what residents can expect in the coming years, including a fountain light show, live music and dance performances, food trucks and trivia contests. The park is open daily from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Bell said his favorite feature of the park is the skywalk, a 13-foot-high boardwalk that meanders through the park within the tree canopy.

"I love the skywalk is because it offers panoramic views of the park with a lot of shade," Bell said. "As an event planner, I need to make sure I'm taking the time to decompress and so that's where I go."

It also gives him a wider view of the space where he can plan more events and reflect on the community he is curating.

MEDIA CONTACT: Justin Zackal | 724.738.4854 |