2020 Arts Questionnaire

Asheville City Council & Buncombe County Commissioner Candidates 

The Asheville Area Arts Council asked Asheville City Council and Buncombe County Commissioner candidates to complete this arts questionnaire so that local residents can better understand each of their stances on these important policy topics impacting the arts. This is a follow-up from the candidate survey the arts council conducted earlier this year leading up to the primary election. 

Responses were received from the following candidates:

Sandra Kilgore, Asheville City Council
Rich Lee, Asheville City Council
Kim Roney, Asheville City Council
Sage Turner, Asheville City Council
Keith Young, Asheville City Council
Brownie Newman, BC Commission Chair
Robert Pressley, BC Commission Chair
Terri Wells, BC Commissioner District 1
Anthony Penland, BC Commissioner District 2
Joe Belcher, BC Commissioner District 3
Parker Sloan, BC Commissioner District 3

 

The arts council did not receive a response from Glenda Weinert, Buncombe County Commissioner candidate District 1 or Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Buncombe County Commissioner candidate District 2

Q 1: What is your personal background and experience in the arts?

Kilgore
Visual, Studied Art & Art History at UNC-Asheville

Lee
Instrumental, Vocal, Literary
I wouldn’t disrespect working artists by saying I ever participated in arts professionally. I played in a few college bands that recorded demos and played shows around NC. I ran a large online forum for aspiring writers in pre-Facebook times. I placed a few stories and poems in web zines and contests. In 2018 and 2019 I home-recorded an LP and EP I’m sort of proud of.

Roney
Instrumental, Vocal, Visual, Theatre, Experimental, improvisation, installation, etc.
As an artist & musician household with a home studio, I mostly use piano and keyboard instruments, and I have 21 years experience teaching piano. I play with a number of local artists and bands, and have had the privilege of playing multiple times with a group of Asheville musicians as the backing band for Rodriguez, whose story was portrayed in the Oscar-winning documentary Searching for Sugarman. With my husband Nathanael, who is a graphic designer and mural artist, we write and perform collaborative pieces of spoken word, often with a music element in the production. We have performed on a variety of formal and DIY stages, including the BMCM+AC’s {Re}HAPPENING.

Turner
Instrumental, Visual, Photography, Literary, 3D imaging and mapping

Young
I hold a bachelor of Fine Arts Degree (Cum laude) Virginia State University. I worked for Disney MGM Studios and I still paint oil /acrylic
I am a trained artist by profession. The arts have been a big part of who I am. The cultural benefits in my own life have shaped the man I am today. From music to visual arts I am a believer of the cultural power that is art that can shape a society for the betterment of all.

Newman
Literary
I was very active in arts education during high school. I attended the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts in High School in the writing program. I also attended Interlochen Arts Academy in my junior year of high school to participate in the writing program and was selected as a National Endowment for the Arts national award winner for writing.

Pressley
Visual, Dance, Theatre

Wells
Dance, Photography, Literary
When I was in elementary school, I began participating in our mountain clogging tradition at Shindig on the Green. To this day, I still enjoy seeing people coming together to enjoy the event. I volunteered at Diana Wortham Theatre as a host for a variety of artistic events. What I may lack in my own artistic talent, I make up for in appreciation of those who do have it.

Penland
Vocal

Belcher
Instrumental, Vocal, Photography
I am an avid supporter of the music industry and have a deep love for outdoor landscapes and the reproduction of its beauty.

Sloan
Instrumental, Vocal
Growing up I was heavily involved in the music and theatre program in school. I also studied classical guitar and attended college as a music major before switching to earn Bachelor’s degrees in GIS and Community Planning. I have been in several bands, and, in my early years living in Asheville I regularly played gigs around town.

Q 2: What arts activities have you attended, participated in, or supported in the last year?

Kilgore
Music, Theatre, Regularly attended Diana Wortham Theatre

Lee
Music, Theatre, Visual Arts, Dance
Music – Lumineers at the Civic Center just before the shutdown. Theatre – Hamilton in Chicago last fall. Visual Arts – I just bought a print of a painting from RAD Artist Tebbe Davis. Dance – My daughter’s Christmas recital for Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre

Roney
Music, Theatre, Visual Arts, Dance, Literary Arts, Recording, sound & light production, event promotion, etc.
Pre-pandemic, I attended and supported events at least twice a week, ranging from open mic night to concerts by national touring artists, from poetry readings to gallery openings, from Fringe Fest to the Symphony. I have 21 years experience in community radio, including founding membership and volunteering 3 years as the full-time Station Manager of 103.3 AshevilleFM, where we amplify local voices, music, and culture.

Turner
Music, Theatre, Visual Arts, Dance, Literary Arts, Fiber arts, blacksmithing, and leather working
I’ve love all of these, from volunteering at Downtown After 5, to attending the Asheville Symphony on NYE, youth plays at the community theater, comedy shows and tours, poetry readings and book launches, percussion and dance performances, spinning and weaving, etc. I love the arts! We are fortunate to have so many creatives in our community.

Young
Due to covid I have not attended any events in person

Newman
Music

Pressley
Music, Theatre

Wells
Music, Theatre, Visual Arts, Dance, Literary Arts
I value and appreciate a wide range of artistic endeavors from the Asheville Symphony to our local Come to Leicester Studio Tour. I believe in the power of the arts to inspire, challenge, and heal.

Penland
None
I have attended music events in the past, but I have not attended any events in the past year.

Belcher
Music, Theatre
I have been a frequent visitor for many years of the Diana Wortham Theater and love the venue.

Sloan
Music, Theatre
My wife and I enjoy attending live music establishments, from small bars to larger venues. We have two small children now, but before we had children, we also enjoyed theater performances and art and crafts shows and festivals.

Q 3: Would you support a plan to increase local government funding to the Asheville Area Arts Council to at least $.50 per capita, so that arts organizations can present more accessible arts programs for all its residents?

Background: Americans for the Arts reports Buncombe County arts organizations generate $3.5 M in local government support annually. However, the NC Arts Council’s 2018-9 report shows Buncombe County ranks last among tier 3 counties for local government funding for local arts councils at just $.01 per capita. Average for tier 3 counties is $.67 per capita.

Results: 18.2% Strongly Agree, 18.2% Agree, and 63.6% Undecided


Kilgore
Strongly Agree

Lee
Strongly Agree
I’ve supported AAAC since Kitty was in charge. You do great work.

Roney
Agree
In general, I support additional arts funding as key to our community health and well-being through the healing power of art & music. I would like to hear more from the AAAC about how increased funding can lead to more equitable outcomes including programming with BIPOC and LGBTQ+ artists in our community. Many artists like myself are concerned that Asheville is marketed to tourists for our art and beer culture, but the attention and resources mostly benefit a few while the impact of gentrification is widely felt by those most vulnerable in our community. I would invite our AAAC to hold listening sessions, identify barriers to participation, and participate in an equity audit with the intention of ensuring the programs, funding, and decisions are equitable and inclusive at every point of the process. This should include an economic analysis that addresses how the increased cost of living is impacting our industry stakeholders. As leaders in the industry, you have a chance to make these kinds of cultural shifts and deepen local relationships that will be a cause for celebration for our community needs!

Turner
Undecided
I chose undecided because I have questions. I cannot speak to the County’s funding of the arts or whether they would support such. I personally support additional funding for the arts, yes, and would advocate for the County and or lodging tax to allocate more for the arts. I also support the AAAC. Are there other arts institutions and orgs that could benefit and should be considered in this? Where do they fit in this plan/ask and our goals for racial equity? I may be unaware of how AAAC passes funding to other organizations.

Young
Undecided
I strongly support the Arts, but due to Covid-19 certain fiscal responsibilities may take precedent.

Newman
Undecided

Pressley
Agree

Wells
Undecided
I believe the arts should be accessible to everyone; all people deserve the opportunity to participate in and enjoy art and culture. I support assessing and increasing local government funding to the Asheville Area Arts Council at a sustainable funding level; I’m not able to commit to a specific amount at this time.

Penland
Undecided
I will be very supportive of our local artists and outreach to the community. I am anxious to discuss this further with the arts community.

Belcher
Undecided
I did not want to take the easy route and strongly agree. I would gladly look at this approach if it is the best for this council and the county. It may require more than just per capita approach. As a member of the TDA board there may be more opportunity to focus $$ from a variety of sources. I think that approach is very sustainable and measurable.

Sloan
Undecided
I’m very much open to additionally supporting the Asheville Area Arts Council. It would be important to understand what the budget parameters, goals, and objectives of the increase in funding would be.

Q 4: Would you support business interruption grants for arts organizations through local CARES Act funding and/or additional recovery funding sources?

Background: Before the pandemic, there were over 500 arts organizations and 10,000 creative jobs in Buncombe County. Now, the 100+ organizations that completed the recent Buncombe County Arts Business Impact Survey are reporting $18.7 M in losses since March. Additionally, results reveal 70% job losses, and 40% of organizations are facing closure within 6 months or less without aid.

Results: 54.5% Strongly Agree, 36.4% Agree, and 9.1% Undecided


Kilgore
Strongly Agree

Lee
Strongly Agree
YES! Asheville’s artists are our one irreplaceable asset. They’re also canaries in the coal mine for service workers’, young people’s, teachers’ and our black and brown neighbors’ economic fortunes in the city (and artists are frequently service workers, young people, teachers, retirees and people of color themselves.) The time for rapid triage, for intensive intervention to keep artists in place, is now. The window is already closing.

Roney
Strongly Agree
Yes. I worked at The Mothlight for just shy of 7 years when we got the news the Hency’s were closing permanently. I am concerned that we will see more doors closing, and know what a huge loss that is for our community to lose smaller stages and incubator spaces. As we know, local galleries & venues, art businesses, and organizations are maintaining a critical sense of place, in many ways community centers that provide social safety networks, which is so important to maintaining our cultural identity and resiliency. Additionally, there needs to be more outreach to get emergency funds directly to the artists who have lost their entire seasonal income that typically flows Spring through Fall.

Turner
Agree

Young
Agree
This is a reasonable ask and can be highly considered. Our community thrives from our rich culture of art and is a large part of our economy here.

Newman
Undecided
Hopefully, we will have a safe and effective vaccine in the coming months that will help end the pandemic. As Federal relief funding has been discontinued, millions of people across our country will not be able to meet their most basic life necessities and could face hunger and homelessness. My highest priority will be to help people meet these core needs. I have supported funding to support local businesses and organizations as part of our COVID response and am open to additional funding in those areas as well.

Pressley
Strongly Agree

Wells
Agree
Yes, our arts sector provides both economic and cultural benefits to our county. Artists are small business owners who provide direct economic impact and investment in our community. Our county also benefits from our rich and diverse culture which we can continue to promote and encourage throughout the county in order to engage and inspire our citizens. We have a history of being makers, and that is worth promoting and investing in for the future.

Penland
Agree
As long as the CARES Act Funding Guidelines are being followed.

Belcher
Strongly Agree
I was instrumental in going to the legislature and securing 5 million dollars in funding for the Buncombe County Job Recovery Act. This went to support many businesses in the Arts industry. Over 360 businesses and 4800 jobs were impacted by this funding that was administered by Mountain BizWorks.

Sloan
Strongly Agree

Q 5: Would you support additional funding for the enhancement of middle and high school arts programs in order to meet this new graduation requirement?

Background: This year the state legislature passed a new law requiring ONE arts credit (music, visual art, theatre arts, dance) between Grade 6 and 12 in order to graduate from high school, beginning with those students entering Grade 6 in 2022. While arts programs are offered to all students throughout elementary school, program offerings drop off significantly by the time students reach middle and high school and, in many cases, suffer from lack of funding.

Results: 72.7% Strongly Agree, and 27.3% Agree


Kilgore
Strongly Agree

Lee
Strongly Agree
As a parent of four Asheville City Schools kids, married to a high school teacher, this is a personal matter to my family. Yes, I would support this.

Roney
Strongly Agree
I have studied the role of these classes in exercising creativity, which strengthens skills for empathy, problem solving, and communications. Many of my music students continue their music education in band, chorus, and media classes in their school curriculum. This is part of structuring a balanced education that invigorates mind and body, so yes, I support funding and creative, community-led solutions to helping our students and educators meet the new requirement. This can tie in with participatory budgeting, a key tenant of my platform, to hire local artists to skill-share with students for hands-on experience with members of their community for mutual benefit.

Turner
Agree
This is fascinating and good news. I did not know about the new law. As a parent of a recent high school grad, I know schools and students will need equipment, support, transportation to events, uniforms, etc to meet this new requirement. That will require funding.

Young
Strongly Agree

Newman
Agree

Pressley
Strongly Agree

Wells
Agree
Yes, I am supportive of the enhancement of middle and high school arts programs and assessing the funding need. While I believe that the state should be held accountable for their unfunded mandates, I do prioritize education.

Penland
Strongly Agree
If our youth are not inspired to create and function at these age ranges, society will potentially miss out on some experiences that make life rich.

Belcher
Strongly Agree
Music has impacted my family being passed down from generation to generation. I believe the arts (in many forms) play a part in making the child “whole.” The wonderful thing about the skill taught in this area is that they are rarely lost later in life.

Sloan
Strongly Agree
Growing up, I benefited greatly from music classes and from school plays. Music and art class can and should be accessible to students at every grade level.

Q 6: Do you support the occupancy tax changes as presented, including funding for local arts projects?

Background: Earlier this year, the Asheville Buncombe Hotel Association proposed changes to the county’s occupancy tax, reducing the funding dedicated to marketing from 75% to 67%, increasing funding available for community projects to 33%. Expanded funding flexibility included non-capital projects, option for bonding funding, administration and maintenance of TPDF approved projects, and funding for local arts projects.

Results: 18.2% Strongly Agree, 54.5% Agree, 9.1% Disagree, and 18.2% Undecided


Kilgore
Agree
However, I would like to see a more favorable split of 60/40 for the occupancy tax.

Lee
Agree
I supported them as a first step. I think local governments need — and can get more — and we will. But I was not among those who argued accepting this proposal would close off future changes. It doesn’t. We should take the new split and continue to press for more.

Roney
Disagree
This is not enough of the change we need, and we’re not likely to see another change for a long time, so we need to leverage this change for a lot more! Our culture is shifting to hotel-city USA, and we all know it, and we need to stand together if we’re going to protect Asheville. We need occupancy tax reform, equitable representation reflecting our community on the TDA, and more expanded uses for the funds. We may have greater success with legislative changes by tying it to the hotel moratorium. Hotel development as use-by-right is not going to advance our stated goals so long as the percentage and use of the hotel occupancy tax remains the same for the TDA. Before the City Council relinquishes their responsibility for oversight, they need to leverage for occupancy tax overhaul for existing hotels before regulating new hotels, and our hotel industry can join in that advocacy. What’s at stake: more low-wage jobs, natural resource extraction, and less land available for housing development and diversification of industry when what we need is planning for a resilient community. If the TDA refuses to advance the needs of the community by lobbying the General Assembly with us, then we need our City Council and County Commission to coordinate a plan to replace and abolish the TDA as we know it.

Turner
Undecided
I chose undecided because there are pieces I support and others I do not. I support the expansion of the funding flexibility and support for arts. I would like Asheville to follow in the steps of Wilmington and seek a 50/50 split. Wilmington utilizes the increased funds to address its waterways/beaches. We, too, have very troubled waters in need of funding support. Not to mention many other infrastructure and capital needs. It is important to note that the NCGA delayed voting on all non COVID items until 2021, meanwhile we are in a pandemic that continues to impact tourism, and the CVB also lost its executive director. Will their lodging tax position change as a result? There is a risk in the hotel moratorium being finalized before the tax is taken up again with the general assembly.

Young
Undecided
I support the call for arts funding, but I am not sure the current allocation levels are sufficient for this community in this and other areas.

Newman
Agree
I would support even more funds being allocated to public purposes, such as arts funding, than what is proposed here rather than paid media advertising outside our region.

Pressley
Agree

Wells
Agree
The proposed changes are a move in the right direction to increase support for local projects that improve the quality of life for our residents, as well as impacting our local tourism industry.

Penland
Agree
I can support any plan that uses other sources of revenue to assist in funding our community projects thus reducing the impact on our county residents. I support the tourism and travel industry but with increased success of tourism comes an increased stress on the county’s infrastructure. So that our citizens do not continue paying more and more of this financial stress, I look forward to seeing how these funds can balance the need.

Belcher
Strongly Agree
As a member of the BCTDA I support the 66/33 split as I believe it is sustainable.

Sloan
Strongly Agree
I’m glad to see the TDA take the steps that they did to reduce the advertising budget and expand the allocation for community projects. However our community has a lot of needs during this difficult time. And so for me, the only acceptable compromise we can make as a community would be a 50/50 split between marketing funding and local project funding with even greater flexibility of spending on local funding. 50% of this still growing pot of money is substantial and adequate for our Tourism industry to continue to strengthen itself.

Q 7: Would you support changes to this proposal to directly support local artists and arts organizations?

Background: In January 2020, the city presented conceptual designs for a $100 M renovation to the Harrah’s Cherokee Center Asheville, and more specifically to Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. While this is a large investment in arts and entertainment, it would offer very little support for the local arts community.

Results: 36.4% Strongly Agree, 45.5% Agree, and 18.2% Undecided


Kilgore
Strongly Agree
Yes, I would like to see more support for our local artist and art organizations, who have been hard hit by the pandemic. Asheville has always been known for having a creative community and we must do what we can to ensure it endures.

Lee
Strongly Agree
Yes. Among my proposals as a stakeholder in the TMIP process last year was permanently affordable housing and workspace for Asheville artists in the RAD. I think the TDA could do this under their current mandate, but I want to see the law changed for even more flexibility. I also support a downtown-RAD circulator shuttle, funding for public art by local artists, and funding art-educational programs like Leaf in Schools and Streets, among other options.

Roney
Agree
The plan is massively inflated and doesn’t meet our most urgent needs, so at minimum it needs changes to directly support local artists and art orgs in addition to being a home for the Asheville Symphony. First, we need to ensure a just transition through the emergencies of the COVID-19 pandemic, racism, economic instability, and climate change. At this moment, I’m seeing projections of late 2021-early 2022 for touring acts in indoor spaces of this capacity, and we don’t yet know if they will open at capacity again. We do need to continue to partner for upgrades and maintenance, and I understand backstage upgrades are sorely needed for the acts we would like to attract if/when the industry returns, so this could be a good time to do that work. I am among those who would like to see a comparison of costs between renovations and complete replacement, and how we might put local people to work with the project.

Turner
Agree

Young
Agree
This is a reasonable ask, and would be highly considered. I would need to know more about the specific ask, but on the surface I’d support that call to action on the city’s part.

Newman
Strongly Agree
I strongly oppose the proposal to spend $100 million on such a project. It seems out of touch with the needs and priorities of our community.

Pressley
Strongly Agree

Wells
Undecided
I am supportive of our local arts community, and I am interested in learning more about their concerns and the proposed changes. However, I cannot commit to support proposed changes without knowing the details and background of those proposed changes.

Penland
Agree
I believe that the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium is in need of repair and it has a historical value to our community. A restored Thomas Wolfe would allow for its operators to go out and recruit those shows that might not come to Buncombe County, due to the size and the amenities that the Thomas Wolfe has to offer. However, I cannot support a $100 million renovation of an 80 year old building that is not used on a daily basis.

Belcher
Agree
While I do support changes to the Thomas Wolfe as a performance venue; I was overwhelmed by the amount of the project. There are too many needs in the city and county to spend 100 million one renovation.

Sloan
Undecided
Thomas Wolfe auditorium seems ripe for improvements and renovations at this time, however I’m not familiar with the particular details or goals of the $100million proposal. I’m also interested and eager to find creative ways to support local arts organizations.