History

Civic Arts Council

The Asheville Area Arts Council is the second oldest arts council in the state of North Carolina. It was founded in 1952 as a working committee of the Junior League (as many of the arts councils across the US were at the time) and was called the Civic Arts Council.

Almost from the start, the Civic Arts Council had one major goal and that was to build a Civic Arts Center to house multiple arts organizations, including the Asheville Art Museum, Colburn Mineral Museum, Asheville Community Theatre, and Asheville Symphony Orchestra. Though initial attempts to build the Civic Center were unsuccessful, a $3M bond referendum was passed to build the center in 1971. “The new facility encompass[ed] the existing [Haywood] Auditorium and add[ed] an exhibition hall, a banquet hall, meeting rooms, and an arena for conventions, concerts, sports, and family show productions. It also include[d] exhibit and rehearsal areas for the Asheville Art Museum, Colburn Mineral Museum, and the Asheville Symphony Orchestra.” By the time the funding came through, the Asheville Community Theatre had already begun a capital campaign of their own and the theatre opened in its current location on Walnut Street in 1972. The new Asheville Civic Center opened its doors in 1974.

Community Arts Council of WNC

In 1979, the Civic Arts Council merged with the Western North Carolina Arts Coalition (a group of individual artists and arts organizations) to form the Community Arts Council of WNC. “The purpose of the merger [was] to create a single, unified organization that [could] serve as sort of [an] “umbrella” for arts efforts in the entire Western North Carolina area.” It was also at this time that the arts council officially incorporated as a 501(c)(3) organization.

During the next two decades, the arts council worked to help fund area arts programs through a United Arts Fund drive. This joint fundraising effort helped many organizations during a vital time in their development and supported the concentrated efforts to revitalize Asheville’s downtown area.

By the mid-1980s in was clear that the Asheville Civic Center did not offer enough space to house multiple arts organizations as originally envisioned, so in the late 1980s a new plan was proposed for Pack Place Education, Arts, & Science Center to house the Asheville Art Museum, the Colburn Memorial Mineral Museum, The Health Adventure, and a 500-seat theatre (later to be known as Diana Wortham Theatre). The Community Arts Council of WNC played a large role in fundraising for this project. It was also at this time that the Community Arts Council of WNC changed its name to the Asheville Arts Alliance with the goal of working as a primary fundraiser for arts organizations in Buncombe County.

Pack Place Education, Arts, & Science Center opened on Pack Square in 1992, and remained there until 2014 when it was disbanded to allow for the expansion of the Asheville Art Museum and Wortham Center for the Performing Arts. The Colburn Mineral Museum is now known as the Asheville Museum of Science and located on Patton Avenue near Pritchard Park.

Asheville Area Arts Council

In 2001, Asheville Arts Alliance changed its name to the Asheville Area Arts Council and has continued to support artists and arts organizations through grant funding and programs, while adapting along the way to serve the needs of the local community.

The Asheville area continues to experience rapid growth, directly impacting the creative sector. Since 2015, the revenue generated by our local nonprofits has gone up by more than 60%, and creative industry sales were over $1.4 billion in 2017. This expansion brings new opportunities and challenges, and the Asheville Area Arts Council must continue to evolve to ensure that our creative sector remains strong and vibrant.

For over 65 years, the arts council has been dedicated to supporting artists and arts organizations in our area, and we will continue to strive to keep the arts at the heart of our community.