Advocacy Initiatives

Local Arts Initiatives

American Rescue Plan (ARP) Funding for the Arts

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, also called the COVID-19 Stimulus Package or American Rescue Plan (ARP), is a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Biden on March 11, 2021, to speed up the United States’ recovery from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic and the ongoing recession.

As part of this plan, Buncombe County ($50.6M) and the City of Asheville ($26.1M) are about to receive an unprecedented amount of federal stimulus funding. Now is the time to let our local officials know that investment in the arts is crucial for small business and job recovery and to foster community healing from the trauma we have experienced over the past year.

Increased Local Government Support for the Arts

In 2019, the local creative sector was responsible for 9,636 local jobs and generated $1.6B in industry sales. 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. The average for tier 3 counties is $.70 per capita. Additionally, neither the City nor County have any designated staff for arts and culture resulting in the arts being overlooked in policy and funding decisions. Learn More>>

City of Asheville Noise Ordinance

The City of Asheville is proposing changes to the city’s Noise Ordinance, with the final proposal expected to be presented to Asheville City Council for adoption in February 2021. See the proposal here. There is concern that these ordinances could have unintended consequences for performing artists and arts businesses, especially in the Central Business District, at a time when they are already struggling due to COVID.

Open letter to City Council

City of Asheville Public Art Masterplan

The City of Asheville’s Public Art Master Plan is 20 years old, and the Public Art & Cultural Commission (PACC) has stated that updating the masterplan is one of their top priorities. The Asheville Area Arts Council supports this initiative and would like to see equitable creative placemaking incorporated into the plan to enhance community engagement and overall positive benefits as a result of the city’s Public Art Program. Taking an equitable creative placemaking approach to public art means “the strategic integration of arts, culture, and community-engaged design into comprehensive community planning and development.”

Visit the City of Asheville’s Public Art Program page to view the current Public Art Masterplan.

NC Arts Initiatives

Restart the Arts Grants

After a year of temporary closure, the arts industry needs a boost to reignite this powerful economic driver. According to Americans for the Arts, 66% of arts businesses in North Carolina remain severely impacted by the pandemic and 65% of creative workers in the state have suffered unemployment (the national average is 52%). The Asheville Area Arts Council’s latest arts impact survey shows $23.1 million in lost revenue from March to December 2020 when compared with 2019 totals. Responses from arts businesses also show 504 fewer jobs now than in March 2020. Business closure remains a top concern for businesses and arts professionals with 40 businesses reporting they could only last another 6 months or less without further aid― 16 of those reported that they are likely to close in the next 3 months. Before COVID, 68% of arts professionals reported they were making enough from their creative sector jobs to cover their expenses. Now, 62% say they have had to take supplemental work outside of the arts sector or are working completely outside of the arts sector to make ends meet. The creative sector in Buncombe County includes 500+ arts organizations, close to 10,000 jobs, and $1.6 billion in annual industry sales. The creative economy matters! Learn more>>

Arts ARE Education

As a result of the pandemic, arts education in school districts across the state are facing budget shortfalls that may lead to arts spending cuts, a remedial focus on other subjects to combat learning loss and a need for personal protective equipment (PPE) that is specific to the arts classroom. The Arts ARE Education. Learn more>>

Buncombe County Occupancy Tax Adjustment

The arts sector supports the proposed change in the Buncombe County occupancy split from 25/75 to 33/66 as presented in 2020. This means $8.3 million each year available for parks, sports facilities, cultural arts, heritage, and history projects, and city and county infrastructure through the Tourism Product Development Fund, administered by the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority. This legislation also expands the flexibility of the Tourism Product Development Fund to go beyond the current limits of only “brick and mortar” capital projects, which would mean more funding for arts and cultural programs, especially the performing arts which has been hit hard by the pandemic.

History of the Buncombe County Occupancy Tax

WNC History Museum

In 2003, Congress established Western NC as one of 49 national heritage areas. The rich culture of this area deserves to be preserved and shared through the establishment of a WNC History Museum. Though there are 17 state museums in Eastern North Carolina, Western North Carolina only has one– the Mountain Gateway Museum in Old Fort. A feasibility study needs to be conducted through the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources to assess state-owned property in WNC to determine possible locations for a larger WNC History Museum. A request has been submitted for the Governor’s budget to include funding for this project. We also understand a co-sponsor bill could also be introduced in this session.

Expanding Creative Manufacturing in WNC

Land of Sky Regional Council has partnered with Asheville Area Arts Council and WNC Arts on the Cultivating Creativity Project. This is an exploratory process to discover expanding manufacturing in WNC to better support the creative sector. Creative manufacturing grew 23% from 2015-2019 in Buncombe County, and our region has a growing number of creative sector talent that could be poised for scalable growth to create authentic quality jobs. We are currently in the process of applying for a POWER grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission to better assess opportunities for growth. POWER grants provide federal resources to help communities and regions that have been affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries due to the changing economics of America’s energy production. Buncombe County happens to be uniquely qualified for this funding due to the retirement of the Duke Energy plant at Lake Julian. The POWER grant requires a match of $45,000.

Economic Incentive Tier Reform

The Buncombe County creative sector supports the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce’s efforts to disentangle state-run programs and grants from the Economic Incentive Tiers. In recent years, the tier system has been proposed as a way to limit arts funding increases for Tier 3 counties. This is not how the Economic Incentive Tier program was intended to be used when it was created in 1987. It was meant to be a tax break for distressed counties. However, the current indicators (unemployment rate, median household income, population, and property value per capita) has Buncombe,* Haywood, Henderson, Lincoln, and Iredell counties lumped into the same category as Wake, Mecklenburg, and Orange counties The Tier indicators should be adjusted to better reflect the stress/distress of a county long-term (average wage, adjusted sales/property tax base, and % population with some college) and should be limited to the purpose for which it was created.

*Due to the pandemic, Buncombe County changed to Tier 2 in the last adjustment, but probably only temporarily.

US Arts Initiatives

Reauthorization of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area

Designated by Congress in November 2003, the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area works to protect, preserve, interpret, and develop the unique natural, historical, and cultural resources of Western North Carolina for the benefit of present and future generations, and in so doing, to stimulate improved economic opportunity in the region. National Heritage Areas are locally-governed organizations that encourage residents, non-profit groups, government agencies, and private partners to work together to plan and implement programs that preserve and celebrate America’s nationally significant landscapes and cultures.

U.S. Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, and U.S. Congressman Patrick McHenry (NC-10) have introduced legislation to extend the authorization of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area through 2036. Learn More>>