Impact of the Creative Sector

The Arts Mean Business!

The creative sector is rooted in the cultural traditions of Buncombe County and Western North Carolina. Creative enterprises and entrepreneurs have always contributed to our area’s strong creative economy – they create jobs, generate local and state tax revenues, create products, encourage spending, and attract tourists.

The Asheville Area Arts Council is proud to be the lead organization tracking the impact of the arts in Buncombe County. We have partnered with local and national organizations in a variety of ways to measure the creative sector’s contribution to our community. Read more below about how the arts are an economic driver.

Impact of the Local Creative Economy

The Asheville Area Arts Council has partnered with the Asheville Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Development Coalition, Center for Craft, City of Asheville, River Arts District Artists, and UNC Asheville to purchase an online tool called the Creative Vitality Suite. The CV Suite aggregates creative labor market data from national sources into an interactive tool. It is the only arts data provider that includes both non-profit and for-profit data.

Creative Vitality Index

The Creative Vitality™ Index is a benchmarking tool that allows users to quickly compare the creative activity of a region to the U.S. average and other peer regions. The CVI measures the concentration of the nonprofit and for-profit arts sectors. The resulting CVI value shows how a region’s creative activity compares to another region.

Buncombe County

State of NC

United States

Creative Earnings

Industry earnings data is arrived at by aggregating the compensation paid for the labor of all workers in a given industry. These earnings have a big impact on our economy as workers purchase common local amenities such as mortgage, gas, and food and recirculate those dollars back into the local economy.

Up 5% from 2018 to 2019

Up 4% from 2018 to 2019

Number of Creative Jobs

Creative jobs are on the rise! This looks at the number of skilled jobs employed within the City of Asheville and Buncombe County.

Up 3% from 2018 to 2019

Up 3% from 2018 to 2019

Cultural Nonprofit Revenue

Nonprofit revenues are the amount of income generated from nonprofit arts organizations. The revenues data comes from the IRS i990 forms and demonstrates the size of the local nonprofit sector. It is clear that the nonprofit arts sector is growing fast in both the City of Asheville and Buncombe County.

up 12% from 2018 to 2019

up 12% from 2018 to 2019

Creative Industry Sales

up 7% from 2018 to 2019

up 7% from 2018 to 2019

See Buncombe County’s full Creative Vitality Suite Snapshot here.

Creative Vitality Suite through Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF) is supported by the Asheville Area Arts Council, Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Coalition, City of Asheville, Center for Craft, River Arts District Artists, and UNC Asheville.

Non-profit Cultural Arts Drive Tourism

Buncombe County is one of 341 study regions that participated in the Americans for the Arts’ Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 study, which is the most comprehensive study of its kind ever conducted. The study documents the economic impact of the nonprofit arts and culture sector in 228 cities and counties, 81 multi-city or multi-county regions, 20 states, and 121 individual arts districts—representing all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The findings show that locally and nationally the arts are a strong driver of tourism!


of Tourism in the US is by the Arts | The arts, cultural heritage, and history drive over two-thirds of all of the tourism in the United States.


of Non-resident Attendees report that the primary reason for their trip to Asheville/ Buncombe County was specifically to attend this arts/cultural event.


of Non-resident Attendees report if the event where they were surveyed had not occurred in Asheville/ Buncombe County, they would have traveled to a different community in order to attend a similar cultural experience.


of Resident Attendees report the same—they would have left home and traveled to a different community to attend a similar cultural experience.

The report also shows that Non-profit arts and culture organizations spend $26.4 million annually, leverage a remarkable $42.5 million in additional spending by arts and culture audiences – spending that pumps vital revenue into local restaurants, hotels, retail stores, and other businesses. Supporting arts and culture not only enhances our quality of life, but also invests in Buncombe County’s economic well-being!

Read more about Buncombe County’s arts non-profits impact here:

Read the full AFTA report on Buncombe County here.

Data reported in 2016 Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 research study by Americans for the Arts.

Additional Reports