Arts Coalition

OVERVIEW

The Creative Economy in Buncombe County spans over 8 supersectors and supports 14,000+ jobs. In order to better serve the many diverse arts professionals and businesses in our community, the Asheville Area Arts Council formed the Arts Coalition in 2021 to drive policy in key focus areas, including: Arts Education, Arts Equity, Manufacturing, Nonprofits, Performance Venues, Professional & Business Services (Design, Advertising, and Photography), Public Arts, Festivals, and Community Events, Recording, Publishing & Film, Sole Proprietors/ Independent Contractors, Trade/ Retail.

Each focus area is led by a committee chair, who holds bi-annual focus area meetings and serves on the leadership team–which is comprised of all the committee chairs and the arts council Executive Director. Anyone is welcome to join one of the Arts Coalition committees. Committee members help provide valuable insight and expertise as we consider issues impacting different segments of our creative community. Committees will vote to elect a new committee chair at the annually.

With input from the Arts Coalition committees, the leadership team crafts a list of annual policy goals for the creative sector (see below) and is actively involved in the planning of the Creative Sector Series. 

Arts Coalition

2022-2023 Meeting Schedule

Coming soon…

Arts Education
TBA

Arts Equity
TBA

Manufacturing
TBA

Nonprofits
TBA

Performance Venue
TBA

Professional & Business Services
TBA

Public Art, Community Events, & Festivals
TBA

Recording, Publishing, & Film
TBA

Sole Proprietors & Independent Contractors
TBA

Trade/ Retail
TBA

Committee Chairs

Laura Mitchell
Laura Mitchell
Arts Education Chair
Buncombe County Schools Arts Education Specialist
Stephanie Hickling Beckman
Stephanie Hickling Beckman
Arts Equity Chair
Managing Artistic Director, Different Strokes! Performing Arts Collective
AAAC - Gar Ragland
Gar Ragland
Manufacturing Chair
Owner & CEO, Citizen Vinyl and Producer & President, NewSong Music
Jessica Tomasin
Jessica Tomasin
Recording, Publishing, & Film Chair
Founder, Connect Beyond Festival and Studio Manager, Echo Mountain Recording
Rae Geoffrey
Rae Geoffrey
Nonprofit Chair
Managing Director, Wortham Center for the Performing Arts
AAAC - Liz Whalen Tallent
Liz Whalen Tallent
Performance Venue Chair
Managing Partner, The Orange Peel & Rabbit Rabbit
Reggie Tidwell
Reggie Tidwell
Professional & Business Services Chair
Owner, Curve Theory
Justin Rabuck
Justin Rabuck
Public Art, Community Events, & Festivals Chair
Owner & Co-Founder, Horse & Hero and The Big Crafty
Gwynne Rukenbrod Smith
Sole Proprietor & Independent Contractor Chair
Craft Your Commerce Program Director
Michael Manes
Michael Manes
Trade Chair
Gallery Director, Blue Spiral 1

2022-2023 Arts Policy Agenda

Arts Equity

There are many systemic changes that need to take place across the creative sector. Some major focus areas include diversifying arts leadership, supporting the creation and development of BIPOC owned businesses, and making racial equity programs more affordable for arts organizations. 

As the Creative Jobs Report highlights, creative leadership occupations were held by 82% White non-Hispanic, 9% Black non-Hispanic, and 3% Latinx workers. Leadership roles are held mostly by White non-Hispanic males, with an increasing number in the 25-34 and 65+ age ranges. Though the report reflects positive growth in female workers’ leadership roles from 2015-2019, growth has not been as high among Black non-Hispanic and Latinx workers. More work is needed to increase diversity among leadership and create support systems for the development and growth of BIPOC owned creative businesses.

Status Update: The Arts Equity committee is working on connecting local BIPOC arts professionals and businesses through networking opportunities. 

Arts Education

A national emergency has been declared for Child and Adolescent Mental Health, and our schools are not prepared to meet this need. Students in Buncombe County need greater access to the social-emotional and multicultural learnings provided by curriculum-based artist residencies. “Creating opportunities for social and emotional learning – which research links to success in school and career – has emerged as a top priority for districts.” Additionally, “Exposure to arts opportunities allows students and teachers to engage with one another in a way that… that provides rich opportunities for social-emotional learning.While affluent families are able to subsidize children’s exposure to the arts, students living in poverty face numerous systemic barriers which make such access nearly impossible. 

Status Update: The Asheville Area Arts Council and Asheville City Schools Foundation have applied for Buncombe County American Rescue Plan funding to expand curriculum-based teaching artists residencies for K-12 students in both Buncombe County and Asheville City Schools through the TAPAAS (Teaching Artists Presenting in Asheville Area Schools) program. 

Buncombe County Occupancy Tax Funding

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

Status Update: A proposed bill filed June 1, 2022, by Senators Chuck Edwards, Warren Daniel, and Julie Mayfield passed and became law on July 1, changing the occupancy tax split from three-quarters to be used for tourism promotion and one-quarter for community capital projects, to a split of two-thirds/one-third, increasing funding for community capital projects.

Creative Manufacturing

Land of Sky Regional Council has partnered with the 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.

Status Update: Land of Sky has contracted Bridgeway Capital to conducted a study of Creative Manufacturing in WNC to determine opportunities for infrastructure improvement. As part of this process, Asheville Area Arts Council is working with Riverbird Research to conduct a supplement Creative Manufacturing Assessment. The initial finding are slated for completion in October, with a final report in December. 

Creative Wages vs. Cost of Living

There is a growing gap between local living costs and creative wages in Buncombe County. On average, earnings for creative occupations in Buncombe County are 14% lower than the state average and 22% lower than the national average. Meanwhile, the cost of living index is now the highest in the state reaching 106 in 2020. See AAAC’s Creative Sector Earnings Report to learn more.

Status Update: Committees are currently exploring a number of possible initiatives to help address this issue including pricing standards, employee benefits, and tax incentives for affordable artist housing and studio space. 

Cultural Plan for Buncombe County

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 master plan 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 Master Plan.

Status Update: The Asheville Area Arts Council and Asheville Greenworks are currently co-leading the creation of a natural and cultural asset inventory for Buncombe County, which is slated to be completed in late spring 2023. This is an important first step to creating a more comprehensive cultural plan for Buncombe County.

Economic Impact of Outdoor Events & Festivals

Asheville is known for its many events and festivals, many of which taking place right in the heart of downtown in Pack Square. Unfortunately, new regulations and fees by the City of Asheville are making presenting these events more difficult. Previously, the City of Asheville offered strategic partnerships through the Community & Economic Development office to reduce these burdens for local nonprofits. The program was put on hold in 2020, and in late 2022 Council is slated review this policy with the intent of possibly removing this incentive program. 

Status Update: Asheville Area Arts Council will conduct a survey of Outdoor Events & Festival presenter to better measure the impact of these programs. Our findings will be presented to Asheville City Council in late fall with the hope of preserving the incentive program. 

Increased Local Government Support for the Arts

Americans for the Arts reports Buncombe County nonprofit arts organizations generate $3.5 M in local government support annually (AEP5 Report, 2015). However, the NC Arts Council's 2019-20 report shows Buncombe County ranks last among tier 3 counties for local government funding for local arts councils at just $.02 per capita. Average for tier 3 counties is $.73 per capita. Learn More>>

As the designated arts agency for Buncombe County, we are advocating that the Asheville Area Arts Council receive local government funding that at least matches the state arts funding awarded to Buncombe County ($86,540 or $.31 per capita). This would bring the combined state and local arts investment up to $.62 per capita.

Status Update: Our advocacy efforts are paying off! Buncombe County included $129,788 ($.50 per capita) in line item funding for Arts & Culture in the 2022-2023 budget. This funding will be awarded to the Asheville Area Arts Council to support our economic impact reporting and 88% will be regranted to other arts nonprofits.

Noise Ordinance

On July 27th, Asheville City Council passed a new Noise Ordinance which will go into effect on Sept 15th. It includes curfews, decibels levels, new enforcement staff, and the formation of a Noise Advisory Board. Learn More>>>

Status Update: You can learn more about the work of the new City of Asheville Noise Ordinance Board here.