Current Advocacy Initiatives

Increased Local Government Support

An increase in 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

Americans for the Arts reports Buncombe County arts organizations to 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. The average for tier 3 counties is $.70 per capita.

Business Interruption Grants

Business interruption grants for arts organizations through local CARES Act funding and/or additional recovery funding sources

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.

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 adoptionion 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. 


Racial Equity & Inclusion (REI) Grants

Funding for arts organizations to carry out Racial Equity & Inclusion (REI) initiatives

Buncombe County is home to over 500 arts businesses, and 150+ of those are nonprofits. Many are ready and willing to do racial equity work but simply cannot afford the expenses involved, especially given this year’s devastating financial impacts. The Asheville Area Arts Council would like to empower arts organizations that are serious about racial equity work to take these important next steps to identify, uproot, and transform organizational and systemic gaps inhibiting their work. It is our intention to establish a new Racial Equity & Inclusion (REI) grant for nonprofit arts organizations to fund equity audits, REI training, equity planning, and implementation. 

New Public Art Masterplan

A new Public Art Masterplan that focuses on Equitable Creative Placemaking

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


Arts Education Funding

Additional funding for the enhancement of middle and high school arts programs in order to meet this new graduation requirement

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.

Visit the Arts NC website to learn more about the new graduation requirement.

Occupancy Tax Changes

Occupancy tax changes that include additional funding for local arts projects

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.

Visit the BCTDA website to learn more about the proposed Occupany Tax changes.

Civic Center Renovations

Changes to the Civic Center to include more support for local artists and arts organizations

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.

Visit the Transform the Wolfe website to learn more about the current renovation proposal.

Hotel Development Benefits

An arts benefit in the new hotel development regulations

On September 24, 2019, the Asheville City Council approved a hotel moratorium, pausing hotel development in the city. The moratorium will allow the city time to undertake a professional planning analysis with the help of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) with the purpose of developing recommendations for enhanced land-use policies and improved tools and strategies to better plan for and regulate hotel development and to provide clearer direction to the development community. As part of these new regulations, a public benefits table that incentivizes hotel developers to include things like affordable housing units or use green building approaches has been proposed. Also included is a public art incentive that would require $300 per room to go to the city’s Public Art Program.

Visit the City of Asheville’s Hotel Development Study webpage to learn more about the proposed Community Benefits Table.