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.

Buncombe County’s Creative Vitality

The AAAC has partnered with the Asheville Chamber of Commerce’s Economic Development Coalition, Center for Craft, City of Asheville, River Arts District Artists, and UNCA to purchase an online tool called the Creative Vitality Suite. The CVSuite 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.

What does the 2016 data tell us?


Total Number of Creative Jobs

There are 343 more creative jobs in the region since 2015.

  • Photographers: 1,036
  • Musicians & singers: 769
  • Writers & authors: 752
  • Graphic designers: 513
  • Fine artists: 328

Total Creative Industry Earnings

A gain of $33 million in the region since 2015.


Amount Earned by Individual Artists, Writers, and Performers


Buncombe County’s rank on the Creative Vitality Scale

1 is the national average.

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/EDC, City of Asheville, The Center for Craft, Creativity & Design, River Arts District Artists, and UNC Asheville.

Nonprofit Impact

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.

Arts and culture non-profits:


Are a $68.9 million industry in Buncombe County


Support 2,233 full time equivalent jobs


Generate $3.4 million in local government revenue


Provide $51.3 million in household income to local residents


Are drivers of tourism!

64.4% of non-resident visitors’ primary reason for visiting was to attend a specific arts event.


Non-profit arts and culture organizations, which 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.