Mayor Esther Manheimer

Esther Manheimer

Asheville Mayor

Q 1: What is your personal background and experience in the arts?

Instrumental, Dance, Literary | My personal arts experience is limited to much of what I experienced growing up, playing an instrument or taking a dance class.  However, I grew up in an artist family, my mother a fiber artist and contemporary quilter, my father a writer, my sister attended the NC School of the Arts and Cooper Union (photography).  The arts have always been a part of my life.

Q 2: What arts activities have you attended, participated in, or supported in the last year?

Music, Theatre, Visual Arts, Dance, Literary Arts | I have appreciated the opportunity to enjoy the arts again as we move out of COVID, whether it attending and supporting a dance performance, experiencing an in-person play, or strolling through a museum.  

Q 3: Would you support a plan to increase local government funding to the Asheville Area Arts Council to at least match the state arts funding awarded to Buncombe County ($61,447 or $.23 per capita) to support community arts programs for all Buncombe County residents? This would bring the combined state and local arts investment up to $.46 per capita.

Background: Americans for the Arts reports Buncombe County nonprofit arts organizations generate $3.5 M in local government support annually. 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.

Strongly Agree | It is important to identify sustaining funds to support the AAAC.  This could be a combination of sources such as the city and county, however, and as asked in a different question, harnessing a portion of the room tax or hotel tax for this purpose is appropriate. 

Q 4: Would you support additional relief aid for arts businesses to support recovery and revitalization of the creative sector?

Background: Buncombe County’s 74 creative industries were responsible for over 14,000 jobs and $1.6 B in industry sales in 2019. By 2020, over 1,300 jobs were lost in the Arts & Entertainment industry alone– the greatest % of job loss from any industry in Buncombe County as reported by the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce. Many arts businesses experienced up to 14 months of closure, and artists/arts organizations are still facing significant pandemic related expenses and revenue losses.

Strongly Agree | There are and were limited COVID relief funds available to assist businesses and individuals through the impacts of the pandemic.  During this time, the connection of the arts to the vitality of our community was laid bare.  I have advocated for additional emergency relief from both the state and federal governments to assist our community in the long post pandemic recovery and will continue to do so.

Q 5: Do you support using this funding to support the maintenance and creation of local arts projects?

Background: Legislation changing the county’s occupancy tax is likely to be introduced in the NC Senate this session. It would potentially reduce 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.

Strongly Agree | I have strongly advocated for a change in the state restrictions placed on the local hotel tax, which is collected by the Tourism Development Authority, an entity separate from the city and county.  The room tax is projected to bring in a staggering $40 million this year.  It is critical that this funding be used to support those sectors of our economy that allow tourism to thrive in Asheville and that includes the arts.  These funds should also be used to support the impacts of the tourism industry, which creates thousands of jobs in our city.  

Q 6: Would you support an initiative to create affordable artist housing and/or studio space within Buncombe County?

Background: Affordable Housing is the primary reason for Buncombe County’s rising cost of living index (now 106). This is having a large impact on the local creative community, forcing more artists to move their residence and business outside of the county. The 2018 Keep AVL Creative survey, taken by 1,265 individuals and 170 organizations, found that a majority of artists (86%) and arts organizations (78%) need affordable artist housing and/or studio space. 424 responded that they have considered leaving Asheville due to cost of living.

Strongly Agree | Yes, I have and would support an initiative to create affordable artist housing and/or studio space within Buncombe County.  This effort began before the pandemic and I support reviving this work.

Q 7: Would you support the creation of Asheville- Buncombe County’s first Cultural Plan to support the preservation of our cultural assets, and the equitable recovery and sustainable growth of the creative sector?

Background: According to a 2019 report by NeighborWorks America, 80% of individuals’ health is determined by the social and environmental conditions in which they live, work and play. We need a shared vision for Asheville- Buncombe County’s cultural future that improves the lives of all residents with arts education, neighborhood revitalization, art in public spaces, economic development, and more.

Strongly Agree | Yes, I would support the creation of Asheville- Buncombe County’s first Cultural Plan to support the preservation of our cultural assets, and the equitable recovery and sustainable growth of the creative sector.  Over the years, I have worked hard to establish a strong working relationship with community partners, including the county, and would look forward to this additional partnership opportunity.