Creative Sector Summit
Since 2010, the Asheville Area Arts Council, has convened the Creative Sector Summit– the region’s only creative industry-specific annual conference. The 10th Annual Creative Sector Summit was held on November 3, 2021 at the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts.
Planned in partnership with the Arts Coalition, this one-day conference sought to address major issues impacting the local creative sector. The arts community is currently navigating many challenges, including: racial equity in the arts, the benefits and burdens of local tourism, ongoing pandemic impacts, and the growing gap between wages and cost of living.
The conference conclude with an evening State of the Arts Address which will include the presentation of the inaugural John Cram Arts Leadership Award (aka The Crammy).
Moderated by Stephanie Hickling Beckman, Different Strokes! Managing Artistic Director
- Sekou Coleman, Asheville Writers in the Schools & Community Executive Director
- Jenny Pickens, Freelance Mixed Media Artist
- Lise Kloppel, UNC Asheville Chair and Associate Professor of Drama
- Micah Mackenzie, Art Entrepreneur
In the wake of last year’s protests, many organizations are working to be more equitable and inclusive. But, are we approaching this in the right way? What does authentic change look like? Panelists attempted to address these questions and identify the current systems within the creative sector which are limiting racial equity.
Moderator: Jessica Tomasin, Connect Beyond Festival Founder and Echo Mountain Recording Studio Manager
- Lucious Wilson, Wedge Brewing General Manager
- Pat Kappes, Explore Asheville VP of Community Engagement
- Justin Rabuck, Horse & Hero and The Big Crafty Owner & Co-Founder
- Katie Cornell, Asheville Area Arts Council Executive Director
This fall, Thrive Asheville launched an Ideas to Action Leadership Forum, a cohort of more than 30 diverse community leaders who will study the impacts of tourism in-depth, then develop a plan for sustainable solutions. Since Asheville’s vibrant arts scene is a major tourism driver, this panel looked at sustainable tourism through the lens of the creative sector. What is the role the local creative sector could/ should play in sustainable tourism?
Moderator: Liz Whalen Tallent, The Orange Peel & Rabbit Rabbit Managing Partner
- Rae Geoffrey, Wortham Center for the Performing Arts Managing Director
- Jon Fillman, City of Asheville Community Events Manager
- Marsha Almodovar, United Way of Asheville School Partnerships Manager
- Honey Simone, Co-Creator of Different Wrld
Buncombe County’s 74 creative industries were responsible for over 14,000 jobs and $1.6 B in industry sales in 2019. But last year, over 1,300 jobs were lost in the Arts & Entertainment industry alone– the greatest % of job loss from any industry in BC. Many arts businesses endured over 14 months of closure due to state and local health restrictions, and now arts businesses are on the front lines– enforcing mask mandates, vaccine checks, and COVID testing. The panel took a closer look at the challenges the arts sector is facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Moderated by Gwynne Rukenbrod Smith, Craft Your Commerce Program Director
- Jeff Kaplan, Venture Asheville Director
- Connie Matisse, East Fork CEO and Co-Founder
- Vicki Meath, Just Economics Executive Director
- Reggie Tidwell, Curve Theory Owner
In 2019, the cost of living in Buncombe County was 1% above the national average and the second-highest in the state, and by 2020, it had changed to 6% above the national average and the highest in the state, according to the Council for Community and Economic Research as reported by the Asheville Chamber of Commerce. Wages on average were also 16% below state averages and 30% below national averages. These discrepancies are even higher when looking at most of the top creative occupations. Panelists discussed how the creative sector might work proactively to address this growing issue.
State of the Arts Address
The Asheville Area Arts Council is proud to announce a new addition to this year’s Creative Sector Summit– the first ever “Crammy” award.
Named after local entrepreneur and philanthropist John Cram– who passed away last year– the award seeks to honor individuals who have made a large contribution to the arts in Buncombe County.
Community members were invited to nominate a local arts leader for this award. The Arts Coalition chairs will review the nominations, and select the top four honorees. DeWayne Barton was announced as the 2021 Crammy Award Winner during the State of the Arts Address. He received a plaque and will select an eligible arts-based nonprofit organization or community project to receive an arts council grant of $1,000.
2021 Crammy Award Finalists
- DeWayne Barton— Winner
- Sekou Coleman
- Hedy Fischer & Randy Shull
- Jessica Tomasin
State of the Arts Address
The State of the Arts Address included:
- Performances from The Magnetic Theatre, Melvin AC Howell, and Ryan RnB Barber
- Presentations from NC Arts Council Executive Director Wayne Martin, Arts NC Executive Director Nate McGaha, City of Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer, and Buncombe County Commissioner Al Whitesides
- An update on the state of the creative sector by AAAC Executive Director Katie Cornell
- Presentation of the inaugural John Cram Arts Leadership Awards (The Crammy) by Blue Spiral 1 gallery director Michael Manes
Thank you to our sponsors!
Are you interested in sponsoring this year’s summit? Email Hannah at email@example.com.
Additional support provided by Johnson Price Sprinkle, Quility, and Hornsby Creative.