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WNC Business

Buncombe County creative economy back on track

Jun 16, 2023 10:26AM ● By WNC Business
ASHEVILLE - Jobs and sales for creative industries in Buncombe County have finally surpassed 2019 totals – after 4 years of stifled growth.

Following pandemic related shutdowns and supply chain issues, creative industries in Buncombe County took a sharp downturn – with an estimated 16% loss in jobs (-2,129 jobs). Though few creative businesses closed permanently, temporary closures and drastic declines in revenue forced many creative businesses to furlough or lay off workers.

The necessity for reduced overhead and ongoing uncertainty left remaining workers struggling with burnout. Though creative jobs overall have now surpassed 2019 totals, a recent survey by ArtsAVL showed recruitment of new employees and volunteers continues to be a struggle for many arts businesses.

Among core creative industries, Motion Pictures and Video Production saw the most job growth from 2019 to 2023 with 10 new film projects in production in the Asheville area. When asked about this increase, I.A.T.S.E. 491 (the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees and Motion Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts Union for NC, SC, and Savannah, GA) Business Manager Darla McGlamery said “As the Film and Television Industry in NC continues to rebuild following the effects of HB2 on film crew workers as well as small businesses that depend on large corporations to bump their bottom line, it is NO surprise that Asheville and the surrounding municipalities have felt an uptick.” She went on to say “Asheville has always been a crown jewel in NC, and now [Asheville has] the spotlight.”

Creative industries sales increased dramatically from 2021 to 2022 – reaching over $2 billion. Sales were largely led by Breweries ($597M) and Historic Sites ($260M), with core creative industries making up about 23% of overall creative industry sales in 2022.

 Above photo by Mike Morel

Buncombe County 5th graders watching Asheville Symphony Orchestra’s Young People’s Concert at Harrah’s Cherokee Center Asheville during the Asheville Amadeus festival. Support in part by ArtsAVL Arts Build Community grant. Photo by Mike Morel courtesy of Asheville Symphony.

Sales have been slower to recover in arts and entertainment industries as concerns about large gatherings lingered, leading to reduced audiences and slower ticket sales. However, sales in these industries have also started to pick up in the last year. Harrah’s Cherokee Center – Asheville General Manager Chris Corl says “Event ticket sales and attendance in 2022 has dramatically increased over 2021, driving our facility towards one of our best budget years ever.” And, The Orange Peel and Rabbit Rabbit Concert Producer Liz Tallent says “It has been such a tumultuous three years for small businesses that exist in the live performance arts realm.” She went on to say, “Last season, we welcomed over 90,000 music fans through our gates [at Rabbit Rabbit], and we are thrilled for another season of great music and awesome fan experiences in our venue for the 2023 season.”

ArtsAVL is currently examining the economic impact of nonprofit arts and entertainment industries through the national Arts & Economic Prosperity 6 study led by Americans for the Arts. The results of this study are expected to come out in late October 2023.

View the latest Buncombe County Creative Economy Snapshot and other arts reports at

Source: ArtsAVL

Main Photo by Tom Farr courtesy of Rabbit Rabbit