2023 State of the Arts Brunch summaryNov 02, 2023 08:43AM ● By WNC Business
ArtsAVL Executive Director Katie Cornell opened by sharing the State of the Arts Address – a report on the present and future of the arts in Asheville and Buncombe County. The update included highlights from the expansive 2023 Buncombe County Creative Economy Snapshot and the just-released Arts and Economic Prosperity Report 6, an impact study of the nonprofit arts and culture industry in the US conducted approximately every five years. The AEP6 gauges the economic impact of spending by nonprofit arts and cultural organizations and the event-related spending by their audiences, and found that Buncombe County’s nonprofit arts and culture industry generated $51 million in economic activity in 2022 – a number lower than the pre-pandemic report, revealing a sector still deep in recovery.
Cornell shared that this year’s Creative Economy Snapshot fills out more of the picture. Created in partnership with Riverbird Research and with support from Buncombe County, the Snapshot identifies 67 arts-focused creative occupations in six arts mediums: performing, visual, craft, literary, media, and interdisciplinary. That report found that jobs continued to rebound from 2021 to 2022, reaching almost 8,500 (not including additional jobs supported by arts businesses, like marketing, accounting, and development). Total sales in 2022 were nearly $1 billion.
Although the recovery of Buncombe County’s creative economy is still ongoing, Cornell shared that the recently passed state budget leaves out key funding for the county’s Grassroots Arts Program, a grant administered by ArtsAVL. While that line item is not likely to change this year, she shared her hopes – and the hopes of the North Carolina Arts Council – that it may shift in the future.
Buncombe County Commissioner Vice Chair Terri Wells and City of Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer gave remarks on City and County support for arts and culture. “Our natural environment and our arts are interconnected,” noted Wells, who highlighted the County’s dedication to the creative community. The County provides $130,000 annually in funding to arts and culture block grant funds managed by ArtsAVL. Wells also highlighted additional County arts initiatives, including programming at local libraries, the Carolina Record Shop residency at Buncombe County Special Collections, and the Creative Equity Mural Project.
Mayor Manheimer expressed the City’s commitment to the arts, including the City’s Public Art Program and Collection, the Public Art and Cultural Commission, the Public Art Masterplan, and the % for Art Policy. “What is a city?” Manheimer asked the crowd. “People and experiences. We want to make sure that people are having an enriched life, and that includes the opportunity to have the highest quality experiences.” City leadership recently voted unanimously to allow ArtsAVL to manage its Event Support Grant – the fifth grant now managed by the nonprofit.
Mayor Manheimer also reiterated the City’s support of the proposed renovation of Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, specifically the patron-driven plan that would reshape the interior of the performing arts center to improve acoustics and remake the front and back of house. The renovation “will not be possible without very strong partnerships,” she said, noting that the performing arts centers in Greensboro, Durham, and Greenville, SC are “the single largest investments those cities are making, and with good reason.”
The Brunch closed with the presentation of the John Cram Arts Leadership Award (the “Crammy”) to Brian and Gail McCarthy, founders of Highwater Clays and Odyssey Center for Ceramic Arts and key members of the River Arts District, by Blue Spiral 1 Executive Director Michael Manes.
“This year’s recipients are also community leaders, who embody many of the same characteristics as John [Cram],” said Manes. “Brian and Gail McCarthy came to Asheville not long after John, with the same sentiments for the area and a unique vision. They saw an opportunity for the creative process to be harnessed, grown, and shared with not only Asheville, but beyond.”
The McCarthys selected Arts For Life, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting pediatric patients and families through arts education and engagement, to receive an ArtsAVL grant of $1,000.
The event was recorded and will be shared soon on ArtsAVL’s website. Learn more about ArtsAVL’s reporting initiatives at ArtsAVL.org/Reports.