February 3, 2020 – Asheville, N.C.In advance of this week’s Asheville City Council Primary Candidate Forum, happening Wednesday, Feb. 5, the Asheville Area Arts Council (AAAC) presented all nine candidates with the first-ever City Council Candidate Survey. The four-question survey asked candidates to share their positions on Asheville’s creative sector, including its role in Asheville and Buncombe County, its economic impact, and projects related to its future and sustainability, including the proposed $100 million Thomas Wolfe Auditorium renovation and the City’s Public Art Masterplan, last updated almost two decades ago.
Six of the nine candidates – Kristen Goldsmith, Rich Lee, Shane McCarthy, Kim Roney, Nicole Townsend, and Sage Turner – responded to share their insights and visions for the present and future of Asheville’s arts community, and the responses are now available in full on the arts council’s website. Among those responses, several commonalities emerged, including –
The recognition of the vital role the creative sector plays in Asheville’s culture and economy, and in the city’s reputation as a desirable place to visit and move.
Roney shared of artists in the area, “We know how to address, build, navigate, challenge, and shift culture. We are living libraries of stories, paintings, sculpture, dances, and songs. We can map solutions and document next steps. We realize dreams of the possible and impossible. We collaborate and exemplify taking care. We’re what brought us here and will keep us together, regardless of who comes to gawk or appreciate. We are what makes Asheville memorable, interesting, and like every attempt to capture the view of a WNC sunset, impossible to experience after it’s gone."
The power of the arts to help spur conversation and lasting change around issues of inequity and social issues, and to illuminate and respond to our shared history.
McCarthy advocated “more art that teaches about our history and our leaders. Let’s use public art to teach about the American Indian nations who were here before it was called Asheville, about the City’s historical mistreatment of our black neighborhoods, and about our community leaders who are battling injustice today.”
The need to address the scarcity of affordable housing and/or workspace for creatives.
Roney suggested support for the arts that would be a kind of “Green New Deal” for the creative sector, forged “through community engagement in order to build trust and promote healing: cooperatively-owned community spaces as part of neighborhood resilience efforts; a Poet Laureate and Artist in Residence program; an eviction protection fund for renters; community-led efforts to address equity in our schools and training programs; capital improvements through participatory budgeting; and rotating seats on boards & commissions centering Black, Brown, Latinx, Indigenous, and LGBTQ+ artists lending their professional and lived experience to decision making as part of participatory democracy.”
Turner added, “We outsource many jobs (i.e. tourism advertising) that could be done by Asheville creatives. If we were to hire from our experienced local pool of talent, those high-wage contracts and jobs could instead benefit Asheville’s resident creative sector."
A focused, sustainable approach to community art and performing arts spaces, as well as maintenance funding for other public spaces, artworks, and buildings of architectural and historical importance in the city and county.
Lee “would like to see renovation and updates of City Hall included, as well as provision for public art in more neighborhoods than downtown. I’d like advice on how the city can better support community-led public-art initiatives like murals artistic elements incorporated into public works like sidewalks and retaining walls.”
A new Public Art Masterplan that will reflect the diverse facets of life – past, present, and future – in our area to foster a sense of identity and belonging for residents through creative placemaking.
Townsend commented, “I am in support of a new city/county public art masterplan. I would like the plan to include a way to honor the communities that were demolished due to urban renewal and gentrification. I would like the plan to include a focus on youth. I would also like to see the plan be rooted in community engagement and collective community art.”
Goldsmith noted, “I will support an update to our Public Art Masterplan, and will advocate for taking a holistic approach to addressing the inclusion of art, renewable energy, and public greenspaces in our future development. I would like to see the revised plan feature more work from our underrepresented communities in order to highlight and celebrate our diversity.”
Katie Cornell, Executive Director of the AAAC, commented on the arts council’s role as a potential partner for the city’s leadership, saying, “The arts sector provides many benefits for the city and county. It drives economic development, provides jobs, creates a sense of identity and cultural understanding, and fosters community well being. Additionally, the arts are an extremely useful tool for facilitating difficult conversations. Asheville has some tough topics it needs to address. Let's not miss the opportunity to partner around these community engagement opportunities.”
See the complete responses from all six candidates here. The Asheville City Council Primary Forum is this Wednesday at A-B Tech Ferguson Auditorium from 5:30-8 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
Stay tuned: next, the arts council will be asking Buncombe County Commissioner candidates to share their views on the local arts sector.
Founded in 1952, the Asheville Area Arts Council (AAAC) is the second oldest arts council in the state of North Carolina. The mission of the arts council is to keep the arts at the heart of our community. AAAC supports this mission by advocating for the local arts sector and providing professional development and business services for area arts organizations and artists. Learn more about the arts council’s work at ashevillearts.com.