1. What do you think are the biggest issues facing Asheville's creative sector? What do you propose to do to address these issues?
Affordability is the top issue. Creatives are deeply impacted by the shortage of affordable housing, affordable studio space, and increasing cost of living in Asheville. We need to make affordable housing our biggest priority and focus on location-based planning, including along transit corridors and within walking distance to hubs like Downtown, RAD, and West Asheville. As the chair of the Affordable Housing Committee, I am working hard on these solutions. We are working on a partnership for affordable artist housing in the RAD on city owned land and I will continue to push this forward as a pilot for other opportunities.
Additionally, we need to foster win-win opportunities. Instead of barring buskers from selling CDs while busking, we need to find a path to allow those sales, which will delight tourists who want that souvenir and buskers who can earn more. Instead of closing art venues before peak crowds arrive on the weekends, extend those hours for the enjoyment of visitors and to enable sales for local artists. Additionally, 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.
2. What role do you see the arts sector playing in our city or county?
The arts, from murals to poetry nights to live shows, contribute immensely to the culture and economic impact in our community. Creatives are what keeps Asheville unique and vibrant. In a broad sense, we’re doing well. Our creative sector incomes are trending upward. Our CVI - Creative Vitality Index - is 1.25, outpacing the national average of 1. That said, we need to continue developing and supporting the arts community in the ways we can’t see in the CVI, including growing affordable opportunities for housing and studio space.
3. Do you support the proposed renovations to Thomas Wolfe Auditorium? Why or why not?
I support the idea that we need to update the space to be safer to use, to attract more events, and to support our arts community. It is not clear if there was sufficient community input on design and priorities. The price tag was an unexpected shock. I see many ways the city needs 100M, including infrastructure, affordable housing, road resurfacing, sidewalks, transit planning, arts installations and planning, UDO overhaul, and moving to $15 per hour for employees of the city of Asheville. I do not support using all of the 10 year tourism tax funding (approx 70M) going to this effort. Part of the tax revenues could help cover a bond that funds the renovations.
I was encouraged by the first initiative being a philanthropic fundraising effort and we need to see how far those efforts get. The city has skilled and effective personnel in place to pull this off. Last years move to rebrand as Harrah’s produced millions in seed monies towards the Thomas Wolfe; they are not starting with zero.
4. The City of Asheville's Public Art Masterplan was created in 2001. Would you be supportive of a new city/county public art master plan? What would you like to see included in this plan?
I would. And I’m glad to see this rising up as a need. Many of our planning documents are aging out, including our UDO and Design Guidelines for Downtown and the Riverfront.
An updated Public Art Master Plan could promote and encourage place-based planning and identify how creatives and art can build on our existing culture, make locals feel at home, and attract visitors. Goals could include functional public art like crosswalks and street tweaks, traffic calming, musical installations, creative bus shelters, dancing crosswalks, and murals that share our community history.