State of the Arts: Asheville Area Arts Council’s recharged direction

ROOM WITH A VIEW: Along with new funding sources, collaborations and programs, Asheville Area Arts Council relocates from the River Arts District to the Grove Arcade. "I think we will see more action downtown," says AAAC director Kitty Love, left, with operations manager Mica Mead. Photo by Kyle Sherard
ROOM WITH A VIEW: Along with new funding sources, collaborations and programs, Asheville Area Arts Council relocates from the River Arts District to the Grove Arcade. "I think we will see more action downtown," says AAAC director Kitty Love, left, with operations manager Mica Mead. Photo by Kyle Sherard

The Asheville Area Arts Council is moving: Friday, Aug. 1, marks opening day for the 62-year-old nonprofit organization in suites 144 and 143-A of the Grove Arcade. The new location marks the organization’s return to downtown Asheville after a three-year stint in the River Arts District’s Pink Dog Creative building. The move also follows a string of property transfers, including the 2010 sale of 11 Biltmore Ave., which resulted in the AAAC’s subsequent RAD relocation, and the January sale of 13 Biltmore Ave. to the owners of Cúrate.

The arts council acquired both of its Biltmore Avenue buildings from the Asheville Housing Authority in the late 1980s. This year’s sale freed the organization of the duties of a landlord. It also enabled the organization to pay off debts accrued by previous boards and program directors and to further enrich its programming schedule. Asheville Running Co. will soon open in the space the AAAC just left at 346 Depot St.

Both downtown and the RAD are engaging areas, says Kitty Love, AAAC’s executive director. “Each has its vibe, but I think we will see more action downtown,” she says. Unlike the RAD location, which was a specific destination point, the downtown space will be easier for locals and visitors to drop by. The Grove Arcade space will offer a better and more affordable contact point for visitors wanting information on Asheville’s greater arts scene.

Relocating downtown, Love notes, will also increase visibility for the gallery and the Artists Resource Center, a multipurpose events space, education and tech lab that serves area artists and creators. “Having the ARC central is a plus,” Love says. “[But] it’s important to remember that our area of service is the county. The actual location of the office, while there is a natural association with environment, isn’t really related to the programs and services we offer on a broad scale to the whole county.”

She continues, “Ultimately, I see the ARC as a modular program with technology and training components in the RAD once again, but also in Emma, Black Mountain and Eagle and Market streets, where the creative folk are living.”

The new space comes at a time when the arts council is steadily regaining strength in the community and emerging from a multiyear probationary period with the N.C. Arts Council. AAAC lost its status as a Designated County Partner — and its ability to distribute Grassroots Arts Program funds — with the state agency in 2010 after a series of financial problems under previous directors and boards. But since Love was named executive director in 2011, the agency, with guidance from the state, has made a steady recovery and, as of July 17, was granted a provisional partnership status with the state.

Last week, for the first time since 2010, AAAC used its new space to host a writing workshop on the 2014-15 cycle of the Grassroots grants, whose deadline is Aug. 15. The annual grants, created by the N.C. Arts Council in 1977, are distributed through local arts councils throughout the state’s 100 counties. Individuals and groups of artists, qualified nonprofits, and educational and community organizations can apply for partial or whole funding through the grants, which range from a hundred to thousands of dollars.

In the weeks ahead, AAAC will open a new exhibition from its Point of View series, with works curated by local artist Colby Caldwell. “It will be a collaboration show between Asheville and Washington, D.C. artists featuring a music component and panel discussion event about technology and art-making,” says Mica Mead, AAAC’s operations manager. An artists reception will follow later in August.

Added to that is a new source of funding from the Windgate Charitable Foundation and partnerships with HandMade in America and NC REAL, among others. The organization will also continue to put on its annual color ball — the theme (“The Gilded Ball,” so think gold) and date (Sept. 27 at Isis Restaurant & Music Hall) were just announced.

The AAAC gallery and Artist Resource Center open Friday, Aug. 1. Regular hours will be Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. For more information on the AAAC, the ARC and the Grassroots Grants, visit ashevillearts.com

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About Kyle Sherard
Book lover, arts reporter, passerby…..

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