Future of city’s cultural art program in question; some push for changes

With a key position still vacant after six months, major changes could be in the works for how the city of Asheville deals with the local arts community and tries to facilitate growth in the creative sector.

Last week, some organizers of the Creative Sector Summit expressed dismay that the city of Asheville’s superintendent of cultural arts position has been vacant since last September, when Diane Ruggiero left the job in favor of a similar position in Alexandria, Va.

Since then, “we don’t have a designated staff person at the city” to function as a liaison with the arts community, notes Kitty Love, executive director of the Asheville Area Arts Council. 

Meanwhile, Debbie Ivestor, assistant director of the Asheville Parks and Recreation Department, reports that the future of the entire program is in question. “We are evaluating the role and the focus of the city’s cultural art program,” she says.  Although it will be funded through at least June, after that, “We don’t know the outcome,” she adds.

As those discussions continue among city staffers and elected officials, volunteers with the Public Art and Cultural Commission are recommending that the superintendent position is morphed in to a “Creative Economies Director” position serving under the Office of Economic Development. According to handouts circulating at the Creative Sector Summit, the commission wants the new director charged with “fostering economic development, urban regeneration, small business growth, the visual and performing arts” as well as “enhancing artistic growth in the community using tools like grant opportunities.”

The commission is urging those active in the local arts sector to attend the Asheville City Council meeting on Tuesday, March 12 and voice support for the changes.

The nonprofit arts and culture industry generated $43.7 million in economic activity in Buncombe County last year, according to the commission’s handout.

The debate over the future of the cultural arts department is playing out as City Manager Gary Jackson has undertaken a major staff reorganization.

SHARE
About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning writer and reporter who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

4 thoughts on “Future of city’s cultural art program in question; some push for changes

  1. Politics Watcher

    . . . “we don’t have a designated staff person at the city” to function as a liaison with the arts community, notes Kitty Love, executive director of the Asheville Area Arts Council. . . .

    Why does the City need a full-time staff person to function as a liaison with the arts community? Does the City have a full-time staff person to function as a liaison with the medical community? With the educational community? Surely those “communities” are as much economic drivers as the “arts community?”

    And the job description – “fostering economic development, urban recognition, small business growth, the visual and performing arts” as well as “enhancing artistic growth in the community using tools like grant opportunities” – sounds like exactly what the executive director of an arts council is supposed to do.”

    • disruptina

      The job description would include many more responsibilities than a liaison to the arts community.

      If the city is willing to invest in arts development, the position will pay for itself many times over.

  2. Robert Todd

    A quick clarification, urban recognition should read urban regeneration- transforming neglected spaces based on community input into a desirable place for the community to utilize. Creative Placemaking.
    Thank you for raising awareness for the Creative Sector Industry in Asheville.

  3. Jake Frankel

    Hi Robert, thanks for the clarification. I corrected the word in the article.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.