Asheville: a broken community

I moved here three years ago, thinking I would rather die here than live anywhere else.  Little did I know how close—or how often—I would come to death’s door while trying to survive here in Asheville.

At first glance, Asheville seems to be a quaint little town with a rich history and culture, [where] anyone who is willing to sacrifice and invest their energy could have a happy and rewarding life. A closer look unveils a broken society in a broken community—an arts community that has no clear direction or desire to involve the larger community in anything that is not stroking the ego (or bank account) of the organizers. With only a handful of maniacal personalities steering the entire community into an alcoholic fantasy, the end result is confusing at best.

It’s true that people can do whatever they’d like to do in this life, but without real support from a real Arts Community Center, this town will continue to be corralled into a coveted monopoly of expression and forced to call it culture. Asheville could take a few lessons from larger cities like Minneapolis and Atlanta, where there is true diversity in the community and liberal ideals are practice—not theory.

Also, if you’re lucky enough to find what resembles a job (or a series of paid tasks), good luck on finding a bank to cash your check after-hours or on the weekend. The banks close whenever they feel like it and think that everyone is independently wealthy. Why? Why does everyone keep the same hours—except the service industry—and expect real commerce to take place? Oh, I guess there’s Wal-Mart, or “Scam’s Check Cashing.” Wake up, Asheville: Get over yourself.

— Dallas Taylor
West Asheville

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39 thoughts on “Asheville: a broken community

  1. Mr. Happy

    Yet again another positive response by a transplant with a “woe is me” attitude who couldn’t hack it in big scary Asheville. And what did YOU sacrifice or invest in or did you? Are you like most people who move here and expect it all to fall into your lap? And where exactly is “death’s door” in Asheville?? Yeah,exactly.

  2. Dallas,
    It can be done, I’ve been a professional designer / artisan for almost 30 years. Just do it and put it out there for people to buy. The market place is the most direct and honest place there is. People like your work & they pay you with cash or they don’t, it’s pretty simple. This is true all over the country.

  3. travelah

    Perhaps if you went to the bank on Friday or enrolled in direct deposit if offered by your employer you might not have this problem with cashing checks.

  4. Dallas –

    Have you heard about the Artist Resource Center that is being planned?
    Don’t think you are the first much less only person who see’s the void. If you’d like to be a part of the solution I’d advise getting involved with the process. Arts2People is currently leading the way in planning and developing an Artist Resource Center, which is actually called for in the Downtown Master Plan. Visit for more information and to get involved. A great step to fixing a broken community is to reach out and connect with others.


  5. Ken Hanke

    I’m still trying to figure out how banking hours are relevant to any of this. (Anyone remember when banks were open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.?) Maybe it’s because I’ve always lived in fairly small towns, but the banking hours here seem pretty normal to me (I do recall banks that at least used to open before 9 a.m. — but they closed at 4 p.m. except on Friday).

  6. Dionysis

    Here’s a news flash: if you open an account, you can deposit paychecks, get cash out and do all kinds of things via an ATM machine. I’ve rarely been inside a bank over the past decade or so, and haven’t had a problem yet (and for those don’t like banks, most credit unions offer 24-hour per day ATMs too).

    Lack of support for the arts and inconvenient banking hours? I guess there’s a connection somewhere, but darned if I see it.

  7. brebro

    You don’t get free coffee, soda, cookies, popcorn and ice cream by using an ATM though, so I still go inside.

  8. Dionysis

    “You don’t get free coffee, soda, cookies, popcorn and ice cream by using an ATM though, so I still go inside.”

    Huh? Where do you bank? I can barely get waited on in my bank (a major name in the area), much less get “free coffee, soda, cookies, popcorn and ice cream.” Maybe I need to change banks.

  9. Emily

    So, who kicked you out of their art studio? Also, Atlanta is a city of 5,000,000. Buncombe County just tipped over 200,000 in 2006. I believe that a difference of 4,800,000 people does indeed make Atlanta a bit more diverse than Asheville, but whats your point? Last I checked the reason we like Asheville is because it ISN”T like other cities in the region.
    Asheville is indeed a “quaint little town with a rich history and culture”. Emphasis little. Maybe thats why you’re having a hard time finding a job. The standard banking hours could fit into the “quaint” category.

  10. chalkbox

    I hate to quote a bumper sticker, but start the revolution and quit bi@chen.

  11. brebro

    They don’t give it out, exactly. You just open the freezer case and pick out what you want. At least, that’s how it is in Henderson County, where decent people live. They might have had too many greedy customers and even non-customers abusing the system in Asheville since, you know, it is a broken society in a broken community and all.

  12. Piffy!


    Yes, never mind the opinions of the members of the community. Push onward in your mysterious battle against banking hours and asheville not being more like Atlanta.

  13. At least, that’s how it is in Henderson County, where decent people live.

    Thank goodness no decent people live in Asheville.

  14. Ken Hanke

    Thank goodness no decent people live in Asheville.

    I was once accused of trying to lead innocent Hendersonville citizens astray by giving a good review to Bad Education.

  15. kaddazz

    Dallas, you lost me when you compared Asheville to Atlanta. After living 15 years in that desert, I moved up here to Avl. And I concur with the first thing you said, “I’d rather die here than live anywhere else.”

    Sounds like you’re struggling mightily. Asheville has more resources to help you than any other city its size in the U.S., I would venture to say. Get friendly with people, and ask for help. You’ll be delighted with the results. Best of luck…

  16. Piffy!

    In my experience, when people complain about “not being able to make it” in Asheville, it is because they have, what I would consider to be, unreasonably high expectations. Get a job. Stop spending money. network, Be resourceful. Learn to camp. Paint yourself silver and stand downtown. Do something. Geez.
    Asheville owes you nothing, you owe it what you want back. Put in the work and you will be rewarded.

  17. Ken Hanke

    Learn to camp.

    Does this involve a sequined gown and singing “Love for Sale?”

  18. Piffy!

    Precisely my intent.

    Musical numbers will get you through those rough patches.

  19. Ken Hanke

    Musical numbers will get you through those rough patches.

    Moreover, Christopher C suggests the possibility of financial gain for the original writer.

  20. brebro

    However, financial gain would just result in the need for more banking and then he’s right back to his previous problem…

  21. Ken Hanke

    However, financial gain would just result in the need for more banking and then he’s right back to his previous problem…

    A nice frock and a good torch song might open even a bank’s doors.

  22. Rebecca Nelson

    I grew up in Atlanta (spent 25+ years there) so I think I can speak intelligently on the subject. You are fooling yourself if you think that you are going to move to WNC and have the same services, resources and income level you would have in a LARGE 5M+ metropolis. Yes, there are many things that a city like Atlanta can offer, but there is also a tradeoff – it’s called horrible traffic, long working hours, competition with anyone and everyone (clothes, houses, cars, etc.) oh and not to mention the crime rate…

    The point here is that yes, it is hard to make it in a city like Asheville and maybe if you really want to live here, you would be better off doing it with a great plan and several thousand dollars in the bank as a back-up until you are in stable and steady employment…

    But believe me when I say this, once you leave this area, you will miss it. It will only take a few weeks, maybe months, for you to start thinking about all the GOOD and WONDERFUL parts of the city and it will get into your blood stream and drive you nuts until you can make it back….

    And TRUST ME – I left Asheville last year to take care of aging parents in Jacksonville, Florida and there is not a day that goes by that I do not yearn for that unique, eclectic, vibrant, low paying job, unique style, quirky little city in the hills :)

  23. Joe Momma

    Man… I feel you on the direction of our fine arts community. I have served the festival scene faithfully in this area/ and region for over five years now… working long hours (all season), doing the worst (humiliating) of jobs, for often no pay (ripoffs), abuse, and little thanks. Its a good thing I love music…and not money.
    Promoters/artists Egomaniacle? Yes indeed…also dishonest and Greedy!! I long for the days when art and music actually changed the whole world for the better…This was my (objective) motive for participation; alas, a huge bummer! The arts are merely, weak-minded entertainment these days. Anyone out there care to correct me? Bring it.
    Yet most ‘Ashevillains’ are happy with being herded through the turnstyles and tranquilized with the local 8% swill. I personally am very tired of the same ole…same ole. Dissipation is negative, I dont care what anyone says.
    I finally moved here last winter with no love, no idea and no resources. I slept in the Pisgah alone most of the winter in my truck…barely employed. I did it because I love Asheville, I wanted to be here, be a working part of this very cool community. Like any meaningful love affair or friendship, you gotta take the good with the bad or go find something better. Most everything in my life has gotten better since… Mainly because I wanted it to and I made the hard decisions to better myself and my situation. Not because I discovered anything or anybody profoundly moving here in this town-> Ohhh contraire! …uuurrp!
    I also have a clear conscience because I have paid my dues, and typically I dont complain. Attitude is everything. The return you get out of anything in life is equal in quality and proportion to your investment. If Asheville sucks, you suck. Life is a blank canvas, forget what else you are told and create it.

    People are People. Earth is a huge nutfarm. How many sane people do you know? What then is Asheville NC? A small (fortunately), peaceful, beautiful place where most folks are in touch with their abnormalities, and want to create a positive environment to freak freely in, Intellectually and creatively speaking. Brokenness and all. Forgive my amature estimation.

    We all know by now that employment is what it is and I love love love what others have said… LEARN TO CAMP. Not only can you do it for free indefinitely in the Pisgah, but the woods will feed your soul in ways you would not imagine. I am living proof. Go squat my brother! Perhaps all of us unemployed should rally out thar in the Pisgah! Yeah! I’m sure we can all keep warm together!
    Embrace your fears Y’all! It feels so good.

  24. Muffin

    Asheville was tough (for me)when I lived there about six years ago. I moved there to go to school and once it was over I gave it a try as a worker. I busted my ass working three part time jobs so any creative juices I once had became dried up. I also met some of the locals who had been there for generations and were bitter at all the people moving in and raising real estate prices so high. This made it so their immediate family could not afford to buy in Asheville. It was sad to hear their stories. All the best to anyone who can make it there!!! I’d personally rather be in the city I am in now which has a thriving middle class, jobs, and an emerging arts scene.

  25. Tony

    Dallas makes some valid points. I do not understand the banking comments. Bank hours are about the same in every city.

    I agree that the “arts” scene in Asheville is laughable. The job market is horrible, and the city thrives on bogus self promotion. I am a native. Born and raised in Asheville. I still have fond memories of the city. I love the mountains and miss them.

    But the city is, quite simply, fake. The “free minded thinkers” who inhabit the coffee shops and pubs are as bigoted as the redneck natives they detest.

    There is a caste system in Asheville that is visable to anyone who cares to look. On one side, you have the “sophisticated” permanet tourists. The other side is composed of natives who hate the tourists because of the way the tourists look down on them.

    My problem with Asheville is the city is built on a series of lies designed to promote tourism.

    Asheville is beautiful. But like all tourist towns it lost it’s true soul many years ago.

  26. eddugas

    Everyone in Asheville walks around like they invented the place. And that’s exactly what Asheville wants you to think.

    This is great for people with the means to apply the “Asheville Tax” i.e. opportunism in the form of needless markup, rental and restaurant price gouging and ideological inflation.

    Hobbyist business owners run legitimate businesses into the ground because they don’t care if they make money. They only want to be seen at Elaine’s Piano Bar and brag about how their farm only sells meat from animals that were told bedtime stories every night.

    People have enabled Asheville to be this way. Ironic for a place so adamant about promoting sustainability. In my mind, claiming to care about the environment under false pretense for the purpose of status or personal gain is a form of pollution on par with an oil spill.

    What other ways will we discover to rape and pillage the Earth?

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