Creatively Asheville

What next? It’s time for creatives to talk about how to develop Asheville’s arts economy. Jonathan Welch

The Asheville-Buncombe Creative Sector Summit is one meeting creatives won’t want to skip out on this year. Its purpose? To give artists, arts administrators, musicians, designers, writers and creative entrepreneurs a forum to voice opinions and formulate initiatives concerning the development of Asheville’s creative industry.

“We’re casting a very wide net,” says Graham Hackett, programs director for the Asheville Area Arts Council, one of several arts groups organizing the event. “We want to get an idea of what the whole creative sector of Asheville looks like, and what we all should focus on as a community in order to be successful.”

Kitty Love, executive director of arts advocacy group Arts2People, plans to head up a survey to compile economic data on artists and creatives in the area. “We will have to do some down-and-dirty research to figure out how we can help artists in the area,” she wrote to Xpress. “Additionally, we will be looking for info from organizations that serve the arts, and compiling data on the available resources in the area.”

Keynote speaker Charlie Flynn-McIver from N.C. Stage Company will discuss the positive impact of local creative professionals and businesses on communities, and consultant Janet Kagan will discuss how to take Asheville and Buncombe County to the next level economically. Break-out discussions on relevant topics are also expected.

Individual artists and the creatively employed are invited to attend discussions on Wednesday, March 16 at the Masonic Temple in downtown Asheville. Registration is required via the Asheville Arts Council’s website, with a sliding scale of $5-$25. Nonprofits, business owners and community “stakeholders” will meet on Thursday, March 17, at the Biltmore Park Hilton.

Scott Furr is an electronic media artist whose visual art has been featured at a variety of local venues. He is also a board member of the Media Arts Project, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to cultivate innovative arts and technology in Western North Carolina. Furr plans to attend the summit as both a representative of MAP and as an individual artist and creative worker.

Xpress: Can you please clarify the difference between an “artist” and a “creative?”
Furr: A “creative” is business speak for a person that does creative tasks in a business environment. An example would be people who create text and graphics for a business, journalists and web developers. An artist can fall under this umbrella depending on if they have a job in such a field.

Do artists and creatives share the same needs?
As far as the economy goes, yes. We’re all trying to get paid from our talents. That’s the big thing.

What are your hopes for The Creative Sector Summit and the creative community in general?
I hope the summit will establish a relationship between people in Asheville’s business community and people in the creative community. It’s something that’s needed to happen for a long time. I have a feeling that a good deal of MAP’s constituency is not doing work in Asheville because the industries here can’t pay them a competitive wage. I imagine a lot of people that do that kind of work are employed by businesses outside of Asheville. I’d love to see some awesome businesses come to Asheville and hire people at a living wage. I’d like to see local businesses recognize that there are people here in the community they can work with.

— Ursula Gullow writes about art for Mountain Xpress and her blog,

who: N.C. Arts Council, Arts NC, the City of Asheville, Asheville Area Arts Council, the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Downtown Commission, Asheville Art Museum, Diana Wortham Theatre, Asheville Civic Center, N.C. Stage, Arts2People, The Orange Peel, the Performance Center, Altamont Theatre Company, Mountain BizWorks, YMI Cultural Center, Media Arts Project, Asheville Lyric Opera, and sponsored by the Dan Lucas Memorial Fund
what: First Creative Sector Summit
when: Wednesday, March 16 (for independent artists and entrepreneurs, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Masonic Temple, 80 Broadway St.) and Thursday, March 17 (for organizations, businesses and stakeholders, from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Biltmore Park Hilton, 43 Town Square Blvd.) Info at

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