State of the Arts

[Editor’s note: This is the third in an ongoing series of articles about the Center for Craft Creativity and Design (CCCD), a WNC-based craft research organization.]

The Center for Craft, Creativity and Design recently announced the recipients of a collective $95,000 in grants from its annual Craft Research Fund. On a quieter note, they also reported their formal separation, via a budget cut, from the University of North Carolina school system, which oversees 15 other state-operated universities, including UNCA.

"After many months of discussion, research and legal counsel, it was confirmed on Tuesday [Aug. 27] that Chancellor Anne Ponder in effect closed the UNC Center,” Stephanie Moore, CCCD’s executive director, told Xpress.

The CCCD, which was previously located at UNCA’s Kellogg Center, tucked five miles west of Hendersonville, recently purchased a building at 67 Broadway St. in downtown Asheville. CCCD will continue operating as an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

The resolution, handed down by the UNC General Assembly, stems from a July 11 budget cut issued by UNCA. That budget cut initially severed CCCD from UNCA. But it also spelled out the end for the CCCD’s 16-year run as a state-operated organization. Attempts to partner with Western Carolina University were nullified by the UNC General Assembly’s recognition of the cut as systemwide.

The CCCD’s state funding was initially set up and assigned by UNC's Board of Governors and General Assembly in May of 1996. In 2009 the UNC school system began eliminating or fusing inter-institutional organizations, which included CCCD, with university partners. The CCCD, or Center for short, was slated for partnership with Appalachian State University, according to Moore and CCCD board president Michael Sherrill. However, Chancellor Ponder and the university provided reason that resulted in UNCA’s partnership with the Center.

Whereas the CCCD was previously a UNC system Center, after 2009 it officially became a UNCA Center, says Joni Worthington, UNC’s Vice President of Communications.

That partnership came three years after UNCA received a $2 million promissory grant from Windgate Charitable Foundation, an Arkansas-based trust and longtime CCCD partner and benefactor. The organization, known for its enthusiastic support WNC craft people; pledged the funds toward the development of a crafts campus slated for construction at the former Buncombe County landfill located north of Woodfin. However, plans for the campus began to dissipate as expenses increased and the economic landscape dimmed. Windgate rescinded that pledge in 2011, shortly after the addition was removed from UNCA’s capitol campaign project.

Those funds resurfaced this March when Warren Wilson College received a $2.1 million grant for the development new programs and the enrichment of existing crafts infrastructure.

The CCCD’s annual budget was created by the state and set up in partnership with the Windgate Charitable Foundation.

But with each year came an annual decrease in funding. From 2010 to 2013 the state’s funding dropped from $201,890 to $182,402 and most recently to $178,957. Windgate’s rose in response to each drop.

“UNCA received a $592,000 cut from the state in the current academic year,” said UNCA’s Provost and Vice Chancellor Jane Fernandes, adding that this was “after absorbing cuts totaling over $10 million since 2009.”

“After Chancellor Anne Ponder had conversations with Michael Sherrill of CCCD and John Brown of the Windgate Charitable Foundation, we concluded it would be best to close CCCD as a UNCA Center and allow it to become an independent entity,” said Fernandes.

The separation is largely one of financial reasoning. Fernandes told Xpress that it will ultimately “protect core undergraduate academic programs, which would have suffered from budget reductions otherwise.”

In a July 24 statement, Ed Katz, UNCA’s associate provost and dean of university programs, also cited CCCD’s “desire to become an organization that includes many public and private collaborators,” the “expectation of continued budget cuts to the university” and the CCCD’s “lack of significant involvement in undergraduate education.”

CCCD’s Henderson County locale led to little student-body interaction and a did little to help bolster growth for the organization’s identity in the university system and Asheville.

In severing the partnership with the CCCD, a valuable connection with Windgate, whose contributions to WNC craft organizations continue to increase each year, has been damaged. So far, 2013 contributions to area artists and arts organizations including CCCD, Warren Wilson College and Penland School for Craft total more than $7 million.

John Brown, WCF’s executive director, told Xpress that the University’s decision does not affect Windgate’s dedication to craft in N.C. or regionally in WNC.

“We’re disappointed with the university system,” says Brown, “but our interests in the field of art and craft are undiminished.”

“We’re not focussed on ill feelings, we’re just trying to support the board for the Center,” he added

In some ways, Brown says, being away from the public umbrella will allow CCCD to broaden its fundraising efforts and expand its regional goals. It will also allow for partnerships with other independent crafts organizations and institutes.

“The Center's cut was inevitable given both the political and economic climate in Raleigh,” says Moore. “We are ultimately liberated from the whims of the state with this change and may now stay on point/mission which is where our head space needs to be.”

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

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