‘Yarn Bombing’ for a cause: Artists advocate for affordable housing

Press release from The Center for Craft:

With only four weeks to go, the Artspace Survey campaign launched by the Center for Craft and the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, and facilitated by Artspace Consulting, has reached the halfway point. The last day to take the survey is March 26, 2018. Survey participants are eligible to win $250 towards creative supplies of their choosing.

To further engage and rally the creative community around the project, the Center for Craft commissioned a large art installation on the facade of their building, including a 14-foot long yarn bombing that depicts the silhouette of an apartment building. The installation echoes the larger project goal to “Keep AVL Creative,” in this case by working towards developing affordable spaces for artists, makers, performers and creatives in Asheville.

“The survey had a great start and continues to gain incredible momentum, thanks to the hard work and collaboration of many arts and cultural organizations who have partnered with us on outreach, and to all those in the creative community who have taken the survey and asked their friends to do the same,” says Stephanie Moore, Executive Director of the Center for Craft.

At this time, 885 individual surveys and 120 business/organization surveys have been taken. The stretch goal is to have 1,200 individual surveys and 150 business/organization surveys completed by March 26, 2018.

“The survey response rate has surpassed our expectations and is a testament to the strength of Asheville’s creative sector and the need for permanently affordable space solutions,” says Mike Marcus, Assistant Director at the Center for Craft. “We are also aware that it reflects a small fraction of those in our community who identify as being an artist, maker, performer and/or creative, and their respective space needs. Over the next month we will continue our outreach efforts to ensure that the survey reaches as many people as possible. This includes those who identify as an artist/creative but rely on jobs outside of the creative sector for their primary source(s) of income,” notes Marcus.

Yarn Bombing for a Cause

To help draw attention to the project, the Center enlisted the help of Grace Casey-Gouin of Echoview Fiber Mill and Stephanie Mergelsberg of Show & Tell Pop Up to collaborate on the yarn bombing installation. Together the two worked with 23 local fiber artists to produce 336 colorful knit and crocheted squares which were stitched together into a large piece that was installed onto the side of the Center’s exterior stairwell on Broadway Street.

“The individual squares reflect the personality and style of the people who made them. Seeing them all come together in such a large and loud expression of creativity really speaks to the heart of Asheville,” says Casey-Gouin who views the yarn bombing as a way for textile artists to engage in affordable space solutions for Asheville’s creative sector. “I’ve seen so many talented textile artists here in Asheville who had to give up because they just can’t afford to keep going financially or energetically,” say Casey-Gouin.

The Heart of Asheville

Brandy Bourne and Justin Rabuck, founders and owners of The Big Crafty and Horse + Hero, took the survey to help make the case for accessible space for creative people and ventures “doing the the work that’s at the heart of Asheville.” Bourne and Rabuck estimate that roughly 40% of the artists that they represent have to supplement their income by working other jobs, and can’t support themselves on their art full time.

“Forging a successful creative business takes time, and most of these artists have spent years fully developing their craft in order to get to that point. Making living and working spaces affordable would be a gift of time, time to create the work that enriches our community. It would make the creative path possible for a wider range of talented people,” says Bourne.

Individuals interested in participating in the Artspace survey do not need to derive their entire income from their art or creative work, or pursue their practice full time in order to be counted. They only need to have a commitment to their creative work or a desire to grow as an artist or work professionally in their creative field.

Artists Are Being Priced Out of the Market

As Bourne and Rabuck point out, “artists are increasingly being priced out of Asheville’s creative community.” This echoes the sentiment of many longtime local artists, makers, performers and creatives who feel some responsibility for helping to create Asheville’s unique and desirable culture, yet can no longer afford to live here as a result of the success.

Stephanie Hickling Beckman, Founder and Managing Artistic Director of Different Strokes! Performing Arts Collective took the cultural organizations survey because, as the director of a theatre arts organization, she knows the struggle of finding suitable, affordable rehearsal spaces. Hickling Beckman points to the challenges of living in a tourist town when it comes to finding affordable space. “Artists are hit harder because we don’t typically work 9-5 or white-collar jobs, which make high rental and property costs more attainable. Most performing artists work in the restaurant business because of the flexibility of hours and the ability to more controllably supplement their income through tips.”

Asheville, Hickling Beckman notes, is hugely self-segregated, as is the artist population. “I truly believe that a project such as what Artspace is proposing, designed to remedy the invisibility of our African American and Latino artists, could be a great start toward healing and change,” she says adding that an artist’s responsibility begins with believing that the arts are a catalyst for social change and transformation.

Artspace has seen similar scenarios in dozens of communities across the United States. The organization notes that artists are often hit harder than other populations due to the fact that in many cases they are paying rent on two spaces: their home and their studio or performance space. This increases artists vulnerability as the cost of living rises. Asheville has been experiencing the effects of this. City Councilwoman Sheneika Smith notes, “This project is a wonderful display of how community-led solutions can help advance efforts to solve Asheville’s housing challenges. I encourage creatives from all artistic disciplines to weigh in so that no other artist or cultural leader is lost to another region.”

For more information and to take the survey by March 26th, visit keepavlcreative.com.



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