HATCH Asheville revisited

Aimed at building the creative-arts community and mentoring young professionals, last month’s HATCH Asheville festival was a success, according to organizers and attendees alike. But as with any first-year event, there’s also room for improvement, they say.

HATCH without a hitch: Last month’s HATCH Asheville festival, designed to boost the region’s creative economy and bring together mentors and young up-and-comers, went well for a first-year event, both organizers and attendees say. Photo by Jason Sandford

“A lot of people didn’t have an idea of what it was all about,” notes Craig McAnsh, the festival’s executive director. “The first-year premise for us was proof of concept. So the first year, for me, was about getting as many people as possible to experience it.”

In that regard, the festival “was a resounding success,” he maintains (though as the only paid employee, McAnsh says he’s still collecting data on paid attendance).

The event ran April 15-19, and since then, McAnsh says he’s received positive comments and e-mails from a variety of sources. Sponsors have said they’re on board for next year, and volunteers want to continue their involvement with the festival. Meanwhile, both the mentors and mentees—the festival’s focal point—say that the mingling at panel discussions, workshops and parties was productive, he reports.

“There was a lot of really in-depth dialogue and connections that were made,” says McAnsh. “That collaboration and inspiration is still in the air.”

Tangible results are harder to put a finger on. Connections made at the festival are still developing, he notes. For example, promoter Ashley Capps of AC Entertainment met David McConville, co-founder of the Asheville-based design-and-engineering company The Elumenati at the festival. The two are now talking about putting up one of McConville’s inflatable domes at Bonnaroo (which Capps co-founded), McAnsh reports. And local musician Woody Wood hit it off with Benjamin Taylor, who owns Iris Records, says McAnsh, opening the door to possible collaboration on a project.

That’s the way the event is supposed to work, he explains. Results “don’t necessarily happen right at the festival itself: The dialogue continues in ripples.”

Not everyone is equally upbeat, however. Jim Barton, a semiretired technical writer and environmental educator, attended two afternoon panels. During one, he wrote the following on his Twitter page: “Makes me deeply question Hatch. Who invited such eco-clueless people? They’re mostly under 35.” Asked to elaborate on his criticisms, Barton said he’d rather take up those concerns with event organizers.

Those issues aside, though, “It’s a delight to live in a town where there are so many people willing to volunteer and donate to create artistic, innovative and creative events,” says Barton. “That’s one of the great things about living here.”

Brian Gallagher, an editorial assistant at WNC Magazine and a journalism mentee, says he benefited from working with mentors in his field during HATCH.

“When you get a lot of people together who care about what they do and put them in interesting situations, it ends up being productive, because you get exposed to a lot of new ideas and new conversations,” Gallagher observes. “It’s about sharing your passion with other people that love to do what they do. Everyone kept saying ‘inspiring,’ but it was.”

Still, Gallagher says he’d like to see the festival improve its Web presence and do a better job of explaining itself to the public, particularly people in Asheville. For his part, McAnsh points out that many attendees didn’t venture into more than one area of an event that encompassed everything from journalism, fashion and architecture to technology and design.

For Sam Neill, who heads up the Creative Commerce Division at AdvantageWest, HATCH’s first year was a success, and the event will only get better. The nonprofit, public/private economic-development group, which helped bring the festival to Asheville, has more than $30,000 in taxpayers’ money and private donations invested in it, he notes.

“This is a different model. This is more of an educational process and about economic development—relationship building and helping people network,” says Neill. “We’re trying to cultivate the creative class from the bottom up. I think it’s our future.”



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15 thoughts on “HATCH Asheville revisited

  1. Mysterylogger

    $30.000 dollars of our tax money was used for this useless get together??? Im glad it was something the locals could get into or enjoy, oh it was just for entertainers and artists.

    More wasted tax money thanks Asheiville.

  2. Jen

    Personally I think this project is one for the dust bin. If it were a totally free event I would be more supportive.

    Quote: “Makes me deeply question Hatch. Who invited such eco-clueless people? They’re mostly under 35.” Asked to elaborate on his criticisms, Barton said he’d rather take up those concerns with event organizers.”

    I agree with the above.
    To add to that, I had absolutely no interest in any of the Hatch speakers. Seeing them or hearing them talk about themselves. They need to boost their list with more wisdom and experience to get me intrigued.

  3. AshevilleObserver

    Thank you for following up on this event, which Mountain Express covered extensively before and as it was happening.
    Why is the executive director “still collecting” data on paid attendance? Or unpaid attendance? It seems that data would have been available immediately. How many tickets did you sell?
    Can the reporter give us some data on overall costs of the event, the sources of the funds, how they were spent? Mr. Neill’s “$30,000 in taxpayers’ money and private donations invested in it” is ambiguous. How much of the $30,000 (admittedly a small sum) was tax money, how much private donations?
    Is HatchFest organized as a non-profit? Are its books open to the public?
    Keep digging, Mr. Reporter!

  4. Alison


    I am Alison Watson, Co-Chair to HATCH Asheville and am happy to let people know who the person is behind my comments.

    HATCHfest Asheville is open to the entire Western North Carolina community – artists, enthusiasts and general public. We held educational events including panels, workshops, and keynote speeches that covered a wide range of topics and certainly was attended by many “non-artists”. We also held daily exhibits at galleries all through out town and had receptions each evening. These events were FREE and OPEN to the PUBLIC. Every single one of them.

    We made a point to put all events downtown in a central location, so people could walk.

    We spent TWO YEARS telling the community about this festival and asking publicly for input. We held community brainstorming sessions and tried very hard to make sure it represented our entire region. We also worked with the Chamber, CVB, restaurants and hotels and other folks to pick dates that would fill the town in an otherwise slower time of the year.

    One of our main goals was to connect creative professionals (ranging from designers and architects to photographers and filmmakers) with more work AND to bring in people to the town to help tourism and economic development. The article mentions just a few examples of those successes. If you would like to email me, I am happy to give you a list of many more. These artists and vendors that supported (including many restaurants, hotels, technology companies, event design companies etc) are the same people paying taxes and spending money here.

    So, in response to your comment.. I believe HATCHfest Asheville was for the entire community and we were responsible with all of the money that was given to us to pull off this very successful first year festival.

    Please feel free to contact me personally if you have any questions or feedback about the festival. We are always open to improving it..

    Alison Watson

  5. Mysterylogger

    Two years and didnt hear a Peep about it until the week before hand. Didnt hear about the $30,000 wasted in tax money until now. Glad to know our Tax dollars are being wasted without care for a few folks.

  6. James L

    While I appreciate the stated goals of connecting creative professionals with more work, I believe the questions center on who exactly is qualified to determine what “creative professionals” means in terms of the presenters?

    There were numerous questions about the credentials or qualifications of many contributors to the endeavor. This isn’t another member group of enthusiasts or self proclaimed artists and industry “insiders” like the failed film board or the MAP mailing list. This is a group marketing their skills and experience as a commodity for a price in many instances. The background of many, though not all, were suspect at best, and hardly meeting a level of expertise to qualify themselves as mentors.

    None of this is to say that like minded people cannot benefit from collaboration and support from each other, but when an organization seeks to promote itself as a mentor group in professional trades, they had better have some skills and experience to back it up.

    Right or wrong, there is an unusually large collection of self promoters in Asheville who claim qualification, experience, or entitlements which they simply cannot back up with real expertise. This ongoing lack of authenticity in an industry that could benefit from true economic development is counterproductive to any genuine support or effort to legitimize the region in the various industries. This community needs more professional performers, apprentices, and journeymen. It definitely could benefit from fewer fans, enthusiasts and groupies trying to gain a fan club themselves or presume the mantle of professionals.

  7. Bjorn

    It’s 30,000 dollars well spent. There are investments that transcend monetary value. Incidentally it’s better spent than lining the pockets of politicians! Brooke & all involved did a astonishing job of bringing a much needed transfusion of creativity & energy to town!

    When the essential must be seen

  8. Gordon Smith

    I was able to attend only one HATCH event – the Journalism confab. It was very interesting, and I met some new people there.

  9. Jennifer Saylor

    While I agree with the criticism that HATCH publicity didn’t penetrate the local consciousness (I think too few people understood what HATCH is, so outreach just didn’t take), I think the $30,000 is well spent.

    I think an entrepreneurial festival is a perfect fit with our entrepreneurial town. I welcome the publicity, mentorship and opportunities it brings to our city’s creative class.

    Some people who didn’t go to HATCH seem to be swift to judge it as worthless, wasteful and elitist. I actually went, and found it inspiring and some of the best fun I’ve had all year. My favorite event had free food and was kid-friendly, about as elitist as a hockey game. We made toys.

    Critics: please check it out next year. It’s fun and it’s free. Give it a chance.

  10. Andy

    I always love to support anything involving the arts, and bringing attention to our town as a nurturing place for such. However, I know I am not alone in saying that I was very confused as to exactly what this festival was and how I could take part. From listening to the radio(a lot of it from 98.1), I got the impression that most of the events were invite-only, the purposes of which seemed to be confusing to begin with. Even after reading the reports from HATCHFest, I am STILL confused about what it was.

    Anyway, I think there needs to be a better “primer” for the local folk who are not directly involved with the project for next year.

  11. Gillian Coats

    It seems that the HATCH organizers are aware that they have some things to improve on for next year, and I’m guessing that improved communications to the public about the event would be top of the list. It may be that the promotion of this event was not broad enough, but next year you will hear more about it, especially from the people who attended it this year.

    I attended lots of events that weekend and was VERY impressed by the quality of the mentors, the number of free events, the availability of the mentors to the general public, the organization and efficiency of a huge volunteer staff, and the liveliness that the festival brought to the streets of Asheville.

    When you think about payoffs on the $30,000 in funding from Advantage West you need to consider the revenue generated for the restaurant, bar and business owners who were frequented by HATCH attendees. I know I spent more money downtown that weekend than I normally would.

    An annual event like the HATCH has potential to generate far more revenue for our city and it’s inhabitants as the festival grows. I also appreciate that the organizers choose to hold their festival at a time of year when the tourism trade is at a low.

    I’m already looking forward to next year’s HATCH.

  12. Jim Barton

    I’m the Jim Barton quoted above. My dissatisfaction with the panel is that the seven design “mentors”, when asked how carbon dioxide regulation affected things (I’m not sure whether the question addressed their work, or “the design world) seemed never to have thought about that problem.

    On the brink of a global eco-crisis, predicted by the Club of Rome report in 1972, there are challenges aplenty related to resource overuse and shortages, solar potential, climate mitigation. I was shocked and angered those those awarded mentorships hadn’t given this any appreciable thought.

    The question isn’t that they’re too young, but perhaps that they are too old. The commitment shown by the many Warren Wilson and UNCA students who went to PowerShift09.org, by those entering the Arizona State U sustainability programs lauded by Obama, by blogger Akhila Kolisetty http://bit.ly/12c1al show that there are many folks under the age of 35 thinking deeply about the design challenges se need to solve together.

    They just weren’t on the stage, unfortunately.

    I’m in friendly email contact with Alison Watson. She worked hard on this event, and deserves credit. Perhaps seven panels were too many the first year. She deserves support, and if criticism, then constructive.

    I intentionally didn’t talk about this with the MX reporter. I suppose they could have used the “this is what I’m going to print” gimmick. It wouldn’t have been nice if they weren’t looking for controversy to sell ads– something I’ll talk to the publisher about.

  13. Eric Seeger

    If you read the article, you’ll see that the city was not the only contributor to the sum of $30,000. There were private donations as well. Where the actual numbers land, I don’t know…

    Compared to how the city often throws money into holes (many of which are dug and refilled nightly on College Street), I think whatever their portion of $30,000 was a small and wise investment to bring this event to Asheville.

    While I’m sure there are some points of the event that need to be refined for the future, I think Craig and his team did a very good job putting together the first HATCHfest. It was a huge undertaking, and unless you actually listened to one of Craig or Sean’s speeches, the concept could definitely seem nebulous at first. But I think the concept has well been proven by now. I look forward to seeing how they grow this thing next year.

  14. Gabriel Shaffer

    I support HATCH and its organizers for their hard work and guts to actually accomplish something for the cities creative community, besides bitch about it. Anyone who understands an inkling about organizing a large event, knows that the first few years are about doing your best and working out the kinks. I have no doubt that if the organizers continue to develop this resource, they will transform it into a much needed venue for the gumbo that is Ashevilles creative community.

    My only constructive criticism of Hatch, id like to also see a focus on 2D art and artists, in addition to the other crafts. There are some really great talents in this town that could always use some direction, encouragement and support.

  15. As a Volunteer, Participant, and attendant of as much of the HATCH events as humanly possible, I will say that the experience was invaluable to me on many levels, both personally and professionally. There are always ways to improve upon an inaugural event (HATCH will be around for the next 9 years at least) for next time. I agree with Shaffer, that there was not nearly enough of a focus on 2D art, and the photography events during the fest left much to be desired.
    However, though I was disappointed with the lack of Photographic learning experiences, I was overwhelmed by the opportunity to experience a truly inter-disciplinary environment, where I was exposed to individuals I probably wouldn’t have had a chance to cross paths with otherwise. (Big Hassle, Daytrotter, NASA, PASTE, etc.) That was the point.

    Yes, I have heard a lot of feedback from folks who weren’t aware that most of the events were free and open to the public. Duly noted, I’m sure they’ll take a different approach next year to ensure that their publicity is easily understood by the community.

    As far as the eco-responsibility, on a small scale, separate from one panel where you got Deer in the Headlights responses, Mr. Barton, were you aware that the car-pool/transportation Shuttle service was run by volunteers, I believe in Hybrid cars, ferrying people back and forth to the Grove Park (where most of our Mentors/Speakers were staying) in groups to avoid the use of multiple cars? And that a Volunteer Coordinator PERSONALLY was running Recycling to the Recycling center DAILY rather than rely on the inconsistent city recycling? Maybe small beans compared to some festivals, but “Green” Efforts were made. (Also, I give you only examples I am aware of, I’m sure there was much more environmental planning involved. )

    The Seven Design Panelists were representing seven individual viewpoints/disciplines, not those of the whole festival, so although I understand that your opinion may have been taken out of context, I implore you to put your energy into HATCH so that next year, they meet your Eco-Standards.

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