Let POPAsheville fend for itself

I am extremely offended and affronted by "Saving POPAsheville" [July 1 Xpress]. Never have I ever read such a thinly veiled advertisement for a failed financial venture masked as a piece of journalism. Why are we responsible for $15,000 that is essentially paying for one person's salary ("As [Stephanie] Morgan explains it, $12,000 would pay for Hackett to take on the full-time job of festival director, which takes more than 600 hours of work"), which has been left until a made-up two-week due date because the previous organizer "hasn't had time" to pursue financial sustainability?

The gall of these two women to ask this of our community, which is continuously dealing with unemployment, poverty and other effects of the recession too numerous to list, is simply absurd.  On top of this, the writer is blatantly biased (writing with such sickeningly sweet melodrama, including phrases like "legions of dedicated fans," "wild success" and "indie phenomenon"). For Mountain Xpress to print this article causes me to lose much of my respect for the publication's journalistic integrity. It reads much more as one friend doing another friend a favor.

Numerous questions arise, such as: Why is the festival not looking to create a core group of 10 volunteers, each donating (for free) a manageable 60 hours of their time, even if only for this year? Especially if there are "legions of dedicated fans," this should be an easy task. Why can't the timeline be modified to give the organizers more time to pursue corporate sponsors rather than appealing to the public? What is POPAsheville contributing to the community that we can't live without or that one of the numerous other music festivals can't pick up? Hundreds of nonprofits that are actually providing essential services to the people in this community are struggling with financial challenges because of decreased giving and increased need.

I challenge Xpress to dedicate as large of a weekly space to the work of our community agencies, to whom even $1,000 would mean a significant increase in volunteers or basic supplies. As for Ms. Morgan, who "hasn't had time" to ensure the continuation of this festival, I'm absolutely not going to be responsible to clean up her mess. 

Arts and Entertainment Editor Rebecca Sulock responds: The news about POPAsheville appeared in an A&E column entitled "Spork," a mix of snippets about the area's art and music communities. The column wasn't intended as a detailed look at POPAsheville's financial situation or its place among other agencies looking for funding; we intended to let readers know about a call put out by Morgan, founder of one of this community's popular grassroots festivals. We included contact information for POPAsheville for those looking for further information. On a related note, in lean economic times, music and art often have an even more important role to play in our human struggle.

— Mara McLaughlin
West Asheville

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9 thoughts on “Let POPAsheville fend for itself

  1. Do your homework before launching such bitter attacks.
    You ask:
    “Why is the festival not looking to create a core group of 10 volunteers, each donating (for free) a manageable 60 hours of their time, even if only for this year?”
    I was one of a large group of volunteers who worked with POPAsheville.
    You ask:
    Why can’t the timeline be modified to give the organizers more time to pursue corporate sponsors rather than appealing to the public?
    Ms. Morgan and the festival committee worked tirelessly over the past three years and is grateful to the many corporate sponsors and the public who supported this festival.

    You ask:
    “What is POPAsheville contributing to the community that we can’t live without or that one of the numerous other music festivals can’t pick up? ”
    The arts add much to the life of Asheville. Yes, Asheville can live without Bele Chere, Shindig on the Green, Goombay, Downtown After Five, PopAsheville and the many other festivals in town. But the vibrant arts and music community is one of the things which make Asheville a great place to live and in addition music and the arts help drive the tourist economy Asheville depends on.

    Having volunteered with numerous festivals and events, I can truly say that POPAsheville is one of the best run grassroots efforts I’ve encountered. It was a labor of love for Ms Morgan and all of those who volunteered our time.
    Your personal attacks on Ms Morgan are unwarranted and totally off-base.

  2. James L

    Quote – “On top of this, the writer is blatantly biased (writing with such sickeningly sweet melodrama, including phrases like “legions of dedicated fans,” “wild success” and “indie phenomenon”)”

    I think both letter writers critical of this notion are spot on about the typical overhype and ego stroking associated with these events by certain supporters. That is the issue upsetting to many hard working people in this community who would otherwise support such endeavors. Many are beyond tired of hearing about how they need to support the stupendously successful, groundbreaking and world renowned talents behind the next failed local copycat event aspiring to be the next national phenomenon.

    Asheville can really benefit from local talent, but first it has to clear the forest of the posers, pretenders and egotists so some genuine talent might rise through the muck to demonstrate real culture, creativity or art within the community that claims itself as a center for such things. When there is genuine talent involved, rather than narcissism and vanity, these event have a way of becoming successful in their own right without artificial support or subsidies.

    It’s always a disappointment to find another local festival or event turn into little more than a shallow exercise in self promotion and egotism. It’s not about bitterness or jealousy when folks just want to see the genuine article, but can only find imposters.

  3. Mara M

    Thank you James L for your comments. It’s nice to see others in Asheville being critical (constructively) about how our arts community functions.
    Mr. Talley, I think you missed some of the points of my letter. As someone who has a background in human services, this article, which clearly asks for a large sum of money to go to someone’s salary, really made my heart drop when so many non profits who provide ESSENTIALS to the community are going out of business because of lack of funding. I absolutely agree with Ms. Sulock that music and art have a lot to offer the community, but asking people to fund $12000 for someone’s salary when even $1000 donated to organizations like United Way or Manna FoodBank would reach a lot more? My question is this: what is more important? That we have another festival for local musicians to play at, or resources like free health services for uninsured musicians to keep them alive and in Asheville? Mr. Talley, I did not imply that POPAsheville didn’t have volunteers, instead I proposed that it was volunteer run(therefore negating the need for $12000 in two weeks) and otherwise corporately sponsored (my math leaves $3000, which is doable with corporate sponsorships). My gripe is with the large amount of money being asked from a hurting community, not POPASheville as a festival itself.

  4. M. Helena

    Neither The Arts and Entertainment Editor nor DonTalley in their support of POPAsheville answered what I think is the most critical question posed by Ms. McLaughlin:

    “Why are we responsible for $15,000 that is essentially paying for one person’s salary?”

    While I DO agree that the festivals and arts involvement are what make Asheville great, it’s the lack or organization and thoughtful planning at times like these where organizations like POPAsheville fail. Working “tirelessly” includes setting forth action to ensure that the citizens of Asheville aren’t responsible for paying solely for one person’s wages. If POPAsheville is concerned about providing for it’s legions of fans, then their profits would be circulated as music among them rather than handed in a neat lil’ envelope to Hackett.

    DonTalley is understandably connected to the cause, and I commend him for that. I volunteer too, sir. However, I find it a bit hypocritical that the Ashevillians patting themselves on the back can be so hypocritical:

    If a local soup kitchen was featured in an article about all the citizens it fed, but it ran short of food because of the inattentiveness of the last director, AND THEN asked if 15 thou could be donated so that the new head would get some spending money… DonTalley would take to the streets burning his Sarah Palin in designer clothes effigies.

    So upon last consideration, I don’t mind so much about Ms. Hackett’s bid for a donation of salary, because I’m not going to have anything to do with it. Her lovely supporters can fund her hemp candle collection.

    I’m putting my money where my mouth is with my annual donations to United Way and NC donations to The Starkey Foundation. How silly of me.

  5. James L

    I think it behooves real supporters of the arts in Asheville to speak up about the rampant overindulgence in self promotion and overhype that all too often accompanies locally produced initiatives. All the blowing sunshine and false bravado that seeks to attain unearned fame really discredits the genuine talent in the community, making it difficult to find an audience.

    If 90% of the movies in a video store are junk with stunning quotes from movie reviewers plastered all over the box, nobody’s going to bother trying to see the decent 10% in the store. The only way to combat the trend is to stop supporting the use of such tactics and demand legitimacy instead of cheering along in a mutual admiration society and throwing money at it.

  6. Mara writes:
    “My question is this: what is more important? That we have another festival for local musicians to play at, or resources like free health services for uninsured musicians to keep them alive and in Asheville?”
    I commend your work in helping others and share your concern for homelessness, health care, and other social issues. I also would encourage folks to support Manna Food Bank, United Way and the many other fine organizations. But at the same time, I think it’s reasonable to support music and arts also. I think POPAsheville, Goombay, LAAF, Shindig, LEAF, and the many other festivals add quite a bit to Asheville (and it’s economy) and would hate to see Asheville without them.

    Let’s work together to support both social concerns and local music and artists. It doesn’t have to be an either or situation.

  7. In response to M.Helena:

    I commend your support of local charities and I urge others to suppport them as well. ON that we can both agree.

    I think the questions raised in the letters to the editor are a “tempest in a teapot” and an attempt to raise undue negative publicity about a successful event.

    Note that POPAsheville didn’t ask for public taxpayer funding in the article.

    The article quotes Ms Morgan as follows: “We need a philanthropist or a business that’s really looking to get its name out there,” Morgan offers”

    That’s not an unusual request. Most festivals seek advance funding through corporate sponsorships or philanthropists…so why single POPAsheville out for criticism?

    To learn about the mission ofPOPAsheville and it’s current request , visit the festival website ( http://www.popasheville.com/ )

    Festivals dont just happen. Once festivals reach a certain size, it is no longer feasible to manage the festival entirely with volunteers.

    Other festivals employ paid staff as they grow and expand. POPAsheville was open and honest about how it’s funds would be used and I commend them for their openness.

    It seems like wise planning to secure adequate funding prior to the festival. Raising ticket prices to cover the expense of putting on the festival is certainly an option but there is a limit as to what the community can afford to pay for tickets.

    Maybe POPAsheville and other festivals will fade away…and if so the world want come to and end. Life will go on.

    The letters in question made strong accusations without providing any factual basis….and that shouldn’t go unchallenged.

  8. jonnyjumpsuit

    if you don’t want to contribute to pop asheville then don’t.
    i think it is absurd for people to use this public forum to belittle other people’s artistic endeavors and then tout their own altruism and desire for “real culture and creativity.”
    pop asheville has been a great festival. they are not demanding support. they are asking.
    the tone of the article and the organizer’s intentions said no more than “hey, we need some help to keep this going, if you want to help then do, if not, we will call it a day.”
    why is all this negativity coming from such truly creative altruistic people in this impersonal forum?
    go take a walk.

  9. Kenny

    Well, according to their site they are not going through with the event. So everyone can stop talking about it until 2011.

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