What would Asheville be if it wasn't quirky, original and "weird"? Let's not find out. Preserving Asheville's cultural heritage is a vital economic interest to the region and critical to what makes this city home for so many. Rising prices and conflicting interests threaten that rich culture, and the time to act is now, rather than waiting until the artists and arts have moved on.
Five Concepts for Maintaining Asheville's Unique Character
1. Preserve the art and tradition of busking downtown
What does this mean? Rich supports the Asheville Busker Collective's compromise plan that would have let downtown artists and musicians police themselves, addressing problems of space and noise, and would have created more space for talented performers to ply their trade.
2. More and smaller festivals for locals
What does this mean? Every Ashevillean has a quirky neighborhood party they miss. Others, not so much. Asheville needs to re-engineer its focus on festivals away from big regional draws, towards more small events, including resources and permitting to make it easier for neighborhoods to put on their own block parties and unique get-togethers.
3. Hotel tax dollars for art studio space
What does this mean? Asheville hotels charge their guests a 6% surcharge which, by law, can only be used by a Tourism Development Authority (TDA) for advertising hotels and projects that increase tourism. Without an unlikely change in state law, the city can't access those funds to use as it likes. But it can access them in places where tourist interests and local interests overlap. One of those is the need for affordable art studio space in the rapidly-gentrifying River Arts District. The city should press the TDA to use hotel tax funds to buy and maintain permanently affordable studios for beginning and small-time artists. Over time, the scope of those funds should be expanded into needed infrastructure for locals, but let's start with what the law allows and keep artists living and working in town.
4. More public art
What does this mean? Asheville isn't Asheville without its murals and funky touches. Rich even helped originate a never-before-attempted collaboration between the state and city to embed art in West Asheville sidewalks. These efforts led by countless devoted community members need city resources and planning to see through. The City's Cultural Commission and staff should streamline the process of generating and approving art with an eye to using city funds and spreading them equitably across the city.
5. Require local art in hotels
What does this mean? "The McKibbon Standard" again. Downtown developers should make a commitment to buy and use local artists' work if they're seeking approval from the city. It makes no sense for an arts city to use out of area artists in hotels and offices.