The first month of the fiscal year for both the city of Asheville and Buncombe County governments has passed. Both cut arts funding in their budgets for the year, and in particular, money to the Asheville Area Arts Council (The council is a business sponsor of Blue Ridge Public Radio). BPR's Matt Bush spoke with Jason Sandford of AshVegas about the reaction to the cuts from the arts community in Asheville.
INTERVIEW EXCERPTS -
What money was cut - The Asheville Area Arts Council was a little taken aback this year when both Buncombe County and the city of Asheville governments cut funding to them. The total amount is about $18-thousand, which is a lot of money to the arts council which has a relatively small annual budget.
What's been the arts council response - Led by the arts council, a number of arts groups have gotten together and discussed how to better make the case for government funding. I think their plan is to continue meeting this summer and come up with a formalized public relations campaign. The other aspect of this is that these groups will be collecting several different data sets that are out there in the community in a way to make their case.
What would a PR campaign for the arts look like - I think that is just communicating not only to government officials but to the public the importance of having art in your community. That is everything visual and performing arts to public murals and public art. The Asheville Area Arts Council really wants to take the lead. They also recognize that their history has been a little up and down. If you go back 8 to 10 years, the council went without an executive director for about a year. Also in that timeframe, the state stopped giving them money that was passed down for local arts grants because they were worried about "the vitality of the (Asheville Area) arts council."
With Asheville being such a non-profit driven town, how can the arts better secure funding - The competition for government dollars that go to these non-profit programs is really stiff. There's hundreds of non-profits asking (Asheville) city and (Buncombe) county governments for grants. What has been happening over the past couple of years - from the city point of view, a lot of their funding has gone to the Asheville Art Museum for a multi-million dollar project to expand it. From the county point of view, they have really been concentrating their non-discretionary funding on programs aimed at issues like the opioid crisis and several social justice programs. So, from the arts community perspective, they're hoping to make the case that arts need to be supported and funded. They are a significant economic driver for the region.