Written by Paul Clark
Will our region’s growing arts reputation make us the new Austin?
Asheville and Western North Carolina may be known for beer, but we’re also making our name in music and the rest of the creative arts, according to recent studies that for the first time provide tools that the region can use to build its “creative sector.”
The studies suggest what residents already know—Asheville’s reputation as a national arts center is growing, drawing “creatives” from all over the world. The downside, the studies (and experience) suggest, is that the area is becoming too expensive for many arts professionals already here. For better or worse, the region is booming.
Take the Asheville-area music scene. Employment in the sector grew four times faster than expected between 2010-2016, according to a study of the local music industry, conducted by the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Coalition (EDC) and the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce Research Center (more on that below). In eight years’ time, the core of music industry employment, led by musical groups, artists, and instrument manufacturers, grew a “staggering” 76%—778 jobs—according to an Asheville-Buncombe County Economic Development Coalition study that cites a tool that brought together never-before-compiled data on the region’s creative sector.
And consider the Asheville-area visual arts and literary scene. The tool cited above—the Creative Vitality Suite—counted 2,629 photographers, writers and authors, graphic designers, and fine artists in 2016. They were among the 7,993 “creative jobs” in Buncombe County that year, according to the Creative Vitality Suite, a software tool that analyzes “creative” industry labor data of nonprofit and for-profit organizations, as well as of self-employed artists. By comparison, there were 2,571 jobs in the local brewery industry, according to the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce.
The full article continues below. Click to open in fullscreen…