By Susan Patterson, ASC Board Chair, and Krista Terrell, ASC Acting President
We are writing to address the Charlotte City Manager’s recommendations for the arts and culture sector.
We want to be very clear. ASC is excited about the commitment from the City (as well as the private/corporate sector) to increase funding for the cultural sector. However, we are also deeply disappointed that the City developed its cultural sector recommendations without seeking public input from individual artists, creative organizations, residents, or ASC.
For decades ASC has functioned as the designated office of cultural affairs for the City (and Mecklenburg County). In that role, ASC has collaborated successfully with the City on issues facing the sector, ranging from developing a Cultural Facilities Master Plan to most recently working with DreamKey (formerly the Charlotte Housing Partnership) to help local creatives receive mortgage and rent relief dollars. Despite decades of close collaboration, the City also forged ahead with its cultural sector recommendations with no public input from ASC.
Like the rest of the public, ASC has many unanswered questions about what the City’s recommendations will mean for our community. The City has framed its interest in supporting the cultural sector in terms of “stimulating economic development” and “driving tourism”, both worthy goals. But how will the City’s recommendations serve residents? Local creatives? Will the larger organizations benefit equally from the increased dollars or will those that drive tourism receive more significant funding than those that focus on programming for our own residents? Will incubating smaller, emerging organizations and supporting individual creatives be a long-term priority in light of the City’s stated objectives?
Funding creative individuals and arts, science, and history organizations is about more than writing checks. Ensuring grant decisions reflect the diversity of Charlotte requires convening diverse grant making panels — in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation, as well as broad creative disciplines and community perspectives.
That is at the heart of ASC’s work.
While we are grateful that the City’s recommendation includes $800,000 in operating support for ASC for one year (which will help us fund professional development and workshops for individual creatives and organizations of all sizes and CharlotteCultureGuide.com), we are frustrated that the City did not place greater value on our cultural equity work and only committed to support it for one year. So we need your support now more than ever.
Many creative individuals and organizations of all sizes need help navigating the funding opportunities available to them. ASC has — and will continue to — provide technical assistance and coaching to help them grow and thereby cultivate a more vibrant arts and culture sector, again with your support.
We are disheartened that in the current City plan, so little funding has been designated for creative individuals and emerging organizations. Specifically, $500,000 of the total $12,000,000 in committed funds (or 4 percent of the committed funds) will go to ASC to provide grants to this dynamic and growing segment of the sector.
ASC is committed to moving forward in our work to achieve cultural equity.
ASC values community — centering community in all that we do. We lead by listening.
The 2014 Culture Vision Plan, reinforced by the 2020 Community Priorities Survey, has guided ASC’s work. Our residents said they want the arts and culture sector to 1) build community and bridge differences, 2) increase program relevance and innovation for a changing population and close to where people live, and 3) to ensure that our children and youth are critical, creative thinkers by making available arts, science and history programming. The City is aware of these clear directives from our residents yet the recommendations were not tailored to address them.
By contrast, since we initially received this feedback from the community in 2014, ASC has worked to improve efficiency and re-focus our efforts on investing in people, programs and ideas that move us toward a more equitable, sustainable and innovative creative ecosystem.
We ask that you join us in our movement.
How can you help?
- Donate to ASC and ask your friends, families and neighbors to do the same. Every donation in any amount matters.
- Advocate to your City Council representative to revise its recommendations before the budget is adopted on June 4. Ask City Council to:
- Increase the operating support to ASC from $800,000 to $1,000,000 in funding.
- Extend the commitment to fund ASC’s operations at that level from 1 year to 3 years.
- Increase the funding to ASC for grant-making from $500,000 to $1,250,000 to support funding for individual creatives and to address residents’ desires as set forth in the Cultural Vision Plan and the Community Priorities Survey.
- Extend the commitment to fund this grant making activity at that level for 3 years.
In addition, we ask you to advocate to the City Council for a more equitable distribution of dollars for the sector and a more inclusive process as the City and its proposed new Arts Commissioner work to create a new cultural sector plan.
Lastly, City Council needs to hear the voices of local artists and creative entrepreneurs, small and mid-sized organizations like A Sign of the Times, Clayworks and Que-Os as well as large organizations like Charlotte Ballet, Discovery Place and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. They need to hear from ASC, so that our decades of cultural planning experience and accumulated knowledge doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. Most importantly, they need to hear from our residents in every corner of this community: north, south, east and west because that is who they serve.