#myculturallife: The cultural sector’s search for a new funding model

Categories: Annual Fund Drive, ASC, Blog, Cultural Partners

By Kristopher Steele, MPA
ASC Planning and Innovation Manager 

In Search of a New Funding Model
For nearly 40 years, Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s cultural sector has been supported through a public-private fundraising model that includes running fundraising campaigns in the workplace and partnering with local and state government to earn and raise the necessary dollars that support cultural institutions, such as the Mint Museum, Carolina Raptor Center, Levine Museum of the New South, Blumenthal Performing Arts and Discovery Place among many others. The money raised is also invested in individual artists, neighborhood projects and arts, science, history and heritage education programs for school children.

This model of private fundraising and public funding has worked well, and throughout the years, Charlotte-Mecklenburg has witnessed an extensive cultural growth. We have seen the Cultural Facilities Master Plans of 1976 and 2004 create a ‘cultural mile’ along Tryon Street in Uptown Charlotte from McColl Center for Visual Art to the new Levine Center for the Arts.  Surrounding towns have also increased their cultural amenities. Additionally, new programs and public art have popped up all over the city and county as a result of the public-private partnership.

However, throughout the past decade, annual funding for the cultural sector has changed and is impacting the progress of arts and culture in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

In fact, since 2002, private sector giving to ASC’s Annual Fund Drive has wilted from $11.6 million to $6.5 million. In similar fashion, local government funding has been reduced by 25% to $6.2 million. This downward trend has happened while Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s population continues to grow by leaps and bounds and the demand for quality arts and cultural experiences increases. Research as part of the forthcoming Cultural Vision Plan shows strong citizen interest in more accessible and relevant programming, innovation, and cultural education.

The Cultural Life Task Force
As leader of Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s cultural sector, ASC along with its public and private partners, is tackling an important community-wide issue: finding a new, healthy and sustainable funding model for the cultural sector.

This work will be done through the Cultural Life Task Force, a 21-member group representing the following organizations: City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, Foundation For The Carolinas, The Greater Charlotte Cultural Trust, Charlotte Chamber, Charlotte Center City Partners, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, University of North Carolina Charlotte, Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.   The task force is chaired by Valecia McDowell, an attorney with Moore & Van Allen and Pat Riley, president of Allen Tate Company.

The task force will begin their work in June 2013 and will likely present their recommendations in January 2014.

How you can engage (#myculturallife)
I encourage you to engage with this important work. From attending public meetings to connecting with us through social media, there are a variety of ways you can learn about the cultural sector and participate in the process.

The first-round of public meetings will take place from 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. at the ASC (227 W. Trade St., Suite 250) on the following dates:

  • Monday, June 10
  • Monday, June 24
  • Monday, July 15
  • Monday, July 29

You can also connect with the task force through ASC’s Facebook page and Twitter Feed using the hashtag, #myculturallife.

The cultural sector is a major player in driving the economy, supporting jobs and more importantly, enhancing our quality of life.  With the work of the Cultural Life Task Force and your help, we will create a new and healthy funding model that will sustain the cultural sector for years to come.