The Overlook with Matt Peiken

A Voice in the Huddle | Katie Cornell of ArtsAVL

April 17, 2024 Matt Peiken Episode 151
A Voice in the Huddle | Katie Cornell of ArtsAVL
The Overlook with Matt Peiken
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The Overlook with Matt Peiken
A Voice in the Huddle | Katie Cornell of ArtsAVL
Apr 17, 2024 Episode 151
Matt Peiken

LISTENERS: Have thoughts about this episode? Send them my way!

Just as Asheville’s arts community has evolved, so too has ArtsAVL. It changed its name just a year and a half ago from the Asheville Area Arts Council and, even before the pandemic, refocused its mission from service to advocacy.

My guest today is Katie Cornell, executive director now in her fifth year with ArtsAVL. We talk about that mission shift and the work that goes into gathering the data to inform her advocacy with elected officials at the city, county and state.

We also talk about where arts tourism fits into the city’s marketing efforts and how rising real estate costs are potentially pushing artists’ workspaces and arts organizations out of Asheville.

01:32 Shifting Focus: From Small Town Model to Community Support
02:36 Data-Driven Decisions: Navigating Through the Pandemic
07:08 Advocacy and Funding: Transforming Arts Support in Asheville
11:02 Creative Economy Insights: Jobs, Impact, and Future Challenges
16:20 Arts and Tourism: Navigating New Challenges
23:40 Affordable Spaces for Artists: A Growing Crisis
29:15 Looking Ahead: Solutions and Strategies for Asheville's Arts Community

Wake Up, Asheville! and ¡Despierta Asheville!  (in Spanish) are new morning newscast podcasts that give you all the local news you need to know in under five minutes. Both are free to subscribe/follow wherever you get your podcasts!

SPONSOR: Asheville City Soccer Club home games run through June 29 for the women's team and July 13 for the men's team at Greenwood Field on the UNC-Asheville campus.

Support the Show.

Support The Overlook by joining our Patreon campaign!

Advertise your event on The Overlook.

Instagram: AVLoverlook | Facebook: AVLoverlook | Twitter: AVLoverlook

Listen and Subscribe: All episodes of The Overlook

The Overlook theme song, "Maker's Song," comes courtesy of the Asheville band The Resonant Rogues.

Podcast Asheville © 2023

Show Notes Transcript

LISTENERS: Have thoughts about this episode? Send them my way!

Just as Asheville’s arts community has evolved, so too has ArtsAVL. It changed its name just a year and a half ago from the Asheville Area Arts Council and, even before the pandemic, refocused its mission from service to advocacy.

My guest today is Katie Cornell, executive director now in her fifth year with ArtsAVL. We talk about that mission shift and the work that goes into gathering the data to inform her advocacy with elected officials at the city, county and state.

We also talk about where arts tourism fits into the city’s marketing efforts and how rising real estate costs are potentially pushing artists’ workspaces and arts organizations out of Asheville.

01:32 Shifting Focus: From Small Town Model to Community Support
02:36 Data-Driven Decisions: Navigating Through the Pandemic
07:08 Advocacy and Funding: Transforming Arts Support in Asheville
11:02 Creative Economy Insights: Jobs, Impact, and Future Challenges
16:20 Arts and Tourism: Navigating New Challenges
23:40 Affordable Spaces for Artists: A Growing Crisis
29:15 Looking Ahead: Solutions and Strategies for Asheville's Arts Community

Wake Up, Asheville! and ¡Despierta Asheville!  (in Spanish) are new morning newscast podcasts that give you all the local news you need to know in under five minutes. Both are free to subscribe/follow wherever you get your podcasts!

SPONSOR: Asheville City Soccer Club home games run through June 29 for the women's team and July 13 for the men's team at Greenwood Field on the UNC-Asheville campus.

Support the Show.

Support The Overlook by joining our Patreon campaign!

Advertise your event on The Overlook.

Instagram: AVLoverlook | Facebook: AVLoverlook | Twitter: AVLoverlook

Listen and Subscribe: All episodes of The Overlook

The Overlook theme song, "Maker's Song," comes courtesy of the Asheville band The Resonant Rogues.

Podcast Asheville © 2023

Matt Peiken: Tell me about the recent mission shift from service to adcvocacy.

Katie Cornell: We are a 70 plus year organization, one of the oldest arts councils in the United States, second arts council in North Carolina. And during that time, the organization has had its highs and lows.

And what had happened when I came along in this role is the arts council was still acting like a small town arts council, which was not wrong. They were not doing anything wrong for what an arts council typically does. But Asheville is not a typical community and basically the arts community had outgrown What the arts council was offering.

Matt Peiken: Be specific in what ways it was operating like a small town arts council. 

Katie Cornell: So typically in most counties in North Carolina, the arts council is the center for the arts particularly in Western North Carolina, we are the largest arts community in Western North Carolina by far.

And so typically an arts council has an exhibition space and maybe artists studios and they are that hub, they're presenting organization. 

Matt Peiken: And you had that in the refinery building on Coxe. 

Katie Cornell: Yeah. So that's what I mean. The arts council was very much following that same model, but we have 30 arts galleries alone in downtown Asheville.

And we have a ton of presenting organizations. And so what was happening is the arts council was competing with other arts organizations instead of supporting them, which is the primary role of an arts council is to support the arts in their designated County. 

Matt Peiken: So how did you go about making that shift? It seems like quite a big pivot. And so going from the small town arts organization model, what did you shift to? And how did you do it? 

Katie Cornell: First we went on a large listening tour and just heard from our arts community what they wanted, as well as from our community leaders. So we are this large arts Mecca, but we have no designated staff for arts and culture at either city or county.

And so there is not the same kind of arts representation as we typically find in an area that had that. This much concentration of arts. And so we needed to hear also from community leaders about what their expectations were, what their assumptions were and how we might get at the table and what we learned is there wasn't much data about what was happening in the arts community.

So we have really focused on doing a lot of data and reporting and really making it clear what's happening in our arts community and just how substantial our arts community is and the positive impacts it makes on our community. 

Matt Peiken: So the data you're looking to collect, I imagine has also largely been shaped or at least skewed by the pandemic. Most of your tenure has been since 2020 when the pandemic hit. How has that shaped what kind of data you're looking for? 

Katie Cornell: The pandemic hit a year into my job. And yes, it was very Timely and new and I'll say on our listening tour what we heard that from our arts community that they wanted top of the list Across the board was advocacy for the art sector, a voice at the table And so in order to do that, we needed the data to support it And so before we could talk about the impacts of the pandemic, we needed to know what the arts community looked like prior to the pandemic.

So we put out the creative jobs report, which looked at the creative community from 2015 to 2019 prior to the pandemic. And then we put out another follow up report looking at the creative community during the pandemic. And what we found is our arts community was one of the most impacted industries in Buncombe County.

Matt Peiken: How did you quantify that? Up until that point from what you were saying, there's anecdotal information, supposition. What did that initial data collection find was happening from 2015 through 2019? 

Katie Cornell: So when we started doing creative economy data, it was based on the creative vitality suite which is a national leading data source for arts. But they include a lot more than Typically, the arts would include such as they include culinary arts and breweries.

Matt Peiken: Oh, okay. Okay. 

Katie Cornell: Now that we've been doing this for a while, we've refined our numbers. Creative jobs during the pandemic in that initial creative jobs report, showed 14, 000 jobs. We've refined down what's included so we took out breweries we took out Culinary arts and so we're now in buncombe county at 9 000 jobs. So jobs have gone up, but It's just that we've refined the way that we're looking at it. Okay. And so I don't want people to think jobs went down.

Matt Peiken: Okay. So I'm trying to understand that. So in the 2019 report. It was all meshed together. 

Katie Cornell: The 2019 report was a different definition of the creative economy. 

Matt Peiken: Was it impossible to really do an apples to apples comparison in the 2019 report to reports afterward?

Katie Cornell: Yes, in that we changed the definition of the creative economy this year. 

Matt Peiken: Oh just this. Okay. Wow. Yeah, okay So 

Katie Cornell: That's that's the hard piece is what I can tell you. Here's a better maybe instead of saying It by jobs. I should say that from 2015 to 2019 jobs increased by 24 percent. 

Matt Peiken: So jobs increased By 24 percent in the span from 2015 to 2019, then what are the numbers that you've come up with since then? 

Katie Cornell: And then jobs declined during the pandemic by 18 percent, 

Matt Peiken: which is probably across industries, 

Katie Cornell: but it was more significant across the creative industries because a lot of our venues were shuttered for over a year.

Matt Peiken: Were there any particular areas of the creative workforce that that were especially hit hard. You mentioned the performing arts in particular. Okay. And have those jobs and we're now four plus years past the so called start of the pandemic. Have those jobs rebounded? 

Katie Cornell: In some sense they have, but what happened, we didn't lose as many organizations as some other industries did, but the way that they survive, particularly the nonprofits is they shrink.

Matt Peiken: Talk about that a little bit. 

Katie Cornell: And so they became smaller. They reduced their season so they're not producing as many shows. They might be producing smaller shows. And in order to survive, they had to eliminate positions or they've reconfigured positions. And so there's not as many jobs. It's available as there were prior to the pandemic because we haven't been able to scale, right?

So one big thing that we're looking at this year that's going to be impacting particularly nonprofit arts organizations is a lot of the federal aid that has been available since the pandemic over the last few years ends this fiscal year. And as we move into July one, which most of our nonprofits are on July one to June 30 fiscal year, they won't be having any more federal aid.

Matt Peiken: So let's back up a minute. We were talking about the shift to advocacy and before we dive into the survey results and other things you've found out. Talk about what kind of work you're doing in advocacy that just wasn't being done before. 

Katie Cornell: Data and reporting and representation. We sit a lot of different tables and really are both listening and communicating back what's happening in our creative sector.

We have a director's round table group. that I meet with monthly that is all the executive directors of all the nonprofit arts organizations. And so it's really helpful for me as I am that voice for the arts to hear what they're dealing with and have that direct connection with them ongoing. 

Matt Peiken: Talk about who you're talking to. You're hearing from a lot of the people in the arts, executive directors and others. Where are you taking your advocacy and who is your audiences for what you're finding and hearing? 

Katie Cornell: So I work very closely with city and county, particularly city and county staff Although I've talked to a lot of our elected officials as well. But When I first started, both city and county had pretty much defunded the arts.

The only funding that was really being offered was through strategic partnership grants. And that funding was going down every year. And so one of the first advocacy initiatives we did is really chart this over several years, to be able to show them the decreases in arts funding and where their investments were going.

Matt Peiken: What were they funding? What were cities and counties funding that you were defining as arts related funding that was then being pulled away? 

Katie Cornell: Different programs. Like with the city and the county, there was some support for city owned facilities, such as like the art museum and the Wortham.

And that support continued to go away a lot of like school programming, that kind of thing. And what is happening now is that we've been able to build a trusted partnership with both city and county is they are Giving us the funding, the arts avl as a block grant And then we are through our grant programs re granting that funding out and so Now we are re granting funding on behalf of both the county and the city 

Matt Peiken: and the state I mean at the and the state and that's always been at the ground level of re granting the just be clear and correct me if i'm wrong in this that arts councils In general, regional arts councils serve as a regranting agency from state arts funds.

So I didn't know you were also handling money from the city and county. Now what were you hearing from county and city officials as to why funding had been pulled before? Was it just because nobody from the arts was at the table advocating? What was happening? 

Katie Cornell: Yes, that lack of representation and really understanding what was going on.

And then it was also really complicated just administering the funding. The way that it was being done at the time ,It wasn't as transparent as it could have been and there was some resentment from different arts organizations about why certain people were being funded and certain people weren't being funded.

And what we've been able to do is offer a very transparent process. It's very clear exactly why you got funding. We give you your scores and your rating and help you improve your applications. If you Don't receive funding. 

Matt Peiken: what kind of re granting mechanisms are coming from the city and county? Where is this money going and what for? 

Katie Cornell: The arts council's grant programs have grown 98 percent in the last five years. We give out over 95 grants a year through five granting programs and we are currently supporting over 60 different non profit arts organizations in Buncombe County.

Matt Peiken: Is there also granting for individual artists within that realm? 

Katie Cornell: We have an artist support grant, which is part of a grant program. With the state it's actually a program of the north carolina arts council and it's a regional grant, So we're part of one of the granting regions, six county region for Artist support and so that's to help emerging and established artists take the next step in their career. And so one of our goals on our agenda is to grow that program for buncombe county And provide more support. 

Matt Peiken: So there's two strands here that we're talking about. One is you're serving as an advocate for the arts to legislators, and you're also administering funds from state, county, and city level. What else has happened in your time with ArtsAVL? What else has been developing? And then we'll get to some specifics through the surveys that you've Gathering from people in the arts community.

Katie Cornell: Sure if you would like to know the arts and culture block grant from the county supports our grassroots arts grant program which is the state funding that we receive and regrant So the county is providing a match to the state funding And that is grants to non profit arts organizations for operating and programs. And then county funding also supports Our arts bill community grant, and those are for public art projects in underserved communities.

And then county funding also supports our reporting and data. They sponsor our partnership with riverbird research at the Asheville area chamber of commerce.

Matt Peiken: Now what kinds of questions are you asking now? What are key things that you're trying to find out through your surveys that embolden or empower your advocacy on a public level?

Katie Cornell: So in our data and reporting that we do on a yearly basis in that partnership with Riverbird Research, which has been a fantastic partnership, is really looking at the creative economy both understanding sales through industries as well as jobs through creative occupations and the demographic breakdown.

That's another area where we were really missing is understanding the demographics of creative jobs. 

Matt Peiken: That's still ongoing, that research, you don't have any findings to report on that yet, do you? 

Katie Cornell: I can't report on the latest, but what I'll tell you overall is what we found is creative jobs tend to be more diverse than as far as races and ethnicity goes than the population of Buncombe County. 

Matt Peiken: So when you're getting this information, what's the overall goal in terms of when you're talking with legislators and other people who are enacting public policy, what are you hoping to achieve through this research?

Katie Cornell: The arts have to be able to speak the language of legislators and really the lens they look through is through jobs and sales. They want to track those kind of impacts and so to be able to quantify that and Help them understand what a large impact the arts is having on our community really Helps bring home the need for this community. 

Matt Peiken: In a way, that's very pragmatic and it must be teeth gnashing in a way for anybody in the arts, because we know the impact of the arts, a lot of it is unquantifiable. It doesn't have anything to do with the financial bottom line, but you're saying the way to make any impression here and to make a difference, it has to be something in the bottom line. What do you think that does when it comes back to artists about how they have to shape what their impact is.

Is there a potential that when everything is boiled down to dollars, that it shapes the art that we produce and how we present it publicly, just so we can have numbers that are boosted and bottom lines that create a bigger public impression?

Katie Cornell: I think it's a two way street. So I think jobs and sales are important, but for elected officials, community impact is also really important. And so being able to communicate that we are reaching underserved communities and how many people are being impacted and Implementing metrics on the positive impact. Our latest arts and economic prosperity report really included survey data about audiences and the value they placed on these experiences. And so there's a way to get at that. 

Matt Peiken: How do you get at that? 

Katie Cornell: There's the emotional piece that you'll never get unless you're sitting there in the audience. And that is really hard to communicate in data, but we get close and, we also do share like impact stories. And you have the overall larger impact data that really shows the full force of the arts community. And then you have those hearts -pulling stories about impact. 

And so those impact stories are really important for communicating, we have our authors that go into our schools and be able to talk about, connecting that with youth is really important. That's a way to do that. I'll say that writers and authors are one of our top five creative jobs. And so we can definitely communicate their impact. 

Matt Peiken: When we're talking about economic impact and Asheville, we think of tourism a lot. And when I first moved here in 2017, I was hearing how arts tourism was big in this region. And just from my own observation, It seemed like the food and beverage industry really overran that in terms of marketing and public facing marketing that I was seeing coming from Explore Asheville and others.

I wanted to get your sense. Have the arts had to start competing more just to be seen in a tourism marketing standpoint with the food and beverage industry. Are we trailing behind that? 

Katie Cornell: I think they go hand in hand. lot of times When you're going out and experiencing arts and culture, you're also experiencing food and beverage, right?

And I think that Explore Asheville has really been trying to Enhance their arts marketing. We've been actually working with them over the last year. In particular, around performing arts, and so one of the things that we saw in our Arts and Economic Prosperity Report findings from Americans for the Arts, is the year that they looked at was 2022, and during that time that was one of our top tourism years. But our attendance for arts events went down by about 26%. 

Matt Peiken: That's really stark, especially in a big year for tourism. What do you attribute that to? 

Katie Cornell: Because of the pandemic, people were attending a lot more things outdoors. And so the outdoor economy really went up at that time.

As well as our arts organizations didn't have as many offerings because they were in full recovery mode from the pandemic. And I have to give it to Explore Asheville. They came to us recognizing that we had identified that this was an area of need and they did a whole series of round table listening sessions with non profit venue operators to really get at what was going on and see how they could help.

And they have really been trying to target that in their marketing moving forward particularly through like social media and articles and such. 

Matt Peiken: I wish it was more than nonprofit performing arts. You think about contemporary music and you think about local clubs like Fleetwoods and Gray Eagle and Orange Peel and 

Katie Cornell: so they are orange peel is a listening session started with nonprofits, but they are including music venues.

Oh, they are. Yeah. And so they actually we just did it. Our last town hall was on arts marketing presented with explore Asheville and they they did a whole survey of these venue operators and those results were presented at that town hall and on our website. 

Matt Peiken: Is there any talk that you're having with the explore Asheville around occupancy taxes and turning some of that money over into a dedicated arts fund? 

Katie Cornell: So, two things, there has been some talk about whether or not occupancy tax funding can be used to support affordable housing for service workers.

And so definitely pay attention to that. But really our occupancy tax funding is the only source for particularly non profit arts organizations to renovate their space. It's the only capital funding really available locally for that. And so a lot of the renovations to our creative spaces have been funded through the occupancy tax.

The Wortham Center's renovation, the art museum, LEAF, the YMI. I

Matt Peiken: know there's talk around even Thomas Wolfe that some of that renovation being covered. There's 

Katie Cornell: There's funding from the new lift fund that's going to support some of the repair work that's being done on the facility right now, as well as potential investment of a renovation of the space.

And it's very key funding, but what I'll say is. We don't have the same tools in our toolbox as most communities have as far as arts funding And it would be helpful to see additional taxes like a food and beverage tax which typically supports arts and culture be put in place here in our community as well. 

Matt Peiken: When you say we don't have as many tools in our toolboxes other communities You're talking about specifically taxes in our inability here locally to enact taxes Is that what you're referencing because the state legislature has a stranglehold on that? 

Katie Cornell: Yes, adding any kind of additional tax like a food and beverage tax would have to be approved at the state level. But in Raleigh right now they're having a major expansion of their Convention and Visitors Bureau and that's being paid for by a food and beverage tax.

Matt Peiken: Now you have the ear of legislators. Why can this happen in Raleigh and not happen here? 

Katie Cornell: They have a lot more representatives than we do. Really that's part of it is their delegation. And so their voice is a lot larger than ours. 

Matt Peiken: Really? So it's you can get in the ear of Julie Mayfield and Caleb Rudow and Lindsay Prather, but it's only a few people where you're saying Raleigh just has many more representatives. Is that just simply that? 

Katie Cornell: Yeah, and what I'll say too is, we finally got the split change with our occupancy tax and what that took is several different communities coming together and pushing that through as a package. And so it wasn't just Buncombe County wanting an adjustment to their occupancy tax.

And so likely if something like that were to happen, it would be a group of municipalities or counties coming and requesting some kind of new tax. 

Matt Peiken: So just to be clear on that split we were talking about it used to be 75 percent of occupancy tax money went directly back into tourism promotion marketing and 25 percent was more of A fund that was a little more fungible that could be used for a variety of purposes.

Katie Cornell: It's civically supported capital projects for either municipalities or non profit organizations. That are 

Matt Peiken: still connected to tourism to some degree. You can, but it used to be 75. 25, now it's 66. 33.

So now you've mentioned how 2022 it was really big year for tourism drop off in terms of attendance What are you hearing seeing now in results that you can speak of that are more current?

Katie Cornell: i'll tell you so we it's the flip side now. Our studio Like gallery art spaces actually did really well during the pandemic because a lot of people were stuck at home and they redecorated right and so a lot of them had really good sales during that time, even though our performing arts was shuttered.

Last year, we saw a dip in tourism in the fall late summer and fall, and it really impacted sales for a lot of our studios and galleries. And so now that group's more hurting. Because of the slow tourism and I'll say this year started out slow. The beginning of the year is usually slow, but it's starting to pick up now.

And so we're hopeful but one thing that the arts council did recognizing that this was a an area of need last year was implement the arts trolley. And so on second Saturdays, we have a free trolley. We've partnered with Gray Line Trolleys, one that goes around the River Arts District and one that goes around downtown to all these key arts destinations to really make sure we're moving tourists and visitors around all of these key arts areas.

Matt Peiken: How's that working out so far? What kind of reports are we getting about attendance there? 

Katie Cornell: Really positive results. And people are saying that their sales are closely connected to how close they are to a trolley stop location. 

Matt Peiken: One of the things you talked to me when I ran into you a couple weeks ago at this unveiling of the Joseph Pearson public art piece, was talking about affordable spaces and you're getting at that in your latest survey questions. First of all, is that survey still ongoing or are all those resurvey results in and you're tabulating them?

Katie Cornell: They're all in. I'm tabulating them. My hope is to have the report out in early May. So I'm working really hard on it right now. Okay. But we heard from 400 respondees. So 300 of those were arts professionals and a hundred of those were arts businesses. 

Matt Peiken: What can you tell us about what these surveys have shown you around the crisis we're in around affordable spaces, living and commercial spaces?

Katie Cornell: Sure. What I'll say is our survey really focused on affordable workspace versus housing. So we've been hearing for a while now that affordable studio space was an issue.

Of course Center for Craft. Along with other community partners like the Asheville Chamber of Commerce hired Artspace back in 2017 to conduct an arts market study particularly looking at affordable live work space for artists. And that at the time identified that this was an issue. It actually identified a city owned property in the River Arts District.

It's called the Ice House property on Riverside Drive as the ideal location for an affordable live work, mixed use space for artists. And, unfortunately not much has happened with that. 

Matt Peiken: Yeah let's talk about that a little bit. They laid out what this could be, what the cost would be, it's a city owned space.

Now, at the time, I know affordable housing was a big topic even then. It's become more why are we still hung up with that space. From your vantage point, why has the ice house development not happened? 

Katie Cornell: I just think there are other priorities got ahead of it. And then the pandemic hit.

And so my hope is it'll come back up. The city is doing an affordable housing plan right now for the next 10 years. And so that is another reason why we are doing this data right now, so that we can align it with this new plan and make sure arts and culture is not left out of this. But another reason why we are doing this report right now is we started hearing from a lot of our performing arts organizations, our arts businesses as well, that they were also having a really hard time with affordable space. 

Matt Peiken: Yeah, and I want to bring up here, and I alluded to this to you in a note, that, the Magnetic Theater's closure in the River Arts District, they had been around for a long time, and they simply couldn't afford the rent anymore there.

Is this an anomaly, or do you think, is this a telling harbinger of what other Arts groups face? 

Katie Cornell: I think and particularly know from the survey that it's a growing problem. I don't know if you saw but it was just announced that Different WRLD is having to leave their space as well Yeah, West Asheville. So it is becoming more and more of a problem. It's one thing if our artists have to live outside of Buncombe County and commute in and are still doing their business here. But when we start losing the arts businesses, that's a real problem. 

Matt Peiken: I don't know a way around this. When you told me you were doing work or surveying around an advocacy around affordable workspaces, affordable housing and Get in line. Everybody knows that's a problem here. You would think that a city owned property would be the way, or at least a way to help stem that tide because it isn't a profit motive that needs to be established in those properties.

Are we at a real scarcity of properties that can be developed for artists or just anyone of need, whether it's affordable work spaces, living spaces, the things you're advocat for. Do we just not have a lot of opportunity to make these things happen? 

Katie Cornell: I wouldn't say a lack of opportunity.

It's just a lot of competition. Competition how what do you mean? There's just a general focus on affordable housing overall right now, From you know trying to deal with the unhoused and poverty level housing to middle housing, it's a huge wicked problem that is not unique to our area.

It's happening in a lot of areas across the United States right now. And there's all kinds of reports that are happening right now to try and wrap their minds around how to deal with this. It's also an issue in Wake County and Raleigh, but they aren't as Landlocked as we are, they have more space that can be developed than we do right and so My hope is by providing this information and continuing to be an advocate that we can keep our place in line and move our position forward and help make these things happen.

But I do think there's just a lot of different needs right now. 

Matt Peiken: You touched on something I hadn't even thought of when we have all this push and rightfully so for affordable housing and the city uses certain zoning mechanisms and tax increment financing, certain incentives for developers to develop properties that have a certain percentage of housing that's for people who are below the median income to a certain level.

We don't have anything like that to my knowledge for theaters and studios to incentivize development of affordable workspaces. I haven't heard of that program like that. 

Katie Cornell: No, I don't think there is anything like that currently.

And so one of the pieces of our report is we are actually working with a group of interns at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University to do a series of case studies for us about how other communities across the U. S. And so we're looking at it from two different perspectives.

One is affordable live, work space for artists and how other communities are doing that and the other piece is how other communities are implementing arts and cultural programming into affordable housing projects. 

Matt Peiken: Oh yeah. Give me an example of that. 

Katie Cornell: So one example would be like a maker space That is part of an affordable housing community that has partnerships with local arts organizations for arts programming. 

Matt Peiken: Oh, you know i've seen that. I moved here from the twin cities. In st. Paul, there's a big apartment Development with a lot of creatives in there. There's a ceramic studio and a dance studio in this building. Is that what we're talking about trying to develop here? 

Katie Cornell: Yeah, possibly. And just going to see how other people are making it work. 

Matt Peiken: Yeah. I look at the River Arts District and maybe this is something you can't speak to, but it looks like there's all these broken warehouses that would be ripe for development of like a full art center that's live workspaces. But this is all privately owned property. Are you working with the city to help identify areas or buildings or people who can help make these things happen? 

Katie Cornell: Not gotten there yet. No. Okay. And so the, we're taking the initial steps of assessing the issue and understanding what's possible. Yeah, and then we'll move on from there. The river arts district is one of those areas that if we don't do something now, you might as well take the arts out of river arts district in five, 10 years from now. 

So part of this also is assessing all of those art studio spaces and looking at it from both sides. We know that the rents are going up, but why? Yeah. And so part of it is demand. There is large waiting list for all of these facilities. But another big piece of it is the median year for all of these buildings of when they were built is 1927. They're old. Most of our artists spaces, warehouse spaces are super old buildings that require a lot of maintenance and need a lot of maintenance.

The other piece is The value of those properties has gone up about 35 percent in the last five years, and their property taxes have gone up on average of 45%. It makes it hard to keep the rents low.

And so what artists are feeling is those additional costs are being passed on in rising rents and people are trying to deal with this by subdividing spaces and making them smaller, but that makes it more and more difficult to have working artists in a space.

You got to have space to produce the art. And so what you're seeing is more spaces turning into just retail space, which is losing a lot of the value of what the river arts district is. 

Matt Peiken: When we're talking about performing art spaces, something that just came to mind is the former ISIS club, ISIS, which has been sitting vacant now for more than two years.

Do you play a role in helping to get a owner in there who's going to rekindle that theater. Is that not your domain? 

Katie Cornell: It's not my domain. I of course would love to see something happen there. I believe it's still owned by the same people. I'm not sure what, why they have had it vacant.

You would think they'd want to see it reactivated. 

Matt Peiken: Cause we're talking about the RAD and I'm thinking West Asheville might have some potential. If ISIS can be Rekindled somehow it can springboard other well 

Katie Cornell: in one of the really exciting things coming in West Asheville is the whole Blue Note Junction Project the whole creative campus that's being spearheaded by Burton Street Community. 

Matt Peiken: I talked with Dwayne Barton about that a little bit. Do you have a sense of a timeline on that? 

Katie Cornell: They're supposed to break ground in 2025. And so hopefully in the next few years we'll have that. 

Matt Peiken: You mentioned in May you're hoping to have these results from the latest survey out publicly. Do you have a release date when people can expect that? 

Katie Cornell: We will be releasing it as part of our town hall. So we are doing our final town hall event on creative spaces at Asheville Community Theater on May 10th starts at 3.

And we'll be presenting the results of this report and then there will be a panel discussion that really focuses on some of the creative solutions that our creative community have come up with such as blue note junction.

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