The Arts & Science Council has played a very important role in building Charlotte’s current cultural sector. However, due to Charlotte’s significant changes, ASC’s height, brand, and funding capacity have declined significantly over the last 10 to 15 years.
Since the Great Depression, ASC and its subordinate organizations have been anemic. And we cannot overlook the trauma that the pandemic imposes on its ability to raise funds in the cultural sector and provide high-quality, wide-ranging programs.
To further increase these stresses, the demographics and behavior of individual donors have changed dramatically. Charlotte’s art patrons are aging and are being replaced by fast-growing youthful professionals who are generally uninterested in philanthropy or the support of older institutions. These cumulative consequences are a chronically underfunded cultural sector, despite the fact that they have an economic impact of 11,000 jobs and $ 240 million.
The 2019 sales tax referendum did not fail because people did not appreciate Charlotte’s art, but the ASC is vulnerable to public perception. Part of that weakened position was the lack of confidence in where and how those dollars were invested. Larger and more diverse communities may not consider ASCs and their cultural organizations to belong to them. Rather, the cultural sector may be perceived as a state of large corporations and wealthy patrons.
Charlotte has an extensive pool of creative talent that exists everywhere. The new Municipal Cultural Commission needs to include investments in emerging organizations and creative agencies to add jobs and create vibrant and vibrant areas throughout the city. These new, vibrant and happiness-specific districts can become cultural destinations similar to Miami’s Winwood district.
Small creative companies like the Boom Festival have great potential to attract local and perhaps national tourists. Incubator funding for good ideas can be part of fostering a creative ecosystem full of rich entrepreneurship. In addition, the City Cultural Commission has partnered with CMS to provide a curriculum-based arts education program for all large funded organizations to complement and grow the arts, science and history education of the school system. You may be required to do so. However, the funds awarded to organizations must be commensurate with their contribution to Charlotte and its economy.
There are legitimate concerns about the possibility that local governments control the freedom of expression of funded artists and organizations. However, all you have to do is look at successful models in LA, NYC, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, Seattle and Atlanta. All of these have versions operated by the City or City / County of the Department of Culture.
Ideally, Mecklenburg County should be an equal partner in this new initiative and establish the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Cultural Commission to serve the city and county residents. After that, full city / county / enterprise efforts to set up a larger permanent source of funding can secure a budget of $ 18 million annually. It’s time for Charlotte-Mecklenburg to make a bold commitment to our future cultural sector and the potential of our creative economy. They have the potential to be an even greater driver of inclusive engagement, education, community building, placemaking, and economic growth in Charlotte. Now is the time to make this investment.
Suzanne Fetscher is Honorary Chairman and CEO of the McColl Center for Art and Invention.