What Do Charlotte Creatives Need to Thrive?
Mural by Nick Napoletano in South End
Yesterday, Foundation For The Carolinas (FFTC) announced that it has secured $3.6 million in commitments from Novant Health, Truist, Atrium Health and Red Ventures. This is in addition to the $7.2 million from Charlotte’s private sector FFTC announced last week, putting the total at $10.8 million toward its goal to raise $18 million in support of local arts organizations.
This is part of a new funding plan proposed by City Manager Marcus Jones as a result of recommendations from the Mayor’s Ad Hoc Arts & Culture committee presented in March. These were:
- Establish a third-party Arts and Culture Commissioner;
- Commit to $4 million for the arts and culture sector, contingent upon private sector funding that matches or exceeds this amount;
- In the coming fiscal year, FY 2022, recipients of last year’s ASC grant are to receive funding at FY 2020 or FY 2021 levels, whichever is greater for that institution; and
- Embark upon a cultural study to develop a Comprehensive Arts and Culture Plan.
Following these recommendations, City Manager Jones has proposed increasing the City’s annual budget commitment for the arts to $6 million for three years, tapping into additional funds from the American Rescue Plan. With the above funds organized by FFTC, the total recommended financial commitment to arts organizations would be $36 million over three years starting in the City’s FY 2022, which begins July 1, 2021.
What’s in the City Manager’s Plan?
In the May 3 “City Manager’s Message” that accompanied the City’s draft FY 2022 budget, City Manager Jones said:
“This funding and administrative structure is recommended for the next three years to provide stability while the cultural study is being completed to develop a longer-term, broader strategy to support arts, culture, and artists in an equitable, inclusive manner. The Arts Commissioner will work with an advisory board to lead the cultural study. The advisory board will be reflective of the community and be comprised of appointments from public and private sector funders. This proposal provides pathways to support our cornerstone arts and cultural organizations and artists in the short term, while simultaneously working collaboratively towards a long-term strategy.”
Click here to read the City Manager’s Message.
The “Classic Black” exhibit at the Mint Museum Randolph mixed 18th-century ceramics with local artist OWL’s contemporary art – a great collaboration
Increased funding for arts, culture and creativity in Charlotte is exciting. It’s an important step. We are optimistic about the political will being shown for our vision of a healthy, growing, all-embracing creative community.
That said, it’s one step. There are many more that need to follow to realize the true potential of how that increased funding can transform Charlotte.
We want to work with the City of Charlotte and the community at large to ensure that plans and spending decisions will be made with an understanding that smaller, diverse grassroots arts organizations and individual gig creatives are the lifeblood of the creative sector and deserve equitable consideration alongside larger cultural institutions.
Every independent creative is a small business. Their work creates opportunity, shares diverse perspectives, enhances Charlotte’s quality of life and contributes to the local economy in every corner of the city.
As future arts planning & infrastructure discussions commence, we’re asking community leaders to ensure that independent creatives and grassroots groups will be given the opportunity to provide counsel on the issues that affect them. The challenges they face are often quite different from those facing larger institutions.
We are pushing for continued collaboration. The resources Charlotte creatives need extend beyond the vital funds provided by the City or the County. We want to engage stakeholders that include arts organizations, creative individuals and the business community to address training, affordable space, fair compensation and more.
Last year’s Arts, Culture and Creativity Fund, which distributed CARES Act funds donated by the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, was entrusted to and managed by FFTC, Arts & Science Council, Hue House and Charlotte Is Creative. It was a team effort and focused on providing funds to grassroots arts, culture and history nonprofits and independent creatives who were ineligible to apply for many other COVID-related grants and funds. This effort modeled collaboration and was able to allocate $1.2 million to fund the often unfunded.
We want the collaborative spirit that guided that effort to infuse future work. We hope it can be a template for the future.
Ultimately, we want Charlotte to be known far and wide as a place where small and mid-sized creative businesses can flourish alongside larger legacy organizations.
Report on What Creatives Need in Charlotte
Click this image to read the report.
As a step in this direction, Charlotte Is Creative recently worked with EY wavespace to convene a diverse group of 43 “gig economy” creatives and representatives of grassroots arts organizations to seek their thoughts on what is needed to sustain a thriving creative community in Charlotte.
The goal of the session was to create a “first draft” of guiding principles intended to act as guardrails for future decisions, with a focus on initiatives that will help the entire community thrive. The guiding principles are intended for use by any stakeholders developing plans or policies that impact the future of Charlotte’s creative ecosystem. Some of the insights gathered were that our community needs to work together to:
- Increase affordable space for creatives
- Help creatives scale their businesses
- Engage a highly diverse creative community in decision making
- Provide business mentorship and training for creatives
There are many other insights available in this report. Click here to read the document and see the creatives who provided input for it.
Tapping into the Wisdom of Our Creative Community
From our work on the EY wavespace report above and every project we’ve undertaken over the past five years, we’ve seen that local creatives are ready, willing and able to share their creative passions, share their inimitable perspectives and embrace community-wide collaboration whenever given the chance.
Rather than grassroots organizations and independent creatives fighting for a seat at the current table, why not build a new table — one big enough and inclusive enough that no one is overlooked? With the City advocating for a comprehensive arts plan and a review board to assist arts leadership, the door is open and the time seems right.
If the City’s plans persist as proposed, there is an opportunity to provide space for a wide array of vantage points. We’ll be the stronger for it and the potential of our city’s creative community will only be realized when all are heard.
We Have an Important Opportunity
Street performer at Charlotte SHOUT! 2019
The post-pandemic world is eyeing Charlotte as one of America’s next creative hotbeds. That’s an incredible opportunity. And the opportunity is now. A recent report from the Brookings Institute said:
“Arts, culture, and creativity are one of three key sectors (along with science and technology as well as business and management) that drive regional economies. And the creative sector’s role in our life and well-being extends far beyond its direct economic function.”
Creatives at every level in Charlotte understand that. With an equitable increase in funding and a strong, influential voice in the conversation, they’ll help make the Queen City one of the most sought-after creative communities in the country.
Charlotte Is Creative is eager to help our city create that future.
Matt Olin & Tim Miner
Co-Founders of Charlotte Is Creative
Co-Publishers of The Biscuit
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