Local creative sector losses in Asheville and Buncombe County

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The Asheville Area Arts Council just released the results of their second COVID-19 Arts Impact Survey, which gathered data about how the pandemic has affected Buncombe County’s creative sector

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Graphic from the Asheville Area Arts Council

The local takeaways

  • $23.1 million: The estimated revenue lost by the local creative sector due to the pandemic since March 2020
  • 504: The amount fewer jobs available in the creative sector compared to last March.
  • 16: The arts businesses that reported they are likely to close in the next three months (out of a total of 58 that responded).
  • 38%. The percentage of arts professionals currently making enough from creative sector jobs to support themselves financially. Before COVID, 68% of arts professionals were able to cover expenses through these jobs.
  • 20%. The percentage of arts professionals who report receiving unemployment during the pandemic.
  • 179: The total number of survey respondents.
  • Respondents’ reported needs for 2021 include rent forgiveness, affordable spaces to work, rehearse + perform post-COVID, rebuilding patronage, staying connected to members + donors, being able to maintain employees, and debt forgiveness.
  • The biggest concern reported for the Asheville-Buncombe arts sector was business closure and the ripple effect it will have on arts professionals.
  • A silver lining? When asked about beneficial changes as a result of COVID, respondents mentioned things like more time to produce art, learning to do more online, increased collaboration, and time to rethink mission + goals.

Zooming out 

Buncombe County is doing a bit worse than the state overall. An Americans for the Arts survey shows that 66% of arts businesses in NC remain “severely impacted” by the economic effects of COVID-19, and 65% of creative workers in the state have experienced unemploymenthigher than the national average of 52%. NC’s creative businesses lost an estimated $3.4 billion in 2020.

We’re also recovering more slowly than other close metropolitan areas like Greenville, SC, which lost 44.4% of hospitality + leisure jobs over the course of the pandemic, compared to our loss of 64%. Greenville reports 5% unemployment in this sector, while Asheville reports 25%.

The Arts Council released results from the first survey, which at that time estimated $18.7 million in losses in the creative sector, in August 2020.

How can you support the creative sector locally? Become an arts ally member of the Arts Council. Membership costs ($100/year for an individual) go to fund the council’s work in arts advocacy, public art, and services for creatives like professional development, grants, and job + opportunity listings.

Want more data? Find the full survey results here.