Arts in Buncombe County = $43.7 Million/Year


…and that’s just the non-profit organizations! From the City of Asheville:

The nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $43.7 million in annual economic activity in Buncombe County. This spending — $16.9 million by nonprofit arts and culture organizations and an additional $26.8 million in event-related spending by their audiences—supports 1,427 full-time equivalent jobs, generates $32.5 million in household income to local residents, and delivers $4.8 million in local and state government revenue, according to recently released findings from a nation-wide study released this week.

The findings are from Arts & Economic Prosperity IV — a national impact study conducted by Americans for the Arts, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts. The City of Asheville Cultural Arts Division served as the study partner with Americans for the Arts and collaborated with local nonprofit arts and cultural organizations and their audiences in gathering the data for the study.

“We were pleased to lead the study for Buncombe County,” says Diane Ruggiero, Superintendent of Cultural Arts for the City of Asheville. “It is great to see in the results of the study that even in a down economy the arts are a thriving industry in Buncombe County.”


  1. For those of you who are incredibly confused by the wording:

    $16.9 million is generated by the non-profit orgs and $26.8 by “event-related” spending (whatever those terms mean). This, in turn, creates those 1,427 jobs earning $32.5 million a year (which is an average of $22,775.0526 a year – WAY TO GO 200 PERCENT OF POVERTY LEVEL ARTISTS!) and $4.8 million in local and state tax revenue.

    If you’re keeping track there’s $6.4 million dollars missing from that equation.

    I suppose that’s the “overhead” that runs the nonprofit orgs. You know, executive salaries and such.

    And office supplies. Damn paperclips. SOOO expensive.

  2. Doug Gibson says:


    Even the full study is a little confusing. Best as I can figure, here’s what those numbers mean:

    $16.9 million is spent by local non-profit arts organizations. That money comes to them in various forms, including (one assumes) grants, donations, revenue from performances, general sales, and other means.

    $26.8 million is spent by people who attend arts events in addition to any charge directly related to those events (i.e., admission). So that money is going to restaurants, bars, parking decks, hotels, etc.

    The number of “full time equivalent jobs” is an estimate; the study authors’ rule of thumb was that for every $100,000 an arts organization spends, $87,000 winds up in a check made out to a local resident. They say this figure comprises 3.25 full time equivalent jobs (that is, paid hours equivalent to a little more than three people working 40 hour weeks).

    Divide $87,000 by 3.25, and you get an average annual salary of $26,769. Not great, but for a full time worker it’s still more than the average per capita income in Buncombe County ($25,665). And it’s a good start on the median household income (same source: $44,190).

    Of course those dollars don’t always flow in $26,000 checks made out to single individuals. Some employees may make more, some may make less (after all, some employees probably work part time) and some vendors only earn the equivalent of a few hours worth of wages, depending on how much the organizations use their products or services.

    And $13,000 does go missing. But that’s leakage: it’s money that goes out of the community to pay for things like power and gasoline and cheap plastic crap made in China – unavoidable expenses in a global economy.

    Hope that helps.

  3. Doug Gibson says:

    And Gordon’s right to point out that this survey is based solely on non-profit orgs. Most of our galleries, for example, are for-profit businesses, and they provide a huge boost to our local economy.

  4. shadmarsh says:

    Most are filled with shitty art tho…

    There, I said it. Do I have to move now?

  5. You must come down here, where at least two galleries are filled with watercolors of houses south of Broad St.

  6. Michael Muller says:

    A national nonprofit organization for Advancing the Arts produces a report on the economic benefits of nonprofit organizations which are advancing the arts?

    That’s brilliant!

  7. Dixiegirlz says:

    The cynic in me sez, more like “brilliant bait.”

  8. Diogenes says:

    Cat fight? Again?

  9. Doug Gibson says:

    Wow. Everyone else commenting in this thread already knew how much money the arts generated in Buncombe County. Golly, I’m impressed.

    Me, I had to wait for someone to study the issue and write a report. But then I’ve never been the sharpest knife in the drawer.

  10. Davyne Dial says:

    Doug, this (or something similar) has been done before. By Handmade in America. They got lots of grant money for their survey, but little was ever done for the ordinary artisan. They’ll show a few examples of their largesse, but in general they used us for bait.

  11. Doug Gibson says:


    How long ago? And what types of art did it include? And could the grant money have been used for anything other than the survey you describe?

    And what do you mean when you say you were used for “bait?”

  12. Ascend of Asheville says:

    Am I the only one that thinks J. Gerard’s work looks like it was done by an autistic third grader on acid? Sorry, couldn’t resist.
    Actually, now that I think about it, I would be very much more interested in seeing some actual work by autistic third graders on acid. That could be very impressive. Gerard, not so much.

  13. Davyne Dial says:

    Set yourself up as a non-profit that supports local artisans….do a survey of those artisans to ascertain just how much they’re making. Never contact them again after you’ve gotten the necessary information/figures. Us that info to justify grants for your non-profit to support those local artisans, but you will need office space and operating expense, so most of that grant money goes for overhead and salaries. Support a couple or three token J. Gerards /corporate artsy types….but not really anything significant to the bulk of local artisans.

    Ergo your non -profit is really just to give employment and feel good sounding press, to some feel good organization. Do your survey again every few years to keep up the illusion that your non-profit is benefitting the local art scene…when in reality it’s providing jobs security for the non-profits.

  14. Doug,

    Thanks for the additional math but, as usual, I’m still incredibly skeptical when people toss out numbers like this. I suppose that’s because I’ve never been completely convinced that people with MBAs that crank out these numbers really know what they’re doing.

    I mean, how exactly do you measure economic impact when it must be incredibly difficult to separate out just one single influencing factor in a very complex equation. I mean, I’m sure there’s an entire set of mathematics out there that does exactly this, but I was never good at math that dealt with abstract notions.

    Of course, all of this is because I am genetically predispositioned to be skeptical and cynical.

  15. Doug Gibson says:


    I understand. And there’s nothing wrong with being skeptical. I just wanted to make it clear that the report doesn’t support attributing any apparently missing money to “overhead.”


    Is there any room in your philosophy for anyone to make a living supporting the arts rather than actually doing them? Or are all arts organizations inevitably parasitical? And I know the questions sound snarky (I haven’t had enough caffeine yet this morning), but please understand that while I do have my own opinion, I’m genuinely interested in your perspective.

  16. Dixiegirlz says:

    Well, I married my patron. And he’s a wonderful supporter of the arts. In fact he gave subtantial pieces to the Asheville Art Museum, and is known to be a true “patron” to the local art community. So yes, there can be genuine supporters who have the EYE, and are capable of appreciating and supporting. But there are also many parasites vs. genuine aficionados.

  17. TJ says:

    ” So yes, there can be genuine supporters who have the EYE, and are capable of appreciating and supporting”

    And, a fine patron he is, Davyne. But, there’s no bias there, is there?

    Really, tho’, you are thrice blessed…good in the arts, have a great supporter, and, your supporter can appreciate talent when he sees it.

    Me? I’m just lucky to get a few good canvases from the local art store, a few acrylics, and, enjoy a small bit of painting to share with my friends at various times. I just appreciate it when they do

  18. Davyne Dial says:

    TJ, my point to Doug, was in this arena there are the givers, and the takers…and those of us in the trenches, know quite well, who is who.

    Whip out those brushes, canvas and paints and forge ahead, you never know what awaits. The journey is well worth the cost of the supplies.

  19. TJ says:

    Givers – true.

    Takers – true.

    Trenches — true, true, true.

    My supplies? I will NEVER surrender, Dorothy.

    As long as I can paint a smile on a friend’s face, I will go on…