Charlotte artists and consumers want to prime the city for a more inclusive arts scene through better leadership and affordable spaces to create. Those are findings from a months-long effort to survey Charlotte-area residents about arts and culture presented to a City Council committee Tuesday. Through community events and an online survey, arts officials received survey responses from 3,236 people in 75 ZIP codes for its State of Culture report. It will guide leaders about investing time and money in the arts and inform an arts and culture plan that sets policies and funding strategies.

From the responses, Charlotte leaders assembled a collage of seven key needs:

▪ Center city and uptown institutions are a key strength to support with arts funding along with support in other Charlotte communities.

▪ Equitable and sustainable funding is major concern 

▪ Organized and well-resourced leadership is needed 

▪ Respondents want to maximize revenue opportunities for local artists 

▪ There’s a lack of awareness and coordination of arts and culture activities 

▪ Affordable and accessible space is a key need 

▪ Public art access should be expanded

Documents presented Tuesday show City Council members expressed similar concerns in their feedback about arts. The council also hopes to achieve economic development success, job creation through arts and use more funding sources. The city’s arts and culture advisory board is reviewing feedback from residents before creating an official State of Culture report to released in February, Sircar said. The board also will discuss creating an asset map so there’s one landing page for all things arts in Charlotte. 

Drawing Inspiration from Other Cities

Another key part of the path forward for arts in Charlotte: looking to other cities for inspiration. Charlotte is drawing arts inspiration from: 

▪ Austin, Texas 

▪ Houston 

▪ Dallas 

▪ Denver 

▪ Minneapolis

▪ Nashville 

▪ Portland, Oregon 

From these cities, the arts and culture advisory board learned most communities have a recurring public funding source and several have a nonprofit set up for arts “ecosystem support.”

City of Charlotte Response

Though residents and the council highlighted the importance of uptown facilities, some city council members said they’d like to see more public art in neighborhoods such as NoDa, Ballantyne and University City, according to the report. During Tuesday’s jobs and economic development committee meeting, council members presented Sircar with a draft statement raising the following opportunities for the arts and culture plan: 

▪ Arts and culture in Charlotte could connect with areas of the city designated as Corridors of Opportunity. West Boulevard, Freedom Drive and Wilkinson Boulevard and Sugar Creek Road near Interstate 85 are examples.

▪ The city could leverage zoning and land use to connect to art. 

▪ Charlotte will seek to diversify funding support to new partners and revenue sources. 

▪ The city would integrate art into parks and green space.

▪ Local artists will create more murals, sculptures and hold outdoor performances across the city. 

▪ Schools will increase arts education. 

▪ City Council will integrate arts into other policy areas. 

▪ The city ensures the arts and culture plan captures the full spectrum of the city’s diversity. 

What has the new arts and culture board done? 

The upcoming arts and culture plan is an outgrowth of the city’s 18-member arts and culture advisory board, created after the Charlotte City Council upended a decades-long model of relying on the Arts and Science Council as a pass through mechanism for arts funding. In 2021, the city established an “infusion fund” in place of the Arts and Science Council that combined public and private sector funding in the Foundation for the Carolinas to support the city’s arts and culture sector for three years. The foundation is a local philanthropic organization that serves a 13-county area in and around Charlotte. The new arts board determines how money is spent with input from the Charlotte City Council. In the fiscal year 2023 budget, the city allocated $4 million to the Foundation For The Carolinas. It was matched by $2 million from American Rescue Plan Act funds and more than $6 million from private-sector donations, Sircar said, for a total of $12 million at the city’s discretion for arts and culture initiatives. 

Next Steps

The timeline for the arts and culture plan going forward includes: 

▪ February: Begin strategy development for arts and culture plan and public sharing of State of Culture report 

▪ March: Finalize strategy frame work 

▪ April: Create implementation plan and finalize the entire arts and culture plan

This article appears courtesy of our media partner The Charlotte Observer.

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