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Charlotte Gives Details On New Arts Funding Without ASC

Erin Keever
The city of Charlotte plans to increase its funding for the arts, giving it more control over how it supports organizations that use city-owned buildings, like the Blumenthal.

The city of Charlotte gave the first details Tuesday about how it will fund the arts after announcing in February it would transition away from sending the Arts & Science Council money directly.

Last year, the city gave the ASC $3.2 million, which is 25% of the nonprofit organization’s budget.

City Manager Marcus Jones said Charlotte will increase its arts and cultural spending to $4 million annually and is also adding $2 million this year in federal COVID-19 relief funds. Jones said the private sector has agreed to match that $6 million public contribution.

That money won’t go to the ASC. The city plans to have the Foundation for the Carolinas distribute the money — at least for a year. Charlotte then plans to hire a new "arts and culture commissioner" and create an advisory board to decide how the money is spent.

Earlier this year, Mayor Vi Lyles created an ad-hoc arts committee to determine the best way for the city to spend its arts money. That committee voted unanimously in February for the city to take greater control over its arts money.

At-large City Council member Julie Eiselt, who chaired the committee, said Charlotte should view its arts investment, in part, as an economic development driver. She said the city should have more control over public money used to support organizations that use city-owned buildings like the Mint Museum and the Blumenthal Center For the Performing Arts.

“It’s more money for the arts,” Eiselt said. “It is a commitment from the private sector because we are really taking a broader look at arts and culture. And that’s important to them.”

Uptown’s major companies used to heavily promote the ASC’s annual fundraising campaigns, but they have taken a more hands-off approach.

In 2019, the ASC said it was in a “crisis” due to the decline in workplace giving. Mecklenburg County asked voters to approve a quarter-cent sales tax increase for the arts in 2019, but it was defeated.

Mecklenburg County has said it’s going to continue partnering with the ASC.

In an email to City Council members, Jones said the city will continue to send some money to the ASC for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins in July.

The city said it gave 37 organizations roughly $500,000 last year as part of its $3.2 million allocations to the ASC. Jones said the city will send the ASC $800,000 this year, allowing it to fund an additional 171 arts organizations or artists.

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Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.
Gwendolyn is an award-winning journalist who has covered a broad range of stories on the local and national levels. Her experience includes producing on-air reports for National Public Radio and she worked full-time as a producer for NPR’s All Things Considered news program for five years. She worked for several years as an on-air contract reporter for CNN in Atlanta and worked in print as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun Media Group, The Washington Post and covered Congress and various federal agencies for the Daily Environment Report and Real Estate Finance Today. Glenn has won awards for her reports from the Maryland-DC-Delaware Press Association, SNA and the first-place radio award from the National Association of Black Journalists.