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RC6: Promote the region's cultural assets.


The region has established a reputation as a leader for craft production and education throughout the country. There are more than 130 craft galleries scattered across the counties in Western North Carolina.

In addition, most all of the institutions of higher learning in the region offer some type of craft/arts curriculum, including the Haywood Community College Professional Craft Program, Blue Ridge Community College, Warren Wilson College, UNC Asheville, and the Center for Craft, Creativity & Design. Moreover, the Penland School of Crafts and the John C. Campbell Folk School bring in more than $10 million in economic impact to the Western North Carolina region.

There are many non-profit organizations within the area that contribute to the craft industry and the region’s economy. The total annual economic impact of these non-profit organizations has been totaled by the Center for Craft, Creativity & Design at over $4 million.

It is also interesting to note that the craft industry follows a sustainable model of producing and buying locally. According to the Center for Craft, Creativity & Design, 70 percent of craft retail galleries' inventory is produced locally, and 65 percent of craft artists have their work marketed within North Carolina.

In addition to artists and crafters, the GroWNC region has a strong tradition of music and festivals. The area hosts numerous festivals, including the Lake Eden Arts Festival, the Brevard Music Festival, and Folkmoot USA, to name a few. Festivals have a huge impact in Western North Carolina’s economy. The City of Asheville estimates Bele Chere generated $12.4 million to $20 million in direct and indirect spending in and around the city in 2012.

All of these factors contribute to the growth of the cultural tourism industry in the five-county region. Many of the state’s most visited sites are within the GroWNC region, including the Biltmore Estate, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Pisgah National Forest. According to Preservation North Carolina, “Tourism is now the second largest industry in North Carolina with employment of 161,000 people and $2.5 billion in annual payroll.”

This all translates into more jobs and opportunities for the region’s artists and stewards of cultural resources. A study of the Asheville-Area Metropolitan Statistical Area showed 17 percent job growth in the arts, entertainment, and recreation industry from 2005–2011, a period when most other industries were in severe decline. Top occupations include musicians and singers, writers and authors, multimedia artists, and animators.

The five-county region’s cultural resources can, and are, creating jobs, a higher quality of life, and telling the story of this unique place. Protecting historical landmarks, landscape elements, and ways of life add to the richness of how we experience a place, either as a tourist or resident.

The creative resources and natural beauty of the area will continue to attract people and businesses, bringing more creativity and opportunities for the community and residents. How the region continues to invest in its cultural resources through funding, policy, promotion, education, and conservation will be an important decision for the future of the creative economy.


RC6.1: Develop and support more field trips for students to visit historical and cultural resources. Read more »
RC6.2: Create a state Regional History Museum in WNC. Read more »
RC6.3: Develop programs and materials about the arts, cultural and natural resources, and history of the region to gain an appreciation of its unique assets. Read more »
RC6.4: Develop a regional wayfinding system to the region’s cultural and historic assets. Read more »