By the Yankee, Arlene Winkler
According to what I read on their website, the Asheville Area Arts Council is “excited and proud to welcome Kitty Love as the new full-time Executive Director.” And well they should be! It’s about time the AAAC had somebody at the helm with a first hand understanding of what it takes to survive as an artist, as well as the value that accrues to the entire community, when so many artists choose to live and work here.
Since 2003, when I moved to Asheville with my sculptor husband, I’ve seen the AAAC hire, fire and/or lose at least four executive directors; misuse its front gallery to the detriment of the artists it ostensibly served, and generally lose sight of its mission, i.e., … to strengthen the vitality and visibility of the creative community through advocacy, support and exposure. The loss of funds and real estate during this period is tragic, and more than a little embarrassing, but the nine-lived Arts Council has relocated to beautiful quarters at 346 Depot Street, in the River Arts District, thanks to the generosity of board member, Randy Shull—and now, it’s turn-around time.
Turn-arounds differ from miracles in that they require strategy, long-term commitment and strong leadership. What Kitty Love brings to the table is the skills and experience that come from working with the materials at hand (also known as spinning straw into gold) and even more important, the ability to temper pragmatism with diplomacy; the result, no doubt, of her well-honed sense of the absurd. What the Arts Council brings to the table is tabula rasa. Kitty Love may have her work cut out, but she has an enviably clean slate on which to formulate a set of Arts Council Best Practices.
Past Experience/Future Promise
The single mother of two boys, ages 6 and 15, and an Asheville resident since 1996, Kitty has lived the full spectrum of the local art world, from tattoo artist to gallery manager to, most recently, Executive Director for Arts2People, which she founded and grew on the proverbial shoestring. In spite of the lack of funding, she developed a series of successful initiatives during her ten-year tenure, including the Lexington Avenue Arts & Fun Festival (LAAFF), the Asheville Mural Project, Responsive Education Accessing Creativity for Healing (REACH), and the Artist Resource Center. She continues to serve on numerous committees including the Downtown Social Issues Task Force, the Downtown Commission and the Creativity Cluster for Buncombe County HUB. However, as Executive Director of the Arts Council, she has an opportunity to fulfill her single, overarching objective: To identify and provide the kind of services that support the creative professional as an individual.
“A cutting edge professional development and training program is high on my wish list,” she explains. “For instance, classes in marketing and how to do it on Google, Facebook and other networking sites. As an interim step, it might be possible to adopt the technology in the Arts2People office, so people would have access to computers and software like Photoshop™ or Illustrator™. But the primary and more pressing challenge for me is to build a state-of-the-art database, for a community looking for professional art services and artists looking for resources and opportunities. Done right, it could coalesce the entire creative sector.”
Mapping the Asheville area’s creative assets.
This spring, the AAAC will once again facilitate a summit for the entire creative sector, a recommendation of the Downtown Asheville Master Plan, for the team of creative sector organizations who make the event happen. Invitees are other non-profits, individual artists, business owners and anyone in the community who has an interest or an idea or a need where they think they can participate.
“We’re putting together a survey, right now, to help us look at the big picture, to see the overlap with other interests and show us where our artists can create markets or find market opportunities. Most of all, it will give us the accurate, up to date information we need to build cogent relationships with other organizations, like the Asheville Chamber of Commerce, or the Schools, which will better enable the Arts Council to offer meaningful services on a limited budget.”
If you’re reading this, and you have an art-related idea, or a service or skill you think Kitty should know about, or if there is a service or skill that you need, but can’t find, she’d like to hear from you, now. Please contact: Kitty@Ashevillarts.com
Arlene Winkler is a freelance writer, with an unabashed passion for fine art, fine food and fine wine. A former ad agency president and enthusiastic participant of life on the New York fast track, she moved to Asheville in 2003 with her sculptor husband, Robert Winkler. A mother of three, a grandmother of five, she is dealing with her culture shock by writing about the accomplishments of women above and below the Mason Dixon line.