ASHEVILLE – N.C. Department of Cultural Resources Secretary Linda A. Carlisle today unveiled the findings of a new research study which shows that the professional craft industry contributes $206.5 million into Western North Carolina’s economy each year.
The report, Economic Impact of the Professional Craft Industry in Western North Carolina, is an update of the first such study undertaken in 1995 by the Walker College of Business at Appalachian State University. That survey reported the economic impact of craft across the region to be $122 million. The recent update was commissioned by Asheville-based Handmade In America, along with the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, Haywood Community College, Penland School of Crafts, UNC-Asheville and the UNC Center for Craft, Creativity, and Design, and it was analyzed by DESS Business Research. Findings indicate a significant growth in the regional economic impact of craft.
“Craft feeds the heart and families throughout western North Carolina,” Carlisle said. “This new research study highlights the leadership, entrepreneurship and educational resources of this nimble industry, and provides in-depth information about the financial support it brings to the region.”
The study undertaken in 2008 focused on the 25 counties comprising Western North Carolina, and measured the total annual economic impact of craft artists ($86.2 million), craft consumers ($31.5 million), craft retail galleries ($57.7 million), craft schools ($11.8 million), craft non-profit organizations ($4.4 million), and craft suppliers and publishers ($15 million). The findings conclude that the region is well-established as a leading center for craft production and education within the United States and, as such, is both a significant growth industry and a draw for tourists, one of our region’s main sources of revenue.
“This new craft report is a potent tool that we at the Department of Cultural Resources can use as we talk about the impact of the creative economy in our state,” Carlisle said.
A highlight of the report is the recognition that the number of artisans in our region has increased 198 % since the original study. In the 13 years between 1995 and 2008, the number of professional art and craft producers rose from 739 to 2,200. Of these 2,200 professional craft artists and producers:
• 56 % operate a full-time business. Many also teach at area schools, colleges and universities.
• 33 % have full- and/or part-time employees.
• $48,000 is the median household income for artists.
• 66 % of respondents have at least a college degree.
• 33 % have lived in WNC more than 20 years, including many second-generation artists.
• 16 % of respondents are new arrivals within the last five years; Western North Carolina attracts both relocating professional artists and emerging younger crafts artists
• 50 % of graduates from area craft residency programs remain in WNC to establish their own studios
• 65 % of craft artists have their work marketed with WNC, 8 % in North Carolina outside the region and 25 % outside the state
Craft retail galleries have an annual economic impact of $57.7 million. There are more than 130 craft galleries in Western North Carolina with average annual gross sales of $500,000.
• 70 % of the galleries’ inventory is produced in WNC
• 62 % of the sales are to tourists/visitors
• 3.6 is the average number of full-time gallery employees, with the largest gallery having 60 full-time employees
• 33 % of Western North Carolina galleries have been in existence for 10 or more years
• 20 of the 100 galleries surveyed are located in the city of Asheville, while the majority of galleries are found in small towns and villages; the Oaks Gallery in Dillsboro, for example, represents 125 craft artists, and Crimson Laurel Gallery in Bakersville showcases the work of 90 area craft artists
Craft consumers have an annual economic impact of $31.5 million. Tourism, vital to Western North Carolina’s Economy, relies on the area’s rich cultural and artistic energy to attract visitors. The survey indicates that 60 % of craft consumers come from 38 other states, Canada and Mexico, and 16 % come from other regions of North Carolina.
• 57 % of craft consumers have household incomes above $75,000
• 72 % graduated from college and are between the ages of 36 and 65
• 56 % of craft consumers stay overnight for an average of 3.7 nights
• $642 per visit is the average amount spent by craft consumers coming to Western North Carolina
• 38 % of craft consumer spending goes toward purchasing art, while 62 % includes hotels, restaurants and local cultural activities
Craft schools have an annual economic impact of $11.8 million. Western North Carolina offers the greatest concentration of craft education in the country. A major reason artists live in this region is the educational opportunities offered through area workshops, classes and degree programs
Two internationally recognized crafts schools in WNC are responsible for an impact of more than $10 million on the local economy:
• Penland School of Crafts annually enrolls more than 1,300 students from 48 states and overseas, and attracts over 14,000 visitors a year
• John C. Campbell School offers more than 800 classes in contemporary and traditional crafts
Colleges and universities
• Haywood Community College Professional Craft Program is nationally recognized for providing technical and business skills in clay, fiber, metal and wood for more than 30 years. The college will break ground in 2010 for the new Creative Arts building that will increase the capacity for students interested in obtaining an AAS degree.
• Mayland Community College, Blue Ridge Community College, Southwestern Community College and Western Piedmont Community College offer innovative craft programs.
• UNC-Asheville, Appalachian State University and Western Carolina University all offer craft instruction within the BA, BFA or MFA programs. UNC-Asheville recently committed to building a Craft Campus and a degree program uniquely focused on contemporary craft and the environment.
• The UNC Center for Craft, Creativity, and Design organized the writing, funding and publication of the first comprehensive textbook related to American Craft History (2009).
Several local organizations and schools offer classes in specific media, including:
• Earth Guild, Odyssey Center for the Ceramic Arts, Asheville BookWorks, Mountain Metalsmiths School of Jewelry and Lapidary, Cloth Fiber Workshop and Asheville Woodworking School
Craft non-profit organizations have an annual economic impact of $4.4 million. Many organizations contribute to the economic revitalization of Western North Carolina.
Two local programs help establish craft as a sustainable and energy conscious industry:
• Energy Xchange Incubator – supports entrepreneurs in starting, managing and operating new businesses in glass blowing and pottery using landfill methane as an energy source
• Jackson County Green Energy Park – “fuels the craft industry” – its program, modeled after the Energy Xchange, includes a metalsmith forge fired on landfill gas
Three major national organizations are headquartered in Asheville:
The Furniture Society of America
The Alliance of the American Quilt
The Arts Business Institute
Two strong and vibrant regional organizations help focus attention on craft sales and public education:
• The Southern Highland Craft Guild – With more than 900 juried artists, guild members sell their work at two annual craft fairs and five craft shops in the area, hosting nearly 300,000 visitors each year.
• HandMade in America – Founded in 1993, HandMade in America promotes traditional and contemporary craft in 22 WNC counties. More than 50,000 copies of HandMade’s “Craft and Heritage Trails Guidebook of Western North Carolina” direct visitors to 125 craft artist studios and 136 galleries.
The region’s many active community arts agencies and local organizations focus on crafts, including:
• River District Artists – represents 100 artists operating studios in many of the converted industrial buildings along the French Broad River
• The Carolina Mountain Woodturners – the largest of the 290 local chapters of the American Association of Woodturners.
• Western North Carolina Quilters Guild – sponsors workshops and exhibitions
• Fiber Arts Alliance – actively supports more than 300 members
• Potters of the Roan – a guild of emerging and nationally recognized potters
• 13 Community Arts Councils – focus much of their programming on craft artists
Craft suppliers and publishers have an annual economic impact of $15 million. The national and international focus on craft in Western North Carolina inspires businesses in the area.
Craft suppliers and publishers, for example, produce products that are sold throughout the United States and beyond.
• Highwater Clays manufactures clay and distributes ceramic supplies and equipment nationally, with 25 employees in its Asheville headquarters. The company expanded in 2002 to open a second location in Florida.
• EarthGuild has a showroom in downtown Asheville with eight employees, and sells tools and materials “for serious craft work” throughout the country.
• Artpaper is a supplier of fine art papers, bookbinding materials and other supplies for artists, schools and universities.
• Spruce Pine Batch Company sells equipment and supplies to glass blowing artists nationally.
• Lark Books, with more than 50 employees, publishes 60-70 new titles each year on various craft subjects.
A full report can be seen at http://www.craftcreativitydesign.org/.