Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Artists Need Housing

If I had a dollar for every time someone in Charlotte in the past 25 years had talked about “artists and lofts” as a way to bring life to various parts of town, I wouldn’t be driving a 16-year-old car.

Artists are often the leading pioneers into neighborhoods that are ultimately reborn. Then, because the neighborhoods get popular, artists find themselves priced out of the market. It happens all over, not just in Charlotte. Our example currently is NoDa, or North Charlotte – the one-time mill neighborhood near 36th and North Davidson streets.

All those people thinking uptown will grow into an artsy district? Get real. It’s hard to make anything resembling a living wage as an artist, so artists are drawn to neighborhoods with affordable buildings -- usually old one that offer lots of space for not much cost. That doesn't describe anything uptown.

Why not build artists' housing uptown? The only way to build uptown housing you could rent out cheaply enough for artists would be if the land was donated. And what uptown land owner would do that?

Why build, you say? Just renovate older buildings, warehouses and such, as other cities have done. Well guess what. Charlotte government officials' lack of willingness to study any overall preservation strategies used in many other cities, such as height limits or limits on surface parking lots, caused most of the older buildings to be torn down. Those that remain and have been renovated (Charlotte Cotton Mills, for example -- bravo to the historic landmarks commission and developer Peter Pappas ) are now too expensive for artist housing.

So in Charlotte, artists are sprinkled throughout the city – in Stonehaven, Dilworth, Plaza-Midwood and County Club Acres, to list a few examples. That’s fine, except that when artists as an interest group are invisible because they're so dispersed, then the city feels as if it's missing some important vitality.

“That’s one of the challenges in Charlotte,” says Suzanne Fetscher, president of the McColl Center for Visual Art. “The lack of visibility of artists.”

If you’re interested in the issue of housing for artists, put this on your calendar:

7-8:30 p.m. Aug. 2, at the McColl Center for the Visual Art, 721 N. Tryon St. It’s a public forum to address the issue of affordable housing and/or live-work spaces for artists.

The event is a collaboration among the McColl Center, the Arts & Science Council, the N.C. Arts Council, Charlotte Center City Partners and the City of Charlotte. Facilitators will be representatives of ArtSpace Projects of Minneapolis. That’s a nonprofit group that has developed affordable live-work spaces for artists in some 20 U.S. cities.

What will they come up with? That depends on what they hear from people in Charlotte. If you're an artist or creative type -- or anyone with an interest in the issue -- make sure they hear from you.


Chilton said...

Here is an excellent program that is being used in, of all place, Paducah, KY.

Anonymous said...

It's not just artists who can't find affordable housing. People who move here from New York and other places with expensive real estate come down here and buy McMansions because they sold their 2-bedroom 900-square foot home for $500,000; meantime Charlotte natives who work just as hard (if not harder) at their jobs are lucky to work their way up to buying a starter home because they don't have any expensive real estate to trade up from. It's just not fair to us natives. I say enough is enough; there are enough people living here, we don't need any more! STOP trying to attract more people to live here! We don't want any more!

Anonymous said...

Attention Newsom: You are a complete idiot.

Attention artists: Get a frikin real job!!

Where's my free stuff from the gub-ment???

Hey, working in a cube farm isn't most people's dream life, but they have real bills to pay.

If you want to go through life with tattoos and piercings, sleeping til noon and hanging out at coffess shops sketching pictures of your girlfriend, don't be surprised when nobody is offering you a 6 figure salary.

Anonymous said...

For the previous anonymous:
I'm sorry your life is so boring.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the information regarding the meeting, Mary. I am definitely going. Charlotte is sorely lacking a strong artistic presence and we are being driven out of the city. I have an older apt in Dilworth that I was very lucky to find. Of course the building is going up For Sale so it can be converted to condo and we are being pushed out. To the other blogger that trashed us..we do work for a living and contribute greatly to the vitality and spirit of civic life. Yuppies like you love us so much you move into our neighborhoods and drive us out, ruining the creative vibes that make the area so popular to begin with. Aside from a few people like myself hanging on by our fingenails, Dilworth has been completely overgentrified and the same will happen to Noda and PlazaMidwood etc etc. The whole city suffers when artists and creatives are not supported and soon enough the last of the Mohicans are going to give up and move somewhere that does value us and Charlotte will be much less appealing as a result

Mary Newsom said...

To clarify, re anonymous poster 12:23 -- this isn't about government giving anyone a handout. It's an effort among private, nonprofit groups such as ArtSpace and the McColl Center.

Further, many artists do have "real" -- or rather, non-artist -- second jobs to help support themselves and their families.

Erin said...

Yes, several friends of mine are now homeless because the city forced them from their apartments in Mecklenburg Mills due to "termite infestation". They actually had "real" jobs: a sucessful graphic design company they ran out of their home. It has since shut down because they were never allowed to retrieve their equipment. The city has offered them no compensation or affordable housing alternative.

I hear the city has since sold the building. Expect to see $200,000 condos there any day now. It's disgusting.

There's a benefit concert being held for them Thurs. 7/13 @ The Spot on Pecan. Please come if you're an artist or you want to support.

Anonymous said...

Private sector??

Hardy har!

The arts and sciences council get $150 million dollars in taxpayer money, meanwhile gangs are running the streets.

Face it, if your 'art' were worth anything, you would not need free handouts.

"Hi, my name is Louie and I am an artist. My girlfriend and Mary Newsom think I have a lot of talent despite the fact that I never sell any paintings. I would really like to live in a huge, artsy loft in NoDo, but lack the funds to do so. No true artists would ever become a corporate sell-out and get a real job. Won't you help me???"

Give me a break.

Go to work for 70 hours a week like the rest of us if you want to live the urban dream.

Anonymous said...

Wow, it's truly sad to read some of these posts. Charlotte is so lacking in the arts and this read shows us why. I agree that police funding is a must. But art is as well. If you don't meet somewhere in the middle you will end up being Mayberry forever. To the Charlotte natives out there who will tell me to move or go back from where I came. NO, I'm not going anywhere. I've been here 20 years and intend to stay. I say that if you don't like what the city has become then you move. We are not going to roll back the clock for a few local country boys. I am living the urban dream with my condo and great view uptown. I also work an average of 60 hours a week. But that doesn't mean I don't support the artists. I have furnished most of my home with art I have purchased from gallery crawls. If it means I work a little harder and save a little more to buy it then I do. Art is important. Without it Charlotte will remain cultureless, plain, boring and ignorant.
Try not buying a 24 pack of Budweiser this weekend and buy a piece of art instead.

Anonymous said...

To the anonymous poster who thinks that it is unfair that people move here from elsewhere with money in their pocket:

Unless you believe that blowing someone else's candle out makes your glow brighter, I fail to see how someone with the wherewithall to buy an expensive house somehow prevents you from earning enough to by a less expensive house. The person who is going to spend $500k on a house is not exactly competing for the house you're buying, so he's hardly driving up the price.

There are new neighborhoods in the $110k range in Charlotte. There are established neighborhoods in close in suburbs where $120k will by you 1700 sq ft, modern 2 stories, 3 bedrooms, 2&1/2 baths and a third of an acre lot in queit, crime free neighborhoods near schools, shopping and if you prefer, bus lines.

No matter how many people come here from elsewhere and enter the market for very large, very expensive houses, they aren't competing for those sorts of houses and they aren't influencing the price of them.

Anonymous said...

Since there is a critical shortage of housing for the genuinely poor -those unable to make $8k or so- might those resources not be better directed to a problem far more urgent that close in housing for artists?

Rick said...

Let's be VERY, VERY clear. There is NO shortage of money for the arts and caring where artists live is just plain silly.

Just today, the NC legistature cleared the way for Charmeck Govco to raise the car renal tax by almost 50% and spend that extra cash out of your pocket on the arts.

Quoting today's Observer website...

"The tax will provide most of the money for more than $150 million worth of cultural projects, including a new Mint Museum of Art, a new performing-arts theater, a new modern-art museum, renovations to Discovery Place and a new Afro-American Cultural Center."

Since there appears to be plenty of arts money floating around, have the arts crowd build the artists a nice dormitory if they are so distraught about where the poor artists live.


Jay said...

I have to second the comments made by Rick.

For Mary Newsom to be whining about "affordable housing for artists" is just stupid. This city just got tax funding for $150 million in arts funding.

The arts are severely OVERfunded in the community.

Mary, you have gone off of the deep end on this one.

Anonymous said...

The prevailing tone of the comments is depressing. As I posted earlier, cities that value the arts are the most thriving and interesting places to live. Not everyone in this town is obsessed with Nascar and pontooning with a sixpack every weekend. The city is changing. We are not asking for a handout, simply reconginition and support for what we offer. The ASC is a rubber stamp for the Christian Conservative Cabal that stifles anything truly creative in this city. ASC bows to their wishes and ignores real and expressive art, meant to stimulate GASP discussion. If anything deviates from the Southern Baptist Convention version of art its not allowed in Charlotte. Coming back to housing, no one is asking for a free condo, designating areas to encourage affordable live/work space similar to Asheville's River Arts District could be a start. We will never have Asheville's vibe or acceptance level but we are the largest city in the Carolinas and deserve much better!

mike said...

I applaud the previous poster's comment.

Do any of you realize how important the banks are to Charlotte AND North Carolina? Not only does this city desperately need better cultural options (hey - how come you guys aren't complaining about the Nascar Hall of Fame? That is being paid for mostly by taxes - even more than the arts plan! Wachovia is paying a little over half of it.), but it is also important because it helps the banks (and other businesses)attract better paying jobs and more sophisticated and creative people. The worst thing that could happen to this city is if one of the banks leaves or moves a lot of their assets elsewhere. There is nothing wrong with being different and GASP thinking on your own (instead of having Bible $hit shoved down your throat all day, only to teach you how to have no tolerance for others who are different. Of course, many of you good ole' hick boys fail to realize that. This is a GOOD thing. Why the hell would you want to live someplace stagnant, where the economy sucks, there is nothing to do, and everyone is poor? If thats your idea of the good life, go ahead and move to Anson County (which is losing population by the way)! You will save us all the headache!

Anonymous said...

Rick - shut up. The "arts" here are a joke! Ask anyone in the country/world - they will laugh at you. Of course, you probably wouldn't care. Your one of those people who would rather live in someplace plain and frightfully simple, with boring, rundown landscapes and mobile homes. Not everyone thinks its cool mowing their lawns with der John Deere! Sorry, but we f*@kin' need this! Screw all of you who think otherwise! Your shortsighted anyways! Atleast the people running this state realize that!

kara said...

AHAHAHAHA to all of you against this plan and anything creative (wait a second, this is Charlotte... whats new! Charlotteans are against everything! Even educating their own children! How sad.) I guess it's time for you to move to Gaston County. Bye Bye!

Anonymous said...

Do you rent a car in Charlotte or do you own one ?
It's not costing you a dime. I seriously doubt that people will stop coming to Charlotte or even notice the car tax increase. Most visitors are here for business travel. The increase will not be felt by you or I at all. So keep your maoning and complaining to the school yard where it belongs.

Anonymous said...

To EVERYONE who is disgusted by these redneck posts,
Move close to town. Dilworth, SouthEnd, Elizabeth, Plaza Midwood, Uptown, NoDa.
You will be pleasently surprised at how your world changes. I moved uptown 3 years ago and am currently surrounded by forward thinking people who are for the most part transplants from other cities throughout the country. It's is, to say the least, a very refreshing and needed change from the Charlotte suburb mentality I was surrounded by.

Rick said...

To the last Anon,

The rental car agencies themselves confirmed that about 50% of their business comes from local rentals, so it is "your" money.

However, your response also reveals the classic pro-tax, spend other people's money stance so common today. Basically it says - "As long as someone else is paying, it's not a tax increase."

I personally own a car, but do have to rent on occassion - break downs and such. I have family members coming to visit this weekend that will be renting and when most of my friends come to visit they usually rent as well. So, you are correct, I suppose. It won't put me in the poorhouse, but that's not really the point.

To all the others,

Thanks for the lovely comments. It just confirms that I must be correct when others can only respond with - "shut up", "Christian Conservative Cabal" (i'm not a member btw), "Bibile $hit", and "we f*@kin' need this! Screw all of you who think otherwise!" and the ever classic "we deserve better."

Thanks for confirming my position. You made my day.

Anonymous said...

>>As I posted earlier, cities that value the arts are the most thriving and interesting places to live. >>

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I am a HIGHLY educated, highly compensated uptwon working professional, and I could not care less about any of this artsy fartsy crap.

Stop wasting my tax money on this.

CMS schools are in the toilet, crime is out of control (oh, sorry, we dont have gangs, we have 'behavior problems' according to center city partners LOL).

Go out and get a job if you want a NoDa condo.

This IS WAYYYY off the deep end of the modern day entitlement, spoiled child mentality.

I think I am an artists, therefore special, therefore I DESERVE a special place to live and someone else should pay for it.

Even Newsom can't really believe this crap.

Anonymous said...

Why can't your friends and family drive the John Deere while they are in town ?
Just kidding, couldn't help myself.
I never looked at it that way. My friends and family either drive in or if they fly they don't need a car since I am uptown and most everything they want to do is within walking distance.
But I can see your point as well. But I still believe firmly that we need more arts. If we can help fund Nascar and an arena then I want to see some stuff I like. ARTS, better public transit and more POLICE.

Rick said...

Last anon,

No offense taken.

To all of the redneck, NASCAR, name-calling crowd, I'd like to point out that Charlotte is a sports town, not an arts town. Welcome to the redneck south, get over it.

Charlotte has the following:

-Successful NFL franchise
-New NBA franchise (they suck now, but so did the Wizards the whole time I lived in Washington. The wizards are now playoff caliber.)
-The Wachovia golf tournament - (Lots of rednecks there I’m sure. That tournament is consistently rated by players as one of the top outside of the majors.)
- The new whitewater center. (It's the largest of its type in the world I believe.)
-Minor League baseball (probably will be uptown sometime in the future)
-Minor League hockey (uptown already)
-The Criterium cycling race uptown. (It has the highest purse of any cycling race in the country.)
-Just last week there was the world table tennis championship at the convention center with players from all over the world. (That's ping-pong to all of us rednecks.)
-Being the center of NASCAR is just the icing on the cake.

So, I have to ask. How many tourists come to Charlotte because of the sports? How many arts facilities will it take to get anywhere near that?

Anonymous said...

"Well rounded". We can all stand for a bit more of that in Charlotte.
There are plenty of towns that are huge with sports as well as arts. You will never get the cash from arts as you do sports. It's sad that brut strength is more favorable to most people than raw talent.
All the name calling shows just how divided Charlotte has become. Red and Blue states is what you see on the map. But Charlotte isn't just one or the other. I think we are divided right down the middle.
We need to grow together as a city and be more diverse. I don't watch basketball but I love going to concerts at the arena. I don't watch Nascar but the Hall of Fame will surely not hurt my real estate investment uptown. Art is a good thing. Not just paintings. Metal art, poetry, theater. It's all good. It all takes us away from the daily boring facets of life. It's an escape, just like sports.
I'm flexible. Can't you see the good in both as well ?

Rick said...

I certainly can see the value in both as well. I was a volunteer usher during highschool at Actors Theatre in Louisville, KY and I participated in stage acting from grade school all the way through high-school. It was a great learning experience, but I never asked anyone to pay for it for me - other than my parents.

As an addendum to my last post, I forgot the CIAA tournament which brought tens of thousands of people to Charlotte. I'm sure many rented cars.

So, next time you see a redneck sports fan, please thank them for paying for your arts facilities.

Rick said...

and before anyone says anything...

the tax subsidies for the arena and panthers stadium and NASCAR HOF disgust me even more than the proposed arts subsidies because those were given to billionairs.

I'm not that much of a hypocrite.

Anonymous said...

A- I can't stand NASCAR
B- I don't like football
C- I don't like basketball
D- I don't like baseball
E- I was born and raised in NC.

I am not a redneck, I am extremely well travelled, I am extremely well educated and I have a job I don't necessarily like because I have a mortgage and a car payment and bills just like everyone else.

I also do an odd bit of finger painting, can make lanyards and am well capable of throwing a bucket of paint at a canvas and calling it "art". Graffiti could be considered art, and is in some countries, but so could taking a dump on the sidewalk and writing a clever little ant-establishment quote in sidewalk chalk next to it. Some might even consider that avante gard. I think it would be gross and don't want to pay for it in any way.

I support the arts, I buy what I like. But I certainly don't think art should be subsidized by the government. Art is subjective. Art can be painting, sculpture or photography, but it could also be music, literature or even cooking. Therefore what I consider to be art, might be offensive to someone else, like poop on a sidewalk. Artists already know that when they choose to become artists. They are well aware that artists almost never become famous and their art almost never becomes valuable until after they are dead. Anyone who has taken an art history class knows that. It was their choice to be an artist, so they should be responsible for themselves by finding more conventional means to support their lifestyle until their "art" becomes a viable source of income so as not to be a financial burden on the government while they pursue their ambitions.

My very best and dearest friend is a fabulous artist, it's her passion, and it was a career CHOICE for her. Because she knew she probably wouldn't make much money with her art, she augmented her income with a steady job so she, too, could pay the bills without relying on ANY sector to support her. It's called personal responsibility.

So, unless the "sectors" want to start providing affordable housing for office managers, like myself, or engineers, like my husband, (because they, too, could be debated as artforms), I think "artists" should take some personal responsibility and be responsible for themselves by getting a conventional paycheck job until their particular art can afford them the artists' lifestyle.

John said...

Clever set up by Mary to get the debate going on how people "feel" about the arts.
First of all, Charlotte is a relatively new and growing city. With that comes alot of catch-up to cities such as New York, Chicago, San Francisco...and neighborhoods within those cities.
If you want to catch up.
For "world class museums, we can go to D.C or Atlanta...but don't expect those types of museums here...there isn't enough quality art available to have a permanent collection...only travelling shows
would make it here.
The Craft museum was a good idea...unique to the area...but not significant enough to draw people from out of town just to see shows.
As for arts spending, Cincinnati has 2 major sports teams as well as hosting the ATP tennis tournament and various other sporting events...and they still spend more money on the arts than sports every year.
Why? Maybe because they have a world renowned Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra /CSO Pops, Ballet Co. and a Contemporary Arts Center that draws national attention to its shows. It also has one of the top museums in the country.

Charlotte has none of that...some day it might...but in the meantime the local artists will have to thrive the best they can.
Perhaps someday with the support of the banks, Charlotte may eventually grow its arts community but it will take several years yet.

Subsidizing housing will not do it either...only help struggling artists struggle less...

The poster who said that "if the art was worth anything..." is right. Quality art will bring the $ and those who pay for it know it...and they aren't seeing it here...yet.
And the whole city does NOT suffer due to lack of arts support because there is support...just not the level of a New York.
Guess what...we are not New York.
The only answer is for the artists themselves to transform this.
Quality will win out...NoDa has a long way to go to jump from AA ( baseball term) to AAA...the majors are a long way off.

Anonymous said...

The point Mary is making, I think, and is being lost on money is the vital role "artists" (whatever that term means) make in revitalizing run-down communities. There are hundreds of examples throughout the country of run-down, crime-riddled neighborhoods where artists were pioneers. They invested sweat equity, energy and cash to turn formerly blighted areas into the NODAs and Plaza-Midwood's of today. This has led to an increase in home values, new jobs and increases in the local tax base. I'm not a total believer in Richard Florida's Creative Class, but his research does have some merit. Priming the pump to attract creative types in areas that have been ignored by the private sector investment community might not be a bad strategy.

John said...

The revitalization of run down communities actually pushed the crime just next door in most if not all those communities around the country.
Having lived in Cincinnati for 13 years before moving here...I watched that exact thing happen.

A very crime ridden area downtown was "transformed" to add new art galleries, bars and restaurants.
Crime just moved a few streets over and police had to step up patrols to protect the patrons.

Not to be so cynical...but the artists that transform and revitalize those types of communities have more talent than what is happening in NoDa.
You have to prime the pump with high octane not low grade.

It might be a double edged sword...raising the proerty value so high they cannot afford to remain...unless they have a subsidy. Ironic.

Anonymous said...

To the incredibly stuck up and elitist " highly compensated uptown working professional" (major eye rolling terminology)I am HIGHLY educated too and work as an artist. I don't want your pretentious condo. I am so jealous of your "perfect cube clone life" BARF.Artists and creatives want acknowledgement and respect. Charlotte is constantly striving to be "world class". World class cities embrace the arts. The projects to be funded by the car rental tax is a great start. We need a balance. Arts are just as crucial to quality of life as sports.

Anonymous said...

John, do you happen to have any studies or data that back up your claim about crime? Also, do you think those folks spending $300 in NODA are artists? No, the creatives came first, when it was truly rundown.

Anonymous said...

Hey !
I live in a condo uptown. I am not stuck up and my condo is full of art. Most of it local.
We are not all snobs just because we choose to live in the city.
I enjoy the art on my walls when I come home. It's edgy, different and modern. It's part of who I am.

I am all for the arts.

John said...

Crime stats. lists
only the past 3 years for stats.
The gallery area I'm talking about was developed in 1994-95. ( District 1 jurisdiction).
After these galleries, restaurants and bars went in, the crime level dropped for the immediate area.
This was good since hardly anyone went to downtown at night. There were already several galleries along 4th street. The new revitalization was an effort to get people down to areas that were vacant and severely underused. The effect caused the crime to shift closer to the Over the Rhine area, which already had alot of crime.

The only available parking to get to these new galleries, bars, etc. was on the side streets several blocks away. Many people were robbed, jumped...and after an initial flood of people visiting the new slowed down significantly due to crime. Police stepped up the patrol...other businesses moved in...and things improved.
As for other cities, look up their local police stats for the dates occuring around community revitalization and see if the patterns reveal a shift.

Common sense would tell you that any crime displaced has to go somewhere...and the criminals who thrive in run down areas aren't likely to move far away.

Do you think because some artists move in next door they abandon their criminal ways?

I'm all for getting a better arts community...developing NoDa, etc. but I just think it will take alot of time and better art to do it.

John said...

I have no idea who spends $300 in NoDa and if they are creative at all...

Anonymous said...

Sorry, that was supposed to be $300,000 for a home. Thanks for the stats. As for crime, I agree with the point that incomers tend to displace criminals to other areas. I don't find that a particularly compelling argument, though. Charlotte has some rough areas, but they are nothing compared to what you'll find in places like Cleveland or Cincinnati. That might be related to the fact that poverty is not so highly concentrated here.

In the past, too many programs threw money at inner-city poverty. Incenting artists to revitalize an area is a smart way to insure that the initial investment stays put in the form of human capital over the long run. It's neither a perfect strategy nor a magic bullet. It is, however, a good way to bring investment into an area suffering disinvestment.

Mark said...

The arts isn't just about making Charlotte a "tourist destination." It's about improving the quality of life and expanding the entertainment options here so it is more well rounded to a diverse group of people. First off, didn't your mother ever tell you that life just isn't fair? Get over it. If you can't handle it, simple move to another county. Without the banks, Charlotte and it's economy wouldn't be what it is today - it would be a lot worse. Why can't anyone see this from an economic standpoint? I am from NC, and I would like to know why a lot of the native Charlotteans here want their city to fail? Why do they want it to stop growing and prospering? Do you really want to live some place economically depressed? Move to Anson County or some little crap town east of here, and see how lovely life is there...

Constance said...

Rick - the south doesn't have to be redneck. I'm from the south and it would be nice if it could just be more... "normal" - like other parts of this country.

Anonymous said...

About artists and creatives revitalizing areas:

I'm sure that is correct to some degree. Because they can use and will rent space that would otherwise fall into disuse before the underlying value of the loand makes it economicaly viable for other uses, they certainly do play a role in preserving the structures. But to suggest that the low income, barely able to make it artists are adding economic value to the properties that then makes them saleable to others at much higher prices is probabnly a stretch.

The principal dynamic of real estate value isn't any different in those areas: location matters. Close in areas become less desireable as a city expands geographically until a tipping point is reached at which people seeking shorter commutes (or needs for additional commercial space) create a increased demand for those once desireable, then less deisreable areas.

It's pretty much the story of neighborhood gentification all over the country. Those interim uses of the property, falling between the orginal economic viability and the resurgent demand aren't all or probably mostly related to the arts. What they have in common is that they are simply economic placeholders. But they certainly aren't responsible for the resurgent demand.

Rick said...

One last thing...

Heard this on Keith Larson a few minutes ago on the way into my soulless uptown job from the evil suburbs.

I don't usually regurgitate others' points, but this one was too good to pass up.

Today's Observer headlines point out very clearly how Charlotte’s priorities are totally screwed up.

Here they are:

"Warnings on sex offenders flawed
Errors found in registries, Mecklenburg worst"

Ready for I-485 construction completion?
You'll likely have to wait until 2013

"CMS, county vow better cooperation
For example, they plan to try to present budgets together next time"

Combine that with yesterday’s rousing support for the arts and here you have it.

We live in a city that can't build roads, can't track criminals preying on our children, and has educators and politicians who actually have to sign a vow to get along, but we have no problem finding money to build shiny new toys.

Charlie Brown said...


Good for you for throwing out kudos to the folks behind one of the few preserved historic structures near uptown. Nice to hear about success stories.

Thus far, the Cotton Mills have attracted the following as tenants: a bar, a land-planning company, the sales center for a condo geared toward young hip singles, an advertising firm, and an architecture/interior design firm. All are for-profit companies that aren't struggling to make a buck, and each is part of (or at least geared toward attracting) Charlotte's "creative class."

Each of those office-condo owners received a minor subsidy in terms of tax breaks for helping preserve a historic piece of Charlotte. But the break obviously isn't massive, because a third of that space (including an amazing streetfront unit) remains vacant years after the Cotton Mills restoration was completed.

So, two questions:

1) Is that "edgy" enough to serve as an example of what you'd like to see, or does the fact that these are for-profit, "mainstream" enterprises rule them out?

2) As much as we want to attract the "creative class," can providing housing for struggling artists really ever be a priority when we fail to provide adequate housing for those truly in need, the homeless?

Anonymous said...

It seems that all the blogs that get the most responses for the Observer are the ones that have to do with money.
Is everyone in this city so tight with their nickel that they get so heated over things like this ?
Sports are great. Arts are great. Both together make a great city.
Oh and lets not dare throw light rail into the mix. That would really stir the bee hive. We are a town on the verge of becoming a "real" full fledged city.
Stop the bickering over the little growing pains that come along with it.
If it's too much then move away to a simpler life just as some did in other large cities throughout our country. The choice is yours. Stay and embrace, enjoy the change or if it's not for you then move on.

Anonymous said...

I am married, live uptown, no kids. This one's for me. I am tired of my money going to schooling for children I don't have, less tax breaks, etc.
I know educated kids are better for all of us but like I said, this one's for me.
You can't have it ALL.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:50, The answer to your quesiton about money is really pretty obvious: people aren't "tight with a nickel". They would simply prefer to decide themselves how they spend their nickels. That's not exactly a surprising thought. Money is nothing other than an exchange medium for labor. You go out an earn that mickel by providing your labor.

When government provides necessary services that individuals cannot provide for themselves -things that are used by everyone but which cannot be provided individually, such as roads, police protection- it is doing it's fundamental job and people generally agree to pay for those things as a condition of living in society with others. The farther government gets from those things -its fundamentlal purpose- the more likely people are to disagree.

When you are forced by government to pay for the direct improvement or enhancement of someone else's preferred lifestyle, you've entered the territory where there is likely to be disagreement among the majority who are supportng the desires of the minority. That's because you not being forced to hand over paper, your being forced to labor on their behalf. There's an ugly word for someone else taking your labor uncompensated to their own benefit.

If you'd like to put that in perspective, think of it this way. You're apparently happy about spending $150 million of your and your neighbors money on what is in reality entertainment. How happy would you be if that were being spent on venues for professional wrestling?

Probably not very. You would tell me that the arts are different. But in fact art is entirely in the eye of the beholder. What is srt to you may very well be complete drek to someone else. And what is worthwhile and enriching to them may to you be of no interest whatever. (Try defining the word art in such a way that any object or occurrence may be evaluated as objectively being or not being art based on that definition. Then try defining "artist" without using the word "art", and in such way that one can look at what a perosn does and determine objectively that they are or are nto an artist. That should make the complete subjectivity of those terms evident.)

The public is no different than individuals: we all want to know the value of something before we volunteer our labor to it and to control the expernidture of that labor (or money if you prefer). The body politic simply expects to accomplish that control through elected representatives.

When it is impossible to agree on what is art and who are artists, any progress in regard to looking out for our own interests is almost impossible. That makes "the arts" a center of disagreement regarding how our labor is impressed.

(And, by the way, it's also the reason that those who work in the arts ought to fear like the plague the idea of public funding. Public funds ALWAYS come with public control, for the reasons stated above. It is unrealistic to expect that somehow "the arts" are unlike every othe rthing the government does, and that they will not (or should not) exercise control over that which they pay for on our behalf.

Anonymous said...

Like the other blogger siad, why should we pay for kids and their schooling ? Why should the churches be tax exempt ? Charity ??? What % "actually" goes to charity ?
It "is" all in the eye of the beholder as to what's important and what is not.
For me school funding takes a back seat as do churches.
They add no value to my life.
But that's just me.

....and others.

nick said...

Rick - roads are the responsiblity of the STATE (especially I-485). It's not the cities fault the state can't priortize and is too busy building loop roads around Fayettville and Asheville instead of completing Charlotte's first. This has nothing to do with the arts.

CMS has the money - it just doesn't spend it wisely. Besides, people here already voted down the bonds, so they obviously don't care about their childrens education. Atleast the arts, including the much needed renovation of Discovery Place, deal with education and help make children more well rounded (help them think and interpret things - you know, actually use their brains). It especially benfits those children who are interested and talented in art and theater. There is nothing wrong with that - not everyone is a JOCK.

The only thing I agree with you on is crime. But I am sure everyone will be complaining when they have to find a way to pay to solve that issue, too...

You get what you pay for.

Anonymous said...

I think is is completely reprehensible that so many uptown investment bankers, who don't contribute one iota of quality or usefulness to the world, make hundreds of thousands of dollars per year and basically lie, cheat, and steal.

Meanwhile artists and musicians are being forced out of NoDa by greedy developers and rich bankers who have no problem paying top dollar for real estate.

I proposed two things:

1) A 50% tax on the income of uptown bankers earning more than 100,000 per year that would get diverted into arts projects.

2) Rent and/or price controls on real estate in the uptown area for people who apply as 'artists' and have low income levels.

The contribution artists make is forever.

The rich bankers just rob from the city and give nothing in return.

It is simply despicable that these people are allowed to profit off of uptown, and we don't take their money.

What can any human being need more that 100,000 per year for, when so many who make more valuable contributions to Charlotte go hungry?

Rick said...


My last comment was about government misprioritization of responsibilities, not necessarily who is responsibile for a particular area.

The roads may be a state responsibility - though repaving is not always. However, CharMeck misprioritizes when it spends its lobbying energy to get special treatment for Arts funding over completing the roads.

Your comment about CMS makes no sense. On one hand you say "CMS has the money - it just doesn't spend it wisely." On the other you say parents don't care about their children's education because they didn't give CMS more money. Which one is it? They voted against the bonds because they know CMS wastes the money and giving them more will not solve the problem. Oh, and wasn't ImaginOn built to support educating children - several million over budget I might add.

As for crime, you are correct people will complain because they see government spending millions of dollars on optional items such as arenas, HOFs, trains, and arts centers. Then govco says "we don't have any money to prosecute and jail criminals" (catching them isn't the problem, prosecuting them and incarcerating them is the problem.)

Anonymous said...


Drew said...

As the son of two artists, and a very creative person myself, Live/Work space at affordable prices is needed in Charlotte, but only as much as generally affordable housing is needed. Artists are just like any other member of the community and do not deserve special treatment when it comes to their living arrangements. If they can't afford normal affordable housing on their current income, they need to reconsider their choice of occupation and continue their artwork as a hobby. Artists do not deserve free housing anymore than corporations deserve tax breaks to move into an area.

As for all of you who feel you don't need the arts in your lives, you have been poorly educated and do not realize how much the arts actually are a part of your everyday life. EVERY manmade object you touch was designed by someone with _some_ creativity, it may be functional but that does not mean it isn't art. EVERY time you hear music you are listening to art. Even the logos on your beloved NASCARs are art, albeit art with questionable aesthetics. Life is art and it is not going away as long as people are alive.

Anonymous said...

Mary and others want to make this a 'Charlotte doesn't support its artist's argument by blaming gentrification, etc. Keeping housing affordable for all working people, not just artists, should be a priority. Noda may have been priced out, so it's time for the more adventurous to find a new neighborhood to make hip. I say go to tuckaseegee and freedom where thare are planty of cool bungalows that look like Dilworth or Elizabeth, but at a third of the cost. Venture out to the eastside which has become marginal over the last few years. It may not be uptown, but it's cheap. Sure some of these areas are sketchy, but hey, so was Noda (and still is). Face it folks, these neighborhoods go through cycles. I don't know what realistic mary newsome has in mind, but there's plenty of room for creative types in this town.


Anonymous said...

>>As for all of you who feel you don't need the arts in your lives, you have been poorly educated and do not realize how much the arts actually are a part of your everyday life. >>

Ahh, the ole 'conservatives are stupid and un-itellectual' and liberals are all worldy and open-minded argument.

Tax and spend liberals always know what's best for us, even if we do not know ourselves.

I have plenty of art. I paid for it with my own money.

It's a luxury item, not a 'critical' item as the Charlotte Observer phrased it this morning.

Case in point, the light rail project has budgeted $600K for 'art' to hand in stations, but axed a pedestrian path.

You guys are all morons (except Rick).

Anonymous said...

Well th esone of two artists nailed it nicely: there is no particular reason that artists should in some fashion be treated differently than any other productive member of society. My wife is a talented painter. She pursues HER vision and it is not commercially viable: although she has consistently sold her work, she could never have made a living doing it. She is also bright enough to realize that, and responsible enough to not expect that the normal rules of the market place should be suspended just for her. So while she always did what SHE wanted to do the way she wanted to do it, she also pursued a career that would allow her to support herself.

Would she prefer to not have had the pressures of needing to make a living? Sure, but the real world doesn't work that way.

I was also struck by the comment of the individual who said that he supports the arts by buying art that he likes. EXACTLY on the money. The idea that people should be required to support art the don't like is simply insane, particularly since, as someone basically pointed out earlier, it is almost impossible to define art or artists objectively.

Rick said...

I'm not sure people knew this and it is probably off topic. I know it was news to me.

Did anyone know that the increase on the car rental tax actually goes to transit and NOT the arts? I didn't.

What the politicians actually did was raise the tax on car rentals which I guess is dedicated to transit - did anyone know that? That frees up money from the Charlotte govco general fund that had formally been given to transit. That "freed up money" is now going to be given to the arts.

So this a case of govco truely taking money that could legally be spent on anything because it was from the general fund and choosing to give it to the Arts - to the tune of about $2.8 mil a year over the next 25 years.

How much net extra did the new police officers hired for the 2007 year budget actually cost?

$3.6 million

Instead of using this money to meet the govermnet's true responsibility of providing security, we got a 9% property tax increase to pay for these new police.

(Yes poster Nick, I'm complaining about how we are paying for police.)

(I calculated the $3.6 mil number by adding all the new requests together and subtracting the decreases. If that's not right, let me know.)

See page 54 of the charlotte budget.

Anonymous said...

I am not surprised by the low calibre of art appreciation in Charlotte. Bear in mind this is the same community that pulled funding for Angels in America because GASP there might be some gay content. I am gay and while Charlotte has changed it has not changed THAT much. The only art that gets support in this town is jesus freak art. Charlotte is always going to be a redneck laughingstock with bible thumping bigots around like Bill James around. Move to a real city like Atlanta, Asheville, or The Triangle where art and diversity are embraced and Charlotte is looked down and ridiculed for good reason.

Anonymous said...

Well put. You nailed it !
I keep hoping, but it really hasn't changed that much. So far in the 20 years I've lived here all that's really changed is uptown is now great to live in and the food choices have gotten a ton better throughout the city.
But arts and tolerance of others I feel is 20 years further down the road.

Anonymous said...

First time to visit the site. It's a shame to read about the arts and find the name calling. Need a cheaper place to live? Look to the westside. We have a cultural stew that can certainly accomodate artists. We are also close to downtown (uptown?) and are acquiring the amenities found in other parts of the city.

And who said NASCAR fans can't also appreciate the arts. I love both! Original art hangs beside my widescreen TV which is tuned to the race every Sunday afternoon.

hickryhawkins said...

Thanks for writing about this. One thing I've noticed even in communities that try to be more friendly towards artists is that musicians/songwriters fall at the bottom of that pile.

In response to the "anonymous said....Attention Newsome you are a complet idiot." I'd like to say that most artists of any kind, especially musical ones are NEVER able to get any grants or anything else from the "gub-ment".

If that is ones opinion then that same person should also talk about the tax-breaks that upper income people get.

If not for the artistic people in any community, we'd all be mindless drones, but apparantly there's a whole bunch of you already.

Would this same person have told people like Edgar Allen Poe or Mark Twain to "get a real job?"

Anyhow, thanks Ms. Newsom for opening up this discussion!

Anonymous said...

>>Move to a real city like Atlanta, Asheville, or The Triangle where art and diversity are embraced and Charlotte is looked down and ridiculed for good reason>>

What does 'art' have to do with 'diversity' other than being an off-handed way to brand the anti-tax and spend folks as bigots and hicks?

I love art. Art is great. Art is wonderful. I took art in college. yada yada yada.

But I do not want one dime of taxpayer money spent on art while schools are unbuilt, criminals remain unapprehended, and roads are unbuilt.

It is a matter of priority, and art is simply a VERY low priority for *government* to worry about.

Government is simply not in the art business.

This is just sniverling group of spoiled children looking for a free handount frmo the taxpayers.

Thwe $158 million for the ASC should be grounds to put McCrory and company in Federal Prison.

Let's see Mary Newsom second mortgage her house to help pay for the new arts projects.

Doubt it. She is a phony and a hypocrite.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the Charlotte Observer would be so supportive of the Arts tax on rental cars if the target business was different.

Perhaps if the proposal was to tax Mecklenberg newspaper sales by 10%, 5 cents per copy of the Observer, and the tax revenue were to go to support some uptown project like ASC or a new minor league baseball stadium, etc.

Would the Charlotte Observer be so eager to chip in and do their financial part?

Maybe we will get an opportunity to find out soon.

Anonymous said...

Frigin' crybabies. Unbelieveable. Try surfing another cities blogs. It's no where near as pathetic as Charlotte's. They talk "real" issues.
Grow up people. City life always comes with "something" you will end up not liking. Charlotte seems to be obsessed with the tax issue. It's simple, GET OUT ! and leave the rest of us in peace.
Art and sports are important for tax revenue from hotels, restaurants, car rental, etc. Police protection is always important.
I say why not funnel all of my tax dollars to those causes and you bible thumpin' home bodies can pay for your own damn schools for you gigantic families that over burden the system. While we are at it I think we should tax your damn church as well.
Me, Me, Me, Me. What a bunch of babies.

What ? Does that seem rediculous to you ? Why ?

See, that's how your complaining sounds to the rest of us. What's 150 mill for arts compaired to how much you drain my wallet for all your kids schooling ?

School's and more roads. Move closer to work, have less babies.
Sounds to me like the suburban families are the one's taxing our counties dollars.

Anonymous said...

I've lived in Charlotte 15 years, and in those 15 years the arts have been funded very well, on a constant basis. The problem is whatever is spent is never enough, and probably never will be enough. The latest $158 million will only generate more "needs" for the arts community. Government involvement only drives up the price, making it more and more expensive to support or to enjoy. Our government needs to work harder to support all of us, instead they concentrate on the "wants" of a few, not the needs of the masses. There are a lot of people in Charlotte that feel like all of us should pay to provide their wants, and they tend to be concentrated in downtown Charlotte. Those demanding the entitlements make it a divisive issue.

Anonymous said...

Someone complained about Angels in America. Why in the world would anyne be surprised that when the public's money is spent, the public's representatives attemtp to control HOW that money is spent?
There is nothing NOTHING on which government expends funds which it does not also control. The idea that the arts are or should be an exceptio to that is just foolish.

It seems always to get missed by people with their hand out is that "he who pays the piper, calls the tune." Nothing could possibly be more at odds with the idea of free artistic expression than government funded art.

Anonymous said...

In response to Mary's clarification; there would probably be a tax break requested by whatever developer would build such a project, so instead of the tax income going towards paying for the services any development requires, some of the cost of the services would be bourne from everyone else's taxes, putting more pressure on our already limited funds. The TIFs that have recently come about are helping a few, but increasing the demand for increasing everyone else's taxes to make up the difference. Our city loves to lose money to drive business to center city business. The recent CIAA tourny is a prime example, we all lost money to drive business to downtown vendors. And it was called a success because it did just that.

Rick said...

The 6/16 8:40 AM Anon shows just how warped some perspectives can become when you get used to spending other people's money and truly have no idea where that money actually originates.

Arts is a "real" topic in this person's mind, but schools, roads, and taxes are not.

Plus, if all the complainers "GET OUT" as the poster suggests, where would the money come from anyway? The evil suburbanites and stingy rich people pay most of the taxes this person wants to spend, but if they express opinions about where it should be spent, then they are complaining.

What strikes me most is that many (not all) of the anti arts funding posts are NOT anti arts. They simply don't want public money spent on private enterprises. This gets translated into "complaining" by those who want to spend other people's money while not feeling guilty about it.

When these people are forced to face what they are doing, then they lash out with the standard redneck, rube, backwards, bible thumper epithets.

Anonymous said...

I am POSITIVE I pay a ton more taxes than you as well as contribute more tax dollars to the restaurant, bar and entertainment arena.
So take a hike Bud, you and your mini van full of kids.

Anonymous said...

Mary, please help me.

I am an aspiring professional golfer. I would like to quit my real job to play golf full time, but have a family to support.

Certainly you believe that everyone is ENTITLED to live their dream, and would help me to do so.

I was wondering if you could put in a good word to city council and maybe they could send me some enough money to live on while I practice golf.

If possible, I would also like to move into a house at Quail Hollow, since it would cut down on my travel time. Oh, and I also need a membership to Quail Hollow. It is really expensive, and I cannot afford it.

I am certain if I became a nationally known pro golfer, this would be good for tourism and publicity for Charlotte, so this is really important to everyone, not just me.

Please help, and send money.


Rick said...

Zero kids, no minivan, and wondering how you can be so positive on the tax payment issue - considdering you were 0-2 on the first two comments.

However, I'd like to thank you for proving my point on the typical lack of arguement for the spending-other's-money side of the issue. It's amazing how quickly you degenerated into name calling.

Frank Burns said...

I have a better suggestion. Tell the artists about the affordable housing in East Charlotte. You can buy much more house for the dollar. East Charlotte would embrace the artists with open arms. I would suggest that City Council move the Arts Museums to East Charlotte instead of downtown. With our many big box empty buildings, I'm sure we can accomodate the museums at a whole lot less cost. The center city section of town is becoming more of a sports focus. They have the basketball arena, football stadium and now the Nascar museum. Let's make East Charlotte the area for Arts focus. There is clearly a bias for moving all attractions downtown, much to the detriment of other areas.

Anonymous said...

Making use of the empty stripmalls and spaces on the Eastside for art and locally owned businesses of all kinds is a great idea! The whole area could really benefit from some creative attention.

Anonymous said...

This is not about artists deserving things because they are artists or giving tax breaks. The main issue is that, more than other occupations, certain artist thrive better among people like them, people that can better their style and criticizes them constructively (by artist here I am talking about the ones that Charlotte most needs, dramatic artist along with architects and sculptors).

There are better things to put money to improve our city, but this is another way that it needs to improve. I want to see Charlotte be comparable to other major cities and all cities worth visiting have a major artists district.

Anonymous said...

>>all cities worth visiting have a major artists district..>>

That's the battle cry of the McCrory administration.

"Welcome to Charlotte. A nice place to visit, a lousy place to live."

Halls of fame, arena, arts, theatre, whitewater park, convention center. They all BLEED money, taxpayer money.

Meanwhile the basics of crime, roads, and schools are a joke.

Hopefully your precious tourists and visitors don't watch the news or read the paper while they are here.

Anonymous said...

"The main issue is that, more than other occupations, certain artist thrive better among people like them . . ."

Then there IS no issue. Last I looked there are no areas of the city or county zoned "no artists". They are free to select places to live and work in proximity to anyone they care to, including other artists.

If "affordable housing" for them is your issue, there is still no issue. There is all manner of space that is just as inexpensive as NoDa was originally. They simply need to move there. (BTW, if it is affordabel housing that you have in mind, you might want to drop architects from your list. The average earnings of architects is well above the national average.)

Reread This Blog...Please said...

73 comments and what a hoot! Artist are more vital. Meaning we think we are smarter than you. Then Artist prove it by wordsmithing the eloquence of "shut-up", "Redneck", and then their obscence comments. Obscenity always the refuge of those with the better vocabulary and communication skills.

Where within the Constitution, The Bill of Rights and the Other Ammendments which is the frame work of guv-ment is the right to be subsidized?

If Artist truly wanted the freedom of expression they espouse. They would be outraged by the use of subsidy as an opiate to make palatable control of their art. No subsidy comes without conditions.

Be artful and multiply but don't expect, demand, or request others to provide subsidy.

anon said...

This is laughable. Richard Florida's highly touted "creative class" is just another swimmy-headed manifestation of the discredited literary theory "deconstruction". Deconstruction posits (among other goofy ideas) that the critics of an author's work are just important as the work itself. Florida's suggestion that wealthy consumers like lawyers are part of the creative class is the big givaway.

It is likewise silly to imagine that the kinds of artists who want someone to subsidize their work space have anything to offer a community at all. Real artists - people who have a real drive to paint or whtever - they are going to find a way to carry out their vision no matter what. Thousands of musicians and writers across the country toil day in and day out, unconcerned whether anyone cares about it or not. They do it because they are compelled to do it - or maybe they just like doing it. I expect there are a lot of visual artists doing this too, but they aren't out spraying about it.

Real art is mostly about hard and disciplined work. These tatooed and pierced posers (actually they are about as edgy as a new Camry) have little to offer a community beyond offensiveness. If they want to be considered as artists, then they must to be held to the same set of standards that musicians and writers are: if no one is willing to throw down some money for your product, then you best not give up that day job.

Charlotte is in reality a very small town with a lot of people living in it. Regardless of how many outsiders move here, it still retains it's basic blue collar character. I don't see why this is so hard for the elites to understand and accept. Charlotte is a Nascar/shopping mall town - accept it, embrace it, get on with it, or move on.

For those folks who look to towns like Asheville as meccas for arty types, Asheville has real problems. It has moved from being a town where there are few opportunities or services for the working poor to being a town where there is a growing and dangerous hostility from the liberal elites to the more conservative and religious working class/working poor - intolerance of regional values. Not unlike many towns in upper New England and upstate New York. Do we want this here?

Anonymous said...

WOW... what happen to our lovely southern city that used to have the most awesome art community? After reading some of these angry comments it makes me as a native, local artist so sad that so many people don't want to see what value art brings to the world and Charlotte. I work a full time job so after all of my bills are paid I can make a piece of art to hang up at a gallery. Hopefully someone will see it at a gallery crawl and smile. And just maybe they will buy it and I will make enough money to cover the material costs. And then I can make another piece of art to make someone else happy. I didn't ask ArtSpace or the government to pay my bills. What the heck has happen to this city? World Class... Some people are making this city World Classless.

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