UPDATED: Asheville arts council sells downtown building to Curate restaurant owners

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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UPDATE Jan. 2, 2014: Kitty Love, executive director of the Asheville Area Arts Council, confirmed today that the arts council on Monday sold its building at 13 Biltmore to Heirloom Hospitality LLC, the company that owns Curate restaurant. It’s the latest move toward returning the arts council to a financially stable organization that can fulfill a mission of supporting local arts programs and artists, Love says.

The arts council is financing the sale, a move that Love says will provide the organization with a steady revenue stream it hopes to build on. The steady revenue comes close to covering operating expenses, but the arts council must still find additional funding if it wants to remain in its current location at Pink Dog Creative in the River Arts District. The council has an office and an exhibition space there.

“We would love to be able to stay at Pink Dog, but we need to find other source of revenue if we are going to sustain that exhibition space,” Love said.

The arts council is also in the middle of a strategic planning process that will reshape the organization moving into the new year. Love and her board will be reworking it mission and vision, revamping its operations and board governance procedures and looking at all aspects of the operation, Love said. The process should be complete in February.

“2014 for us will be the proving ground” for the arts council, Love said.

Initial post on Dec. 30: Word on the street is that the Asheville Area Arts Council plans to sell the building it owns at 13 Biltmore Ave. to the owners of the adjacent, and popular, tapas restaurant Curate.

The photo above (from Google Maps) shows 13 Biltmore on the left – it is the site of Tutti Frutti, a frozen yogurt shop. The arts council has been leasing the building. At the right of the yogurt shop you can see Curate, a popular tapas restaurant helmed by talented Chef Katie Button.

The arts council has been searching for better financial footing for about the past five years. In 2009, the arts council lost its executive director and several board members, and sold off its gallery in another building on Biltmore Avenue to pay off debt. In 2011, the organization moved into space at Pink Dog Creative art studios in the River Arts District after going almost two years without a public face in the community.

The North Carolina Arts Council also stopped passing along a small pot of money that it doles out to local arts council, which in turn award small “grassroots grants” to artists. The Asheville arts group has been working hard to regain that funding source.

More details as I get them.

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

  • 1

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  1. Murphy January 2, 2014

    Any word on what the Curate folks have in mind for the space…

    1. Murphy January 2, 2014

      According to the CT…

      “Elizabeth Button, co-owner of Cúrate, said Tutti Frutti remains open.

      “Tutti Frutti will continue to operate in the building, we’re just the new landlord,” said Button in an email.”

    2. Jason Sandford January 2, 2014

      storage, according to the C-T.

  2. ArtsyFartsy January 1, 2014

    How are they doing this without city council approval???

    Years ago the city owned and maintained those buildings and as a means to show good stewardship to the arts (which has since been lost by our city leadership) council gave those buildings to the arts council so that they would have a permanent rent-free home and gallery area.

    Chalk it up to one poor decision after another plus incredible mismanagement and they sold two of the three land parcels in order to keep paying bills and salaries. Then in a boneheaded decision a few years ago they moved out of their permanent rent-free space into a ridiculously tiny and difficult to use space in the River Arts District where they have to pay rent.
    It still boggles the mind as to WHY did they do this??
    And then their permanent space was so converted into a yogurt shop there is no way they could go back.

    So now they are selling off the last of their tax-payer given property so they can keep paying rent on a terrible space where apparently their landlord is also on the board? How in god’s name is that okay as far as conflict of interest goes?? Has no one in Asheville ever been on an actual functioning board before? (Per my experience with several boards I’d wager no unfortunately.)

    I’ve worked with so many excellent non-profit arts councils throughout the United States and this is by far the most the head-up-their-butts arts council I’ve ever encountered.

    It’s probably their long history of mismanaged idiocracy that has caused the city leaders to stop believing in investing in the arts… unless you consider that $2m they want to put into the arts museum which has a number of concernable issues that should be dealt with before giving them any investment funding (namely their executive director). More tax-payer money given to an institution which does nothing for the greater community outside of allow two free hours a month on the most inconvenient days possible.

    Jesus someone get this town some REAL arts leadership already! It’s absolutely turns my stomach to see the potential of this arts community and how royally dicked over it is by the powers-that-be combined with the incompetence of most of it’s own self-appointed leaders.

    Give it 5 more years and the Arts Council will be gone as a result of blowing through the money of this last sale with no more cards up their sleeve. Combine that with the fold of almost all of the city’s beloved festivals and the collapse of most of the studios in the River Arts District due to the skyrocketing rents & taxes (5 years from now mind you) and then what will the arts scene look like in Asheville? I’m not talking about the craft scene – but the honest to god arts scene. It’s just incredibly painful to watch these people take the steps that are leading them to their own doom with no one in the decision making roles in the City, County or Tourism Development looking out of them. Asheville and the surrounding area will reap what it sows.

    1. Sean January 2, 2014

      Move along. Nothing to see here.

    2. arts lover January 3, 2014

      Artsy, you write, “council gave those buildings to the arts council so that they would have a permanent rent-free home and gallery area.” Could you give us some data on that gift? Were there any conditions on the gift that would have required the arts council to get permission from council to sell?


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