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Shaping a Vibrant Cultural Life for All

by Lee Keesler

August 7,2008

As we celebrate our 50th year, ASC aspires to shape a vibrant cultural life for all. To do so, ASC must serve the growing population and changing demographics of this global hub of commerce that is home to nearly 900,000 citizens, nine Fortune 500 companies, an expanding center city, and six bustling suburban towns.


As the community has grown, so too has the cultural sector. The community and its leaders have built cultural institutions and facilities, financial resources, a model partnership between the public and private sectors, and ASC as a central leadership organization. Non-profit arts, science and history organizations provide nearly 5,000 local jobs, generate an economic impact of $158 million, and create almost four million customer experiences. Today’s sector provides a formidable base from which to develop true cultural vibrancy. Yet the sector, with its significant assets and strengths, can have a greater impact.

The journey ahead for ASC is set out in a new organizational roadmap completed in spring 2008. The plan is framed by five key questions and their answers:

Who are we? ASC remains the community’s advocate for arts and culture, gatherer and steward of private and public resources, investor of those resources to support the cultural community, the sector’s strategic planner, as well as the public art agent for the City, County and private developers. ASC is evolving from solely a fundraising vehicle, to an organization whose chief outcome is the impact and investment of all dollars entrusted to us to distribute.

Whose are we? In contrast to 1958 when ASC was formed to serve a small donor community and even smaller set of cultural institutions, ASC today serves individual and corporate donors, cultural organizations, creative individuals, public sector stakeholders, the education community, and community organizations who use arts, science and history programming. All of the voices of these constituent groups are important to ASC.

What are we called to do? ASC exists to build appreciation, participation and support for the arts, sciences, history and heritage throughout Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

Where do we go from here? Over the next five years ASC will focus on two key strategic priorities: broadening the community’s engagement in arts, science, history and heritage; and, building the long-term sustainability of organizations that provide programming in these areas.

We aim to broaden community engagement by increasing awareness, ensuring access, stimulating demand and driving participation, encouraging participants to become donors and helping cultural organizations attract audiences. ASC strives to engage every citizen through a cultural community that has something for everyone. To that end, residents and visitors can learn about upcoming cultural events at CharlotteCultureGuide.com, an ASC project with calendar listings and a weekly e-mail promoting events and activities.

Our commitment to building long-term stability for the sector means increasing investments in strategic advancement opportunities, expanding professional and skill development offerings for cultural and community organizations’ staff and boards as well as expanding services to the cultural sector. ASC will continue to provide significant unrestricted operating support to cultural institutions, but will broaden its mix of support for individuals and organizations to help them build earned and contributed income capabilities, enhance programming excellence, achieve performance goals and ensure long-term sustainability.

What does success look like? ASC’s vision of a vibrant cultural life for all will be measured by:

• Advancing excellence in all creative endeavors
• Growing appreciation for the role of creativity
• Growing community participation in cultural education and programs
• Increasing emerging creative activities
• Expanded access to cultural activities
• Healthier, more sustainable cultural organizations
• Growing numbers of creative individuals living and working here
• Strengthened and increasing resources to support cultural activity.

ASC will provide community updates on successes and challenges as we move forward. In the meantime, we invite everyone to participate in the journey to a vibrant cultural life for all. To learn more, see ASC’s organizational roadmap at www.ArtsAndScience.org.

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