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Hogan Responds
posted: September 30, 2013 by Kevin Hogan
City Wise to Invest in Art Museum Expansion.

Op Ed published on 9/29/13 in the Asheville Citizen Times

City Wise to Invest in Museum Expansion.

I have lived in Asheville since 1979 and am a visual artist. I was active in the discussions during the founding of Pack Place and have been a close observer and frequent critic of the Asheville Art Museum since the Civic Center basement days. I consider myself a member of the creative class (term coined by social scientist Richard Florida in the 1990s as those who help make art a positive economic driver in cities).  And I believe I can speak as well as anyone to the benefits the visual arts have brought to this community – in spite of the meager investment by private and public sectors.  It is true that most of us in the creative class love the diverse individualistic environment of Asheville, Buncombe County and WNC; it is mostly what keeps us here and continues to draw more.

When it comes to cultural resources, many like to complain: we want better, healthier, more intellectually challenging.  I remember… We wanted better schools, alternative schools and charter schools. We wanted better food and service. We wanted interesting locally owned businesses. We wanted a more vibrant downtown. We wanted to bring Montford back. We wanted to do something with the Grove Arcade. We wanted to have studios on the river. We wanted a cleaner more accessible river. We wanted to conserve more land. We wanted tailgate markets. We wanted a public radio station. We wanted more theatre. We wanted more galleries. We wanted better beer. And more….. That has been going quite well, some may say…mission accomplished.

But it is the essence of the creative class to reinvent, redesign, improve.  This quality of reinvention is an essential component to the emerging Asheville brand if we want to compete.

For me, the new museum represents a clear iconic symbol of our commitment to art as a community and economic driver.  This project represents a celebration of our good fortune in having what so many do not.

For me, Mr Michalove’s words have a depressing tone of rejection based on the difficulty some people have with the cultural and political changes we have seen in Asheville. I have my pet peeves too.  But the problem is there is simply no factual basis for any of the charges Mr. Michalove has made.

The fundamental issue here is that, at the very least…the city has a responsibility to make reasonable improvements on a significant piece of property they own. The current City Council and Mayor agreed and voted unanimously to approve the Art Museum expansion as a Capital Improvement Plan item.

Additionally, the Art Museum, is growing, thriving, and raising significant funds (10 times more than the city's contribution) to invest in the same property. The Museum needs to protect that investment and the interests of all stakeholders by having clear responsibility for the management and control over the space they occupy. This is particularly critical to an art museum where climate control, security and aesthetics are fundamental to their work and must be under their authority. Having a direct tenant landlord relationship with the city is an essential element to the continued presence of the Asheville Art Museum on Pack Square. It’s reasonable to assume this may be the basis of some of Mt Michalove’s vitriol. This process has been difficult for some who saw Pack Place as an institution in its own right and not a partnership of institutions. I remember the difficulties in organizing Pack Place. Change is hard. It was hard in the 1980’s. I fought hard against the consolidation of cultural institutions and arts fundraising restructuring.  What was built, as a library, an atrium and a health museum must now be consolidated, redesigned and refurbished into an art museum worthy of Asheville’s “art destination” image. Let us be grateful we have a director, staff and support to reach for this goal.


For those familiar with the current Asheville political landscape, it is clear Mr. Michalove’s diatribe op ed piece twists facts about the city's contribution to the Asheville Art Museum project to bash current council leadership and advance his own protégé in the upcoming mayoral race.  Shame on Mr. Michalove for opposing the exciting evolution of our city and for debasing a promising public-private investment that benefits all.

Kevin Hogan serves on the board of the Asheville Art Museum. He is speaking as an individual and not representing any institution.