Community and Economic Development

The arts fuel a thriving economy in North Carolina, creating jobs, generating tax revenues, stimulating consumer spending, and energizing cultural tourism.

Statewide economic development initiatives undertaken by the N.C. Arts Council include our Cultural Tourism initiatives and the SmART Communities program. Additionally, many of the grants that we award, particularly those through the Grassroots Arts Program and State Arts Resources categories, invigorate local and regional economies through the support of festivals, concerts, performances, exhibitions, downtown art walks, and a host of other community arts programs.

Our early leadership in developing cultural trails built our reputation as a state that sustains unique and significant arts assets through an innovative approach to tourism. Our guidebooks and websites chronicling Blue Ridge and African American music, Cherokee arts and culture, and literary heritage help visitors explore North Carolina through the lens of the communities where these traditions were born and sustained. These projects have brought visitors to some of our most rural and economically distressed counties and communities.

Our SmART Communities program coordinates government, the private sector, economic developers, and local leaders in projects that revitalize downtowns and neighborhoods. The Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park in Wilson, N.C., one of our first SmART Communities projects, has attracted more than $50 million in private development.

We also document the impact of the Creative Economy in North Carolina through research that demonstrates the arts are one of North Carolina’s most productive economic drivers. Recent studies show that North Carolina’s creative industries generate 417,002 jobs (7 percent of the state workforce) and the nonprofit arts and culture sector are a $2.12 billion industry.