Black Mountain - Homegrown Tools

Black Mountain, NC

Updated: 2022

This small town bridges a thriving local arts scene with economic development to restore its cultural identity and enlarge the tax base.

Median Household Income2020$55,975
Poverty Rate 20203.9%
Proximity to Urban Center 30 miles to Asheville, N.C.
Proximity to Interstate Highway 1 mile
Case Study Time Frame 1990-2002
Municipal Budget FY201912.4 million
Data Source: US Census, American Community Survey
View Complete Case Study

The Black Mountain Center for the Arts, made possible by a local government investment, is spurring cultural and economic development. In the early 1970s, the Town of Black Mountain sold its town hall to a group of local artists and business people. Thanks to local government funding, supplemented by private donations, the old town hall was renovated and re-opened as the Black Mountain Center for the Arts in 2000. Two years later, the town council made another strategic decision to retire $200,000 of the center’s remaining renovation debt, ensuring the center’s long-term viability. Today the center operates debt free and offers world-class musical, artistic and theater productions that are rekindling Black Mountain’s artist community and attracting tourists from throughout the southeastern United States.


What are the lessons learned from this story?


Public-private partnerships can be developed to support community development interests. The Town of Black Mountain provided capital and building space to an ad-hoc group of local artists. The investment led to the creation of the Center for the Arts and elevated the role of the arts group in the community. It provided the arts community with a place, an identity and a focus. The center in benefited each individual artist and the community as a whole.


Investing in the arts community can be a driver of economic development in a community. The results of Black Mountain’s investment have been increasing tourism, the development of small arts-based businesses and the attraction of new residents who want to associate with the Black Mountain Center for the Arts.


Strategic investments in community organizations can align private/nonprofit sector interests with broader community interests. Black Mountain’s strategic investment created the incentives so that the energy of local artists was aligned with the interest of the community.