Street Performers: Nuisance or Necessity?
In the late 1980s, street life in Asheville, North Carolina was "negligible." Since then, the town has found itself "in the midst of a remarkable renaissance, one fueled by a burgeoning arts scene and a certain freewheeling, neo-'60s sensibility."
For the New York Times, Richard Fausset writes, "Itinerant musicians soon discovered a city that was tolerant of iconoclasts, full of strolling tourists, thick with the musical traditions of Appalachia and relatively safe."
Asheville's countercultural trajectory has its perks and its problems. "Critics say the crowds who pool around the most talented performers block downtown business entrances and spill dangerously into the narrow streets. And they say less-talented buskers are often little more than panhandlers with musical props [...]"
Many buskers feel they enable the town's rejuvenation, and are subsequently made to feel unwelcome. "'They ride on the coattails of the people who make it seem like a place worth visiting,' [ragtime guitarist Ali Kafka] said. 'And then they kick them out.'"
"It is a familiar complaint in those American cities lucky enough to enjoy a little hip cachet."