The Tennessee Arts Commission was created in 1967 by the Tennessee General Assembly with the special mandate to stimulate and encourage the presentation of the visual, literary, music and performing arts and to encourage public interest in the cultural heritage of Tennessee.

The mission of the Tennessee Arts Commission is to cultivate the arts for the benefit of all Tennesseans and their communities.

Through a variety of investments, the Commission encourages excellence in artistic expression through the state’s artists, arts organizations and arts activities. That commitment has expanded through the years to increase access and opportunities for all citizens to participate in the arts.

The Tennessee Arts Commission builds better communities by:

  • Investing in Tennessee’s nonprofit arts industry to enhance cultural life
  • Serving citizens, artists and arts and cultural organizations
  • Supporting arts education to increase student outcomes
  • Undertaking initiatives that address public needs through the arts

Each year, the Commission helps fund the arts activities of more than 700 organizations and artists in Tennessee. Over the past five years, more than 6,450 grants totaling more than $30 million have been invested in communities across Tennessee. Of the $5.5 million granted by the Commission in FY2018, $5.4 million came from specialty license plate fees earmarked to benefit the arts. Additionally, the Commission receives a state appropriation and federal funding, namely from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Arts education is a major focus, both to support a complete and balanced education for Tennessee’s children and youth and to grow the arts audiences of the future. Arts education grants and programs enhance academic achievement and contribute to student growth and life-long learning. Through Student Ticket Subsidy grants to schools alone, more than 590,000 students have had an arts experience over the past five years.

The Governor appoints the 15 volunteer members of the Tennessee Arts Commission for five-year terms, selecting from among citizens who have demonstrated a vital interest in the arts. Recommended by the Commission to the Governor for appointment, the Executive Director is the lead administrative officer, responsible for engaging a professional staff to carry out the work of the agency.

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