The Tennessee Arts Commission offers a variety of distinct funding opportunities in the arts to serve diverse constituencies through a competitive grants making process.


All grant projects and activities must take place during the Tennessee Arts Commission’s fiscal year, which begins July 1 and ends June 30. All grants must be closed out no later than June 15.
Commission staff are available year-round to assist with the application process and provide feedback on draft proposals in advance of deadlines. Staff will examine all applications for completeness and compliance with eligibility criteria. Depending upon the grant category they are in, eligible applications are then reviewed, rated on how well they address evaluation criteria and ranked by one of the following:

  1. A panel of instate professionals at an Advisory Panel Meeting
  2. Out of state adjudicators
  3. Commission staff

Awards are based on the outcome of the ratings, rankings and availability of funds. Applicants are notified of awards by mail or email. Unanticipated shortfalls in annual state revenue may require the Commission to reduce the agency’s budget at any time during a fiscal year. Such budget cuts could reduce grants made during the fiscal year. The State of Tennessee requires that the Arts Commission reserve the right to reduce grants in response to budget reductions.

Annual Grants include MCI, CEP, PS, APS, RAPS, AE-AR, AE-CL, FAY, AE-TT, AA and IAF. Annual grants fund activities that take place within the Commission’s fiscal year. The life cycle of an annual grant is:

  1. Updated annual grant guidelines and applications for the following fiscal year go live in October.
  2. Grant deadlines are staggered throughout January.
  3. Applications are reviewed in March and April.
  4. Award letters are mailed to all applicants on or around July 1.
  5. Grant closeout must be completed no later than 30 days after the funded activity or by June 15 at the latest for year-long projects.

Rolling Grants include AE-MG, AE-TI, PDS, SPECOP, TA, and STS. Rolling Grants fund activities that start no earlier than July 1 and must be completed by June 15 of the following calendar year. The life cycle of a rolling grant is:

  1. Rolling Grant guidelines and applications go live in June prior to the beginning of the fiscal year, with the exception of STS.
  2. STS grant guidelines go live on July 2, and applications will be available online August 4.
  3. Rolling Grants, including STS, have ongoing deadlines. An application is due at least thirty days in advance of the beginning date of the project activity.
  4. Each grant category has a limited amount of funds available every fiscal year. Applications will be accepted and reviewed until all funds are depleted.
  5. Grant closeout must be completed no later than 30 days after the funded activity.


Once grant applications are submitted online and hard copies are delivered to the Commission, they are reviewed for eligibility and completeness. Applications are assigned to program directors by artistic discipline and/or grant program. The assigned staff member reviews the application in depth and notifies applicants if additional information is needed in advance of the Advisory Panel meeting. PS, APS, RAPS, AE-AR, AE-CL, FAY, AE-TT, AA applications are sent to Advisory Panel members. MCI, CEP and IAF applications are sent to out of state adjudicators. All annual grant applications, with the exception of IAF, are reviewed at a meeting convened at the Commission’s office which is open to the public. At Advisory Panel meetings, staff members summarize each application focusing on standardized Commission review criteria, as published in each category guideline, prior to comments, discussion and final scoring by the panelists.

IAF applications are sent out of state to be reviewed by professionals who have a working knowledge of the discipline being reviewed. The primary evaluation criterion is artistic excellence based on work samples submitted with the application.


Advisory panels and out of state evaluators provide expert guidance so that the Commission can make informed decisions in awarding grants and technical assistance recommendations to applicants. Panels and evaluators do not allocate dollar amounts. They may also advise the Commission and staff on matters of policy.

Advisory panels represent a specific artistic discipline or grant program. Panel composition ideally represents cultural and geographic diversity. In the event of unexpected absences, staff may appoint substitute evaluators.

Panelists may find the Hints for Panelists page helpful in aligning evaluation criteria to application requirements.


Nominations (including self-nominations) may be made by any interested individual in Tennessee and are accepted year round. Please submit the following Panel Nomination Form. The form requires:
• The nominee’s name and contact information
• A statement of the nominee’s qualifications pertaining to which panel they might best serve on
• A copy of the nominee’s résumé
• The proposed nominees are reviewed for selection by the Commission staff. Nomination does not guarantee selection.

For detailed information about panelist’s responsibilities, see Panel Orientation, an online guide.

Panelists may be asked to serve for up to three consecutive two-year terms.


The Commission contracts with out of state professionals with pertinent expertise to evaluate MCI, CEP and IAF grants applications. MCI adjudicators serve for a total of two consecutive years, while CEP and IAF adjudicators serve for a single year.


Annual Grants: MCI, CEP, PS, APS, RAPS, AE-AR, AE-CL, FAY, AE-TT, & AA
Prior to the MCI & CEP reviews and Advisory Panel meetings, packets are mailed to panelists and adjudicators. Packets include copies of all applications to be reviewed and information on scoring or rating each evaluation criteria. Staff will provide an orientation session for panelists to answer any questions about the process and funding policies.

Panel meetings are open to the public. Applicants are notified of the date and approximate time of their application review. It is strongly encouraged, but not mandatory, for a representative of the organization to be present at the time of review. Applicants may not make a presentation or pass out additional information at the Advisory Panel meeting, but are allowed to respond if a panelist questions them.
Panelists and adjudicators are asked to assign ratings for each evaluation criteria. They may discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the application and give constructive comments. Apart from running the panel meeting and keeping the discussions consistent with review criteria, Commission staff members do not take an active role in the review process and do not score applications. Panelists who have a declared a conflict of interest with an application must remove themselves from the discussion and will not be allowed to score that application. Staff will collect all score sheets, calculate the average score for each application, and prepare a list of all applications ranked from the highest to lowest score.

Funding recommendations are based on the final ratings and rankings of all applications and available funds. Applications rarely receive total funding requests in this competitive process, and those with the lowest rankings may receive no funding. All funding recommendations are presented to the Commission members for final approval.

Fiscal Year 2016 Advisory Panel Meeting Dates

Discipline All Dates are 2015
Major Cultural Institution (MCI) Wednesday, March 25
Major Cultural Institution (MCI) Thursday, March 26
Dance Wednesday, April 1
Arts Education Teacher Training Thursday, April 2
Folklife Monday, April 6
Music Tuesday, April 7
Rural Arts Project Support I (arts organizations) Wednesday, April 8
Rural Arts Project Support II (non-arts organizations) Thursday, April 9
Arts Education Community Learning Friday, April 10
Funds for At Risk Youth Monday, April 13
Theater Tuesday, April 14
Community Arts Wednesday, April 15
Literary Thursday, April 16
Arts Education Artist-in-Residence Friday, April 17
Inter-Arts Monday, April 20
Visual Arts and Craft Tuesday, April 21
Media and Design Wednesday, April 22
Arts Access Thursday, April 23

Individual Artist Fellowship:
IAF application packets are sent to out of state adjudicators. Packets include copies of all applications, work samples, and information on scoring. Staff will provide an orientation session for adjudicators to answer any questions about the process and funding policies. Adjudicators will return results to the Commission by a specified date with their recommendations and comments. As the major evaluation criterion for IAF is artistic excellence, applicants are encouraged to send in their highest quality work samples as directed by the guidelines. All fellowship recommendations are presented to Commission members for final approval.

Rolling Grants: AE-MG, AE-TI, PDS, SPECOP, TA, & STS
Rolling grant applications are reviewed and rated according to evaluation criteria by Commission program staff. Following staff funding recommendations, the Executive Director or Associate Director for Grants approves the award.


An applicant has a right to appeal any decision that denies funding to the proposed program or project either in whole or in part. This appeal should be directed in writing to the Executive Director of the Commission.

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