Cultural Education Partnership

Support to well established, free-standing 501(c)(3) college/university level arts educational institutions.

Eligible academic institutions must have a mission that focuses on training and/or accreditation in one or more arts disciplines and must offer the highest level of quality art education and administration. Funding will depend upon an organization’s rating in the review process and upon the total amount of funds available to the Commission for grant allocation. This category is competitive.

Open to free-standing 501(c)(3) college/university level arts educational institutions.

First-time applicants to this category must contact Krishna Adams to discuss eligibility at 615-532-9798.

First-time applicants to this category must:

  1. contact Krishna Adams to determine eligibility at 615-532-9798, then
  2. submit a letter requesting entry into the category by October, 30. The letter should describe how the applicant meets the eligibility requirements and the evaluation criteria for the category. Include a staff list with current annual salaries and benefits and your most recent audit, IRS Form 990, or year-end financial statement. Because this is a request to receive unrestricted operational support, any or all activities of your organization may be examined before a decision is made on your request. Address this letter to: Hal Partlow, Associate Director for Grants, and do not exceed three pages. This letter may be delivered as an email attachment. The Tennessee Arts Commission may contact you to discuss your request, funding potential in this category, and reserves the right to request additional information from the applicant prior to making a decision. No organization with a current fiscal deficit will be allowed to enter into this category. Applicants will be notified about their request to enter this category.

The Cultural Education Partnership (CEP) category provides operating support to well-established, free-standing 501(c)(3) college/university level arts educational institutions. Eligible academic institutions must have a mission that focuses on training and/or accreditation in one or more arts disciplines, and must offer the highest level of quality art education and administration. Funding will depend upon an institution’s application rating from the review process, circumstances that could affect services provided to the community and the total amount of funds available to the Tennessee Arts Commission for grant allocation. This category is competitive.

Applicants must have an annual cash operating income (excluding in-kind contributions) of at least $1 million per year. Failure to meet the $1 million base-operating figure will result in the loss of eligibility in this category. Institutions must maintain the $1 million budget level for a minimum of three consecutive years before requesting entrance into this category.

Institutions may request 10 percent of their total annual cash operating expenses in their most recently completed fiscal year at the time they submit their application up to, but not exceeding the maximum grant of $60,000. The total annual cash operating expenses, verified by an audit submitted by the applicant, will be determined by the sum total of personnel, outside fees and services, space rental, travel, marketing and remaining operating expenses. In determining a request, the following operating expenses are not allowed: capital expenses, endowment funds expenses, penalties payments, in-kind expenses, bank penalties, or furniture and fixture expenditures exceeding $2,500.

Applicants must submit a complete application every year. Eligible academic arts institutions are reviewed every three years by an out-of-state adjudicator, with knowledge of academic arts institutions, although probationary organizations may be required to submit to a review annually until the Commission determines that biennial reviews are appropriate. The reviewer’s evaluation rating will be honored over a three year period in determining the grant award, contingent on funding resources available to the Commission.

Operating support applicants (SUPS, SRPS, PS, CEP, MCI) may not submit an application for APS/RAPS in the same fiscal year. However, all operating support applicants may submit applications in the Arts Access and Arts Education categories, and SUPS and SRPS applicants may also submit an application in the Arts Build Communities category. These additional requests are based on eligibility, and applicants must provide proof that funds requested for AA, AE or ABC grants will not be used for Salaries, Benefits & Taxes and that the applicant can independently meet the cash matching requirements for each additional request without using the cash match or Commission funds requested from its operating support application.

Applicants are expected to submit final evaluations no later than June 15.

Affirmative Duty to Report Major Organizational Change

If funded, all grantees must promptly notify the Commission in writing of any significant changes in the institution’s structure, leadership or financial circumstances that could affect services provided under the grant contract resulting from this application.

Eligibility Requirements

In order to be eligible for this category, applicants must have received Commission funding for three of the past five years through one of the following grant categories: Arts Access, Arts Project Support, Rural Arts Project Support, Partnership Support or Major Cultural Institution.

In addition to satisfying all general requirements found here, any applicant must be a freestanding academic arts institution that has training and/or accreditation in one or more arts disciplines as its mission. Additionally, the institution must also demonstrate significant community involvement in the application.

Specific eligibility for this grant category will be determined by:

  • The applicant must have existed as an academic arts institution for a minimum of five years prior to the date of application.
  • An institution must be legally chartered in Tennessee and headquartered and physically located in Tennessee. A significant amount of year-round public activity and programming must be evident.
  • The existence of professional management defined as employing full-time and adequately compensated personnel that may include one or more of the following: president, academic dean, teaching staff and other administrative staff.
  • The institution must be an accredited institution or recognized nationally for the quality of specialized training or academic instruction offered.

The institution must demonstrate ongoing fiscal responsibility through an audit conducted externally by a certified public accountant (CPA) for its most recently completed fiscal year at the time of application. Institutions in this category should use an accrual accounting system. If a more recent audit is in process, include a letter from the institution’s CPA explaining when it will be completed and available. First-time applicants in this category must include an audit of their most recently completed fiscal year at the time of application, no exceptions. Note: failure to submit a single entity audit of the most recently completed fiscal year will jeopardize eligibility and funding.

The institution must demonstrate a commitment to compensate (in salaries, wages, fees, and/or benefits) the administrative and academic personnel whose services contribute directly to the institution applying for matching funds.

The applicant is required to show evidence of significant service to the community because of public dollars awarded by the Commission. Examples of activities serving the community include providing needed services to underserved populations; neighborhood outreach classes and workshops; concerts, performances and exhibitions that are of interest to the community in which the institution is located.

Organizations must have a board-approved long-range plan covering at least the current and next fiscal years.

Arts organizations that receive revenue from a “new Specialty Earmarked Plate” under T.C.A 55-4-215 (a) (1) are ineligible for Commission grant funding.

Debarment and Suspension. Grantees are required to sign contracts certifying to the best of its knowledge and belief, that it, its current and future principals, its current and future subcontractors and their principals are not presently debarred, suspended, proposed for debarment, declared ineligible, or voluntarily excluded from covered transactions by any federal or state department or agency.

PLEASE NOTE: An organization SHOULD NOT apply in this grant category if it cannot meet all of the above-stated requirements.

The Tennessee Arts Commission reserves the right to deny any application or withhold funding in whole or in part, if the applicant organization programming and activities are outside of the scope or spirit of the Commission’s mission, purpose, or this grant program.

Evaluation Criteria & Panel review

Every third year, applicants receive a review in Nashville. Applicants are notified of the specific date and time of the review. It is recommended that the director, chief financial officer and board chair/president represent the organization at the review meeting. Evaluators reviewing grant applications under this program use the following evaluation criteria (10 points each) citing evidence that the institution:

  • Advances the institution’s mission and artistic vision
  • Through academic programming, policies and procedures demonstrate artistic, cultural, and/or educational value to the community being served AND in which the institution is located
  • Understands their role as an advocate for the public value of the arts in the community & promotes the Specialty License Plate program.
  • Understands and is responsive to the diverse interests and needs of the community it serves AND in which the institution is located
  • Planning procedures are comprehensive, inclusive and communicated
  • Understands and demonstrates the value of public and private partnerships
  • Demonstrates financial stability and a broad base of financial support
  • Understands principles of documentation and evaluation and results are used to guide future planning and programming
  • Management demonstrates consistency and stability
  • Application is well planned, addresses all questions, and is correct and complete in all information

Additionally, a reviewer may ask applicants to address other topics, including but not exclusive to:

  • Diversity of students, faculty, staff and board of directors
  • Community outreach activities and services offered to the general public
  • Evidence of local, state, regional, or national recognition and impact
  • Advocacy efforts that promote the value of the arts in Tennessee and the community which the institution serves
  • Institutional long-range goals and objectives
  • Detailed information about educational programming, student enrollment and graduation numbers, diversity of academic programs offered, number of Tennessee students served, degrees offered, qualifications of faculty and staff, relevant training of students for the workforce, student/teacher ratios, successful employment history of graduates, and number of graduates remaining in Tennessee
  • Presentation and curatorial policies of institution’s exhibition space (if applicable)
  • Percentages of teaching staff that are full-time salaried versus adjunct
  • Campus/classroom facilities
  • Online classes offered
  • Recent and anticipated major equipment acquisitions
  • Program evaluation processes
  • Board diversity and responsibilities
  • Board/staff relationships
  • Administrative and academic compensation
  • Employment practices and human resource policies
  • Unique services provided by the institution
  • Financial policies and procedures

The Tennessee Arts Commission reserves the right to deny any application or withhold funding in whole or in part, if the applicant organization programming and activities are outside of the scope or spirit of the Commission’s mission, purpose, or this grant program.


All Commission sponsored programs, services and facilities are fully accessible to all Tennessee artists and citizens. Organizations are urged to consider contracting with diverse artists, artists living with disabilities, and/or artists representing Tennessee’s diverse artistic and cultural heritage. No person on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, age, religion or sex shall be excluded from participation in, or be denied benefits of, or otherwise be subject to discrimination of services, programs and employment provided by the Commission and its contracting agencies. If an individual believes he or she has been subjected to discrimination, he/she should contact the Commission’s Director of Arts Access, Kim Johnson, (615) 532-9797.

Deadline and How to Apply
  1. Register to use the Online Grants System. You are strongly advised to register well in advance to the application deadline. Anyone registering close to the deadline date can expect delays in the processing of their grant application.
  2. Log in to the Online Grants System to complete your “Organization” profile and begin an application for a CEP grant.
  3. Use the “Organizations” tab on the left-hand menu to ensure that the profile is complete and accurate. This information is as important as the application itself. Incomplete or erroneous data will impact your chances for funding. To edit the profile, click the “Edit” button at the top of the Organization screen.
  4. Update the Policy Statements in the organization’s online grants system profile annually. Do this prior to submitting annual grant applications.  With particular regard to past successes and future plans, address:
    1. the Arts Advocacy Statement. Reviewers will evaluation how an organization addresses advocacy beyond the minimum requirement, and
    2. the Specialty License Plate (& Gift-A-Tag Voucher) statement. Explain how the organization has met, or exceeded, the contractual requirements. Reviewers will evaluate how an organization promotes, beyond contractual compliance, the Arts Specialty License Plate program.
  5. Use the “People” tab on the left-hand menu to ensure that your “People” profile is complete and accurate. This information will also be used in the review of the application. To edit the profile, click the “Edit” button at the top of the screen.
  6. When both your “Organization” and “People” profiles are complete and accurate, select the “Apply for Grants” tab again and choose the CEP grant application.
  7. Complete all of the application fields.
  8. Create and upload required attachments.
  9. Submit by Monday, January 13, 2020, by 11:59 p.m. (CST).

NOTE: The forms in this portal do not auto-save. Always click the “Save” button before navigating away from the form you are editing to save your work.

Beware—clicking the back navigation button on your web browser will exit you from the system and you will lose your work.

Association or connection to Multiple Organizations: If you are associated with more than one organization, the organization that you were originally associated with will prepopulate in the organization name field on any newly opened application. To change to another associated organization, simply delete the prepopulated name and type in the correct organization.

Required Documents

You will be prompted to create and upload the following documents in the “Required Documents” section of your CEP Application in the System.

  1. Proof of Arts Advocacy. Advocacy is educating and communicating to the public, including public officials, the importance of the arts and how public support of the arts can and has impacted your community. Examples of arts advocacy proof may include: membership in Tennesseans for the Arts; copies of recent letters to legislators and other elected officials; photos of elected officials at the applicant’s arts events; newspaper articles that create awareness about public support for the arts through the organization’s activities (news articles that primarily market events are not acceptable); and other pertinent print materials. Proof of advocacy must be demonstrated by the applicant organization. Applicants may not submit advocacy efforts conducted by contracted personnel. Multiple examples of arts advocacy will strengthen the application, but only one example that proves advocacy is required.
  2. Bios & Job Descriptions. Short, biographical statements and job descriptions of administrative and artistic personnel including those contracted who are involved in the grant activities. Full resumes should only be included with the supplementary materials.
  3. Long-range Plan. Plan should cover at least the current and next fiscal years.
  4. Organizational Flowchart.
  5. Financial audit and management letter. From an independent CPA. For the most recently completed fiscal year, at the time of application.
  6. Audit Response Form. Locate the audit response form in the Document Library, located in the left hand menu after logging in to the online grant account. Fill out any information pertinent including appropriate signature, save, and upload into your application.
  7. List of Board of Directors. Only nonprofit organizations with 501(c)(3) status will be prompted to upload this document. The board list (at the time of application) must include the following:
    – Full Name
    – Occupation
    – Address
    – Phone number
    – Email address
    – Number of years on the board
    – Length of term(s)

NOTE: Other biographical information about individual board members should NOT be included on this list. Legal requirements state that Commission funds granted to an organization may not be used as a payment of any kind, for any purpose, to members of an organization’s board.

  1. Corporation Annual Report: Only nonprofit organizations with 501(c)(3) status will be prompted to upload this document (as required to be filed annually with the Secretary of State’s Office). In lieu of the report, you may also submit a copy of the email verification issued by the Secretary of State’s office or a copy of the online verification sheet maintained by the Secretary of State’s Office found here. Entities of government do NOT submit.
  2. Specialty License Plate Program promotion. Attach materials to the document section of the application that show efforts that the applicant organization has met and gone above and beyond the minimum requirements for the Specialty License Plate Program promotion. Multiple examples will strengthen the application, but only one example is required. The Grantee is strongly encouraged to incorporate elements from the Specialty License Plate Communications toolkit in agency communications including print advertising, websites, e-letters, social media, press releases, talking points and/or other mechanisms as may be determined effective by the Grantee. The toolkit can be found at If needed, the login password is tnspecialtyplates.Specifically, each Cultural Education Partnership (CEP) grantee organization that receives public operating support is required to implement a structured promotional campaign for the Specialty License Plate Program within its ongoing communications program that includes four of the five elements below.  Failure of any CEP grantee to complete this requirement in a satisfactory manner, as determined exclusively by the Grantor, may, at the Grantor’s sole discretion; result in a reduction of 10% of the authorized grant award.
    1. Coordinator. Provide the name, title and contact information for grantee organization staff person who coordinates specialty license plate promotions and will be agency liaison with TN Arts Commission Director of Marketing and Development.
      • Documentation for Closeout – Input in Grantee Organization Profile in the TN Arts Commission online grants management system
    2. Specialty license plate program information on the grantee organization website
      • Documentation for Closeout – Screen shot of page on website labeled “website promo”
    3. Social Media. Feature specialty license plate promotional content in grantee’s social media at least 6 times/year
      • Documentation for Closeout – Six screen shots with dates of social media posts named “social promo 1”, “social promo 2” etc.
    4. Newsletters. Place banner ad on e-newsletters or other viral marketing, or Printed Program. Place half page ad in printed program book for at least six different performances or for the duration of one season
      • Documentation for Closeout – Image of six newsletters distributed over past year OR scan of six programs. Label file either  “Newsletter promo”, OR “Program book promo”
    5. Agency Specific Opportunity. Identify a promotional activity specific to grantee organization. Examples: run video spot before movie or performance starts; offer special parking for patron cars with arts license plates; hold contest to get 100% staff/board ownership of plates
      • Documentation for Closeout – Description of custom promotion and documentation as available. Label as “Custom Promo”
  3. Accessibility Checklist. Locate the Accessibility Checklist form in the Document Library, located in the left hand menu after logging in to the online grant account. Complete, save, and upload into your application.
Additional Documents

You will NOT be prompted to upload these documents in the system, but these documents may be required based on your applicant type.

Optional Materials. These include proof of advocacy, project examples. These documents can be uploaded in the “Documents” section below the “Required Documents” section of your application.

Accepted file types include .pdf, .jpg, or .png. For video and audio samples, provides links to projects in the section labeled “Optional Material Link(s)” below the “Documents” section.


Bylaws: Only nonprofit organizations with 501(c) 3 status need to upload this document. Upload the most recent copy of the organization’s Bylaws into the “Organization” profile where prompted, not into the grant application.