Special Opportunities – Arts Engage

Supports projects that engage the creative sector to address needs/opportunities within arts organizations or needs/opportunities in communities through the arts.

Non-matching Special Opportunities: Arts Engage grants of up to $5,000 are available to arts organizations and local governments operating as arts organizations to support organizational development of effective leadership, sound management practices, diverse financial resources, successful partnerships, and technology improvements in the arts sector. Arts Engage grants are also available to nonprofit organizations and local governments to engage the creative sector to address needs or opportunities in communities through the arts. Applicants are asked to identify appropriate, realistic strategies for developing organizational skills or addressing challenges and opportunities, as well as demonstrate readiness to undertake capacity building activities. Proposed projects should enhance the overall artistic, educational, and/or cultural value of the organization to their communities and help maintain a strong infrastructure for the arts throughout Tennessee.

Applications that seek funds to engage touring artists for public performances should apply for a Touring grant. Funds from this grant opportunity cannot be used for any project or activity currently funded by other Tennessee Arts Commission grants.

Arts organizations or local governments operating as arts organizations may apply for activities that include (but are not exclusive to) the following:

  • Short-term consultations to assist with organizational opportunities and challenges, like contracting with a consultant to address administrative and managerial concerns such as short or long-term planning, audience development, marketing and promotion, board/staff development, accessibility planning/training, financial management, technical skills, and external environment challenges.
  • Improvements to technology such as equipment purchases, website development or redesign or computer software purchases (software purchases must be accompanied by related training). Support of expenses related to ongoing website updates and maintenance is not allowed.

Arts organizations and nonprofit organizations and local governments that are considered “non-arts organizations” may also apply for activities that engage the creative sector in ways that:

  • Address unique and/or immediate community needs or opportunities through arts activities that are open to the public
  • Strengthen communities through arts projects that enhance community and organizational sustainability, resiliency, and rebuilding
  • Create a sense of belonging and place, advance quality of life efforts, or promote community dialogue through the arts
  • Enlist and employ artists and creative workers in innovative, responsive initiatives that benefit Tennesseans and their communities

Applications are encouraged that address one or more of the following objectives:

  1. Invest in arts and cultural assets to enhance everyday life for all Tennesseans.
  2. Foster innovation and excellence.
  3. Accelerate transformation of rural areas through the nonprofit arts and creative sector.
  4. Strengthen community vibrancy through cross-sector and public/private partnerships with the arts.
  5. Facilitate community arts learning for all Tennesseans.

The TN Arts Commission reserves the right to deny or withhold, in whole or in part, public funds for projects, programs, or other activities deemed inappropriate by the Commission, or if the proposed activities purpose is outside of the scope or spirit of this grant program.

Organizations & Individuals Applying to the Creative Placemaking Summit

In addition to the eligible activities described above for organization applicants, Arts Engage funds are also open for organization representatives and individuals to attend the 2024 South and Appalachian Creative Placemaking Summit in Atlanta on March 5-8, 2024. Outside of the Creative Placemaking Summit, Arts Engage grants are not intended to fund expenses for individuals or organization representatives to attend professional development or conferences offered outside of their agency nor to travel out-of-state.

Arts Engage grant funds may be used to support registration fees for the Creative Placemaking Summit ($325 early bird registration beginning October 15, 2023 or $375 regular registration) as well as travel expenses. An individual applying to attend the Creative Placemaking Summit must be a resident of Tennessee. The maximum request amount for individuals is $1,000. Organizations may apply for up to $1,000 to send a minimum of one organization representative or up to $2,000 to send a minimum of two organization representatives to the Creative Placemaking Summit. Note that if the organization applicant requests above $1,000 and up to $2,000, a minimum of two organization staff must register and attend the CP Summit. Organizations applying to send representatives to the CP Summit may not apply for another Special Opportunities: Arts Engage Grant during the same fiscal year.

Eligible expenses are listed below.

Funds for the Creative Placemaking Summit may be used for:

  • Stipends: Applicants may request a $100 stipend for each full day of training (7 or more hours) and $50 for each half day (less than 7 hours).
  • Registration fees for the conference.
  • Travel for the organization representatives registered for the conference and listed in the application and individual applicants only (although attendees are encouraged to carpool). All travel expenses must be approved beforehand and will require proof of receipt upon request for funds. Eligible travel fees include:
    • Mileage reimbursement at $0.655/mile and subject to change per state regulations.
    • Parking fees
    • Airline tickets, baggage fees, and ground transportation
  • Hotel: Applicant may request funds at the hotel rate indicated by the GSA here.

General Information and to determine eligibility to apply, Ann Brown, Associate Director of Grants, 615-532-5939

Access to the Arts for Underserved Communities, Kim Johnson, Director of Arts Access, 615-532-9797

Community Arts, Shannon Ford, Director of Community Arts Development, 615-532-9796

Arts Education, Chris Sweatt, Director of Arts Education, 615-253-8914

Folk and Traditional Arts, Bradley Hanson, Director of Folklife, 615-532-9795

Literary Arts, Lee Baird, Director of Literary Arts, 615-532-0493

Performing Arts, Jared Morrison, Director of Performing Arts, 615-532-9801

Visual, Craft, Media and Design Arts, Krishna Adams, Director of Visual Arts, Craft, Media, and Design, 615-532-9798


The Tennessee Arts Commission encourages applications from any eligible organization from across the state. Those located in Fiscal Year 2024 distressed (Bledsoe, Clay, Cocke, Hancock, Hardeman, Lake, Perry, and Scott), at-risk, and rural counties are especially encouraged to apply.

Current grantees, including organizations receiving operating support, are eligible to apply for a Special Opportunities: Arts Engage Grant as long as the proposed project is a separate and distinct project not currently funded under other Commission grant programs during FY24. Eligible organizations may be awarded a maximum of one Special Opportunities: Arts Engage Grant per fiscal year.

All Organizations

Unique Entity ID (UEI): All applicants are required to have a Unique Entity ID. Information and application instructions can be found here.

An organization is eligible to apply for funding support if the organization meets one of the following qualifications:

  • The applicant is a nonprofit organization legally chartered in Tennessee and has its headquarters and home season, or activities equivalent to a home season for non-producing organizations, in Tennessee and in possession of a determination letter from the Internal Revenue Service declaring the organization exempt from federal income tax under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
  • The organization is an entity of government.

Arts organizations that receive revenue directly from a “New Specialty Earmarked Plate” under T.C.A 55-4-301 (a)(1) are ineligible for Commission grant funding.

Proposed applications must involve one or more Commission recognized art forms, including: visual arts, craft, media, design, music, theater, dance, folk and ethnic, or literary arts. Please see Legal Requirements for further details.

Debarment and Suspension. Grantees are required to sign contracts certifying to the best of their 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.

Affirmative Duty to Report Major Organizational Change

Any grantee shall promptly notify the State in writing of any significant changes in the organization’s structure, leadership or financial circumstances that could affect services provided under the grant contract resulting from this application.

Title VI Training

A completed FY24 Title VI training and certification must be completed before any grant funds will be dispersed.  Title VI training information can be found at this link.


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 they have been subjected to discrimination, they should contact the Commission’s Director of Arts Access, Kim Johnson (615) 532-9797.

Evaluation Criteria

The Tennessee Arts Commission reserves the right to deny any application, if the proposed activity is outside of the scope or spirit of the agency’s mission, purpose, or this grant program.

  1. The application should be well planned and presented.
  2. The appropriate documentation is attached to the application. 
  3. The narrative clearly explains the goals of the project and how the applicant will monitor progress.
  4. The narrative clearly describes how the project aligns with one or more of the objectives highlighted in the guidelines.
  5. The funding request clearly outlines what the applicant intends to do and how, when, where, and for whom.
  6. The narrative includes how this project will engage and benefit the organization’s local artistic community and/or the community at large.

Funding is based on the narrative case for the grant, the accuracy of the application, reasonableness of the budget, and the availability of funds, which are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.

Matching Requirements

This grant does not require a cash match.

Review Process

Applications are reviewed in-house by Commission members and staff. Funding notification will take place via email.

Payment and Close-Out Requirements

Grant funds will be paid as reimbursements after the event. Grantees must submit all required close-out paperwork no later than 30 days after the ending date of the activity. Failure to do so may jeopardize future funding.

How to Apply & Requirements
  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. Once you’ve been emailed a username and password, log in to the Online Grants System to complete your profile and begin an application.
  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. Use the “People” link to ensure your profile is complete and accurate. This information will also be used in the review of the application. To open the record for editing, click the edit button at the top of the screen.
  5. When your “Organization” and “People” profiles are complete and accurate, select the “Apply for Grants” tab again and click the “Apply for a ROLLING Grant” link listed on the page. Then select Grant Category “Special Opportunities” and Sub Category “Arts Engage.”
  6. Complete all of the application fields.
  7. Create and upload required attachments.
  8. Submit by at least thirty (30) days prior to the beginning date of the project activity.

NOTE: The forms in this portal do not auto-save. Always click the “Save” button before navigating away from the page.

Beware that 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.

What to Submit

Applicants must complete and successfully submit all sections, including required uploaded documents, of the FY2024 Rolling Grant Application electronically at minimum of 30 days in advance of the project start date.

Required Documents

  • Organization representatives and individual applicants applying to attend the Creative Placemaking Summit must upload proof of Tennessee residency such as a copy of TN Driver’s License or Voter Registration Card in the Documents section of the application.
  • Organizations must upload the most recent copy of the bylaws of the organization

A copy of the organization’s current by-laws must be on file in the Documents section of the Organization profile in the online grants account. All applicants must provide a valid IRS Employer Identification Number that is issued in the name of the applicant organization. Note that organizations may be asked to provide determination letter from the IRS if the Tennessee Arts Commission cannot verify nonprofit status within the “select charity check” process within the online grants system.

All applicants must also provide at the time of their application:

  • A copy of the applicant’s Corporation Annual Report from the TN Secretary of State’s office. Use this link to request a “Printer Friendly Version” and upload that PDF to the Organization Card.
  • 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
      • 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.

    Failure to provide all  documentation will result in the application being disqualified. For further eligibility information, please refer to the Commission’s Legal Requirements.