Arts as Engines of Growth and Vitality

From Anne B. Pope, Executive Director —

The Commission’s winter quarterly meeting was held Thursday, December 3 in Nashville. In addition to Goal 5: Effective and Accountable Agency, this quarter’s meeting addressed Goal 2: Arts as Engines of Growth & Vitality.

Through this goal, the Commission seeks to advance the arts as a driver of the creative economy and creative placemaking, as well as to strengthen civic engagement and community vitality through the arts. Tennessee’s creative people, institutions and businesses help define our communities as vibrant places to live and work. Definitions of the creative economy vary, but together, our creative enterprises and workforce add significant value to the state’s economy and Tennessee communities. Creative placemaking is an area of special opportunity for Tennessee communities. In creative placemaking, partners from public, private, nonprofit, and community sectors strategically shape the physical and social character of a neighborhood, town, city, or region around arts and cultural activities.

To support the advancement of the arts as a economic catalyst, the Commission has joined an initiative to document the impact of Tennessee’s creative economy. The Commission has signed on as a study partner for the fifth national Arts & Economic Prosperity (AEP5) study sponsored by Americans for the Arts (AFTA). Data from nonprofit arts groups and audiences will be collected in calendar year 2016 with final reports released in June 2017. The study will provide 25 TN local study partners custom local studies, regional reports by development district and a statewide summary report.

Community development through the arts was also addressed. This year, the Commission opened a new Creative Placemaking Grant Competition that drew 40 applicants. Twelve awards were given totaling $75,000 to support creative placemaking initiatives in Tennessee communities. Investments continue to be made in arts and cultural assets that draw visitors to Tennessee communities and support the state’s brand as an international tourism destination. In FY15, investments were made in 62 fairs or festivals that strengthen sense of place and drew 850,000 participants. Through 81 grants identified in alignment with the National Endowment for the Arts Primary Strategic Area of “Livability—American Communities are Strengthened Through the Arts, ” the Commission sparked local match of $1.8 million.

The strengthening of civic engagement and community vitality through the arts is another key objective of the TN Arts Commission. Multiple examples of programs and projects that address social transformation and community sustainability are found within existing grants programs. The 2016 statewide arts and education conference Collective Impact is designed to explore and strengthen the capacity of Tennessee’s arts organizations and educators to engage the arts for social transformation and community sustainability.

The Commission also supports community-driven amateur and informal arts-making for community vitality. Grant support is available for organizations that work with folklife traditions and projects. By definition, folklife is comprised of traditional arts and skills passed down informally from family and community members. Additionally, project based grants and lower level operating support are predominantly community driven, amateur endeavors that increase community vitality. Data on TN amateur and informal arts-making will continue to be collected through AEP5.

 Tennessee Arts Commission 2015-2018 Strategic Plan