Arts as Engines of Growth & Vitality

From Carol White, Associate Director of Grants —

This quarter’s Commission meeting, held in Nashville on November 30, focused on goal two of our current strategic plan. The goal, Arts as Engines of Growth & Vitality, supports our overall mission of cultivating the arts for the benefit of all Tennesseans and their communities. Two key objectives fall under this goal:

  1. to advance the arts as a driver of the creative economy and creative placemaking
  2. to strengthen civic engagement and community vitality through the arts

We would like to share a few strategies and tactics that the Commission has carried out thus far to effectively achieve this goal.

Objective one: advance the arts as a driver of the creative economy and creative placemaking

Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 LogoOver the course of the 2016 calendar year, Tennessee has taken part in the nationally led Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 study to document the impact of Tennessee’s creative economy. Sponsored by Americans for the Arts, this is the largest study of its kind. Data is being collected from nonprofit arts and culture organizations and audiences to measure their economic impact. The study will be released in the summer of 2017. The Commission has also made partnerships across the state so that the study will include a statewide report, as well as 9 regional reports and 25 local reports.

Knoxville Creative Placemaking mural project
Chilhowee Park mural in Knoxville.

To be a catalyst for creative placemaking initiatives in Tennessee communities, the Commission launched its Creative Placemaking Grants Competition for fiscal year 2016. The projects granted in this inaugural grant round officially completed this past September. The program continues on with 13 awards totaling $75,000 across the state for fiscal year 2017.

The Commission invested in communities through numerous other grant categories as well. In fiscal year 2016, investments were made in 38 fairs or festivals that strengthened sense of place and drew 418,000 participants, supporting arts and cultural assets as part of Tennessee’s brand as an international tourism destination.  

Objective two: strengthen civic engagement and community vitality through the arts

The Commission seeks to incentivize social transformation and community sustainability through grant criteria of various grants, including Arts Build Communities, Funds for At-Risk Youth and Creative Placemaking—making these categories specifically address social transformation and community sustainability. Applications ask questions that allow for panel review and follow up evaluation to measure the project’s impact on the community and people being served.

Jean Horner with Fiddle
Fiddle Master Jean Horner

Further community building emphasis is put on the importance of community-driven amateur and informal arts-making primarily through the Folklife program. Folklife by definition is comprised of traditional arts and skills passed down informally from family and community members. Numerous grants are made yearly to support Folklife projects. The Arts Education Community Learning grant category is another way this strategy is carried out. In fiscal year 2016, the Commission invested $67,800 through this category in 23 projects that reported engaging 15,362 adults and 16,283 youth.

The Commission continues to support the arts in Tennessee with the intent of strengthening our communities and promoting our unique and diverse culture.