Commission Continues To Cultivate Thriving Tennessee Arts and Culture

By Hal Partlow, Associate Director of Grants –

At the Commission’s fall quarterly meeting, I reported on the continued progress toward Goal 1 of the Commission’s 2015-2019 strategic plan: Thriving TN Arts & Culture

Under Goal 1, the Commission’s first objective is to invest in arts and cultural assets as an integral part of everyday life for Tennesseans. Key strategies and actions to date include:

  1. Leverage investments in operating support for eligible arts organizations to increase opportunities for all.
  • A total of $3.07 million in operating support grants awarded to 62 Partnership Support organizations, 26 Major Cultural Institutions and four Cultural Education Partnership organizations in FY2017.
  • The grants were made across all program areas serving an estimated 16.4 million individuals, including 3.2 million youth and 62,000 artists reaching into all 95 counties for the fourth consecutive fiscal year.
  1. Promote the professional development of artists.
  • The Arts Education Teacher Incentive Grants fund professional development for teaching.
  • The Individual Artist Fellowships recognized the work of 11 Tennessee’s outstanding artists.
  • The Visual Arts program promotes artists by providing online access to exhibitions.
  • The Master Artist Apprentice Program (MAAP) is a cooperative partnership of the Tennessee Arts Commission and Tennessee Craft to encourage and invest in the continuation, advancement and creation of Tennessee craft  through the support of experienced and developing artists.
  • The Folklife program launched the pilot year of the state’s first Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program funding eight teams of artists.
  • Staff conducted grant workshops across the state to inform and educate artists and teaching artists of available funding and programmatic opportunities as well as information about the new online grants system.
  1. Support arts activities for the community benefit.
  • Grant programs continue ongoing support of community festivals, exhibitions, concerts, storytelling, and demonstrations in all 95 counties.
  • The Commission gallery provides gallery space for artists living and working in Tennessee.
  • In FY 17, 11 Creative Placemaking grants totaling $66,300 helped forge partnerships between public, private, nonprofit and community.
  • In partnership with fellow Tennessee Livability Collaborative Members—Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disabilities and the Tennessee Department of Health— the Commission launched Creative Aging Tennessee that will work to connect older adults with creative experiences leading to outcomes in improved health and wellness and reduced social isolation.

The second objective under Goal One is to preserve and promote Tennessee’s heritage, cultural diversity, and folk arts. Key strategies and actions to date include:

  1. Identify, document, and promote Tennessee folk artists, community traditions, folklife practices and traditional arts, including both older rooted traditions and those of more recent ethnic and immigrant communities.
  • The Teaching Artist Roster provides a searchable online database including artists skilled at sharing their folk traditions in an instructional setting.
  • Major Cultural Institution, Partnership Support, Arts Project Support, Rural Arts Project Support, Creative Placemaking and Touring grants fund community festivals, fiddle contests, exhibitions, concerts, storytelling and folklife demonstrations across the state.
  • The Folklife Program conducts field research and documents tradition bearers and events across the state.
  1. Increase public awareness of and scholarly access to the wealth of Tennessee folklife program archival records.
  • Folklife staff publish articles, make public presentations and hold interviews, including with the Tennessee Folklife Society, Tennessee Association of Museum Conference and the media.
  • Articles on honored folk artists, fieldwork reports, documentary photography, lists of events and other updated articles and news about state folk art activities are archived on the Folklife website:

The third objective under Thriving Tennessee Arts and Culture is to expand accessibility, participation, and inclusion in the arts for all Tennesseans. Key strategies and actions to date include:

  1. Define opportunities and target support for under served communities.
  • The Commission funds programs aimed at the engagement and increased participation of those who have real and perceived barriers to the arts.
  • The Targeted Arts Development Initiative strategically reaches out to counties that have been identified as being under-represented in commission investments.
  • The Latino and Immigrant Folk Arts Initiative was conducted by the Folklife program and includes field research in Latino and Immigrant communities to document tradition bearers, ethnic events and practices, and establish relationships with community organizations.
  • The Arts Access (AA) project support category funds underserved/under-represented. In FY2017, funding support in the AA grant category increased by 5% from the previous year.
  • The Arts Access Mini grant category is designed to attract new organizations that work with underserved populations to our funding pool.
  • In FY2017, four new organizations were funded through Arts Access grants.
  1. Research and share best practices for audience development, including underserved communities.
  • Staff regularly attend and participate in national conferences and.
  • Arts Education program has established strategic partnerships with schools that serve students with disabilities.
  • Increased culturally diverse grants in annual Folklife grant applications.

The fourth objective under Goal 1 is to foster innovation and excellence.

  1. Share and propel best practices to strengthen the arts and artists in Tennessee.
  • The Master Artist/Apprentice Program (MAAP) provides concentrated learning experiences to apprentices demonstrating a commitment to further their abilities as specialized craft practitioners.
  • Teachers from the FY2017 Arts 360 Schools participated in the Tennessee Arts Academy which trains over 250 K- 12 educators every summer.
  1. Encourage and incentivize resilience and adaptability to changes in the environment.
  • Operating grantees are asked to address their community and overall environment and where they intend to offer services as part of their grant application narrative.
  • Technical Assistance, Professional Development, and Arts Education Teacher Incentive rolling grants all fund opportunities that benefit career development or strengthen organizational capacity in response to changing environments.
  • The Commission actively participates in the Boards and Commissions Leadership Academy working in conjunction with the Department of Human Resources.