Effective and Accountable Agency

By Carol White, Associate Director of Operations —

The Commission’s winter quarterly meeting was held Thursday, December 3 in Nashville. Each quarterly meeting, the staff reports to the Commission board on the agency’s activities since the last meeting. With the launch earlier this year of the 2015-18 strategic plan, Cultivating the Arts in Tennessee, each quarterly meeting has included a report on the Commission’s progress toward the plan’s strategic goals.

This quarter the meeting addressed Goal 5: Effective and Accountable Agency. In step with other Tennessee state agencies, the Tennessee Arts Commission shares a commitment to Customer Focused Government with the objective of providing the best service at the lowest possible cost. Governed by a body of 15 members, the Commission operates within a complex environment of state and federal laws, rules, policies and procedures. The Commission seeks to fulfill its responsibilities and enhance systems for empowering arts and cultural organizations to implement both Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Accomplishing tasks properly and on time, no matter how big or small, requires well-designed systems, organizational agility and skilled staff. An effective agency must attract, develop and retain qualified professionals to lead the field.

Commission staff has been taking steps towards reducing the cost of doing business through streamlining the grants process. Improvements of the FY16 annual grant contract process shortened contract execution by at least two months. The Commission is currently working to move the grants application process completely online by fall 2016 through a new online grants management system. Maintaining a strong, transparent allocations process, the Commission also engages an internal Audit Committee to provide oversight of risk assessment and internal controls, including grants monitoring. The external audit by the Comptroller released August 2015 confirmed effective financial management and policy compliance in a variety of areas and resulted in immediate improvements to address the single finding. The agency also continues to use outside expert support in accounting and human resources at no cost to the agency.

Several partnerships, including with other state agencies, allows for the mutual benefit of shared resources:

  • Governor Bill Haslam and First Lady Crissy Haslam: Governor’s Arts Awards; Tennessee’s Home for the Holidays featuring ornaments and artworks from TN craft artists
  • Capitol Commission: David Crockett Commemorative Bust
  • F&A, DOHR : Expert support in accounting and human resources
  • Tennessee Treasury: Gift-A-Tag software
  • Council on Development Disabilities: Resources for increasing access to the arts for people with disabilities
  • ECD, Agriculture and Tourist Development: The Creative Placemaking Grants Competition; Arts and Economic Prosperity Study 5
  • Hyde Family Foundation, East TN Foundation, Lyndhurst Foundation and Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee: Creative Placemaking Grants Competition
  • Outreach to specialty license plate nonprofits for collaborative marketing.

In order to strengthen the agency as a leader for innovation and excellence, the Commission supports staff members to excel through professional development opportunities. The agency sponsored its first staff retreat in a decade in September 2015, offering professional development for all staff, including the Myers-Briggs workstyles assessment and a review of current best practices in grantsmaking presented by Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO). Additionally, analyzing research and emerging trends to use as innovative programming for the arts resulted in the use of cutting edge research in the design of the new Creative Placemaking and Arts 360 grant categories and redesign of the Funds for At-Risk Youth grant guidelines.

 Tennessee Arts Commission 2015-2018 Strategic Plan