Reopening TN Arts & Culture, Part 3: Innovative New Arts Programming

Dogwood Arts donates Art Kits for Kids Program

From Suzanne Lynch, Director of Marketing & Development –

Per a press release from the office of Governor Lee, Tennessee continues to advance the state’s reopening plan under the Tennessee Pledge, as the Economic Recovery Group issued updated guidelines for restaurants and retail, along with new guidelines that enable attractions and larger venues to reopen with social distancing and capacity restrictions on or after May 22. The State continues to meet the White House gating criteria with a downward trend in case growth, increase in testing capability and sufficient hospital capacity. The guidance applies to 89 of the state’s 95 counties. Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, and Sullivan created individual plans in consultation with the State and local health departments to address the unique needs of those individual communities.

The updated guidelines enable restaurants and retail to increase capacity as long as social distancing protocols remain in place. Restaurants should continue to space tables 6 feet apart, or install physical barriers where adequate separation isn’t possible. Bars remain closed unless used for seated, in-restaurant dining where there is 6 feet of separation between customer groups. Live music is permissible with appropriate precautions, which include maintaining at least 15 feet of separation between performers and audience in order to reduce potential exposure.

Large, non-contact attractions and venues including concert and performance venues, amusement and water parks, auditoriums, theaters and dinner theaters, zoos, large museums and more can also reopen safely under new Tennessee Pledge guidelines. Strong measures to protect employees and customers are recommended, including screening of employees and customers, creating plans for managing guest flow, and limiting capacity to ensure separation between small groups.

Full guidelines can be found on for:

Innovative arts programming

  • On Friday, May 22, Cheekwood Estate and Gardens will reopen its 55-acre garden. The reopening will also extend to gardens that had been closed for renovations for the past several months including the beloved Blevins Japanese Garden and the much-anticipated Ann & Monroe Carell Jr. Family Sculpture Trail. Cheekwood, which usually has offered art and garden camps for children 4-15 years old, has canceled the June sessions. Cheekwood has suspended registration for July camps and is “monitoring protocols”  in hopes of making a decision later.
  • The Nashville Ballet summer camp is now being offered as a virtual camp, which will include crafts, storytimes, speaks, and a performance showcase. “With the purchase of a Virtual Summer Camp, you will receive a ‘Summer Camp Pack’ which provides everything you need for camp, including adventure craft supplies, interactive maps and activities, virtual backgrounds, and more,” according to the Nashville Ballet website.
  • Opera Memphis is relaunching its nationally-recognized “Sing2Me” program of mobile opera performances. Beginning Monday, May 18, Opera Memphis can come to your neighborhood or place of work to perform a themed concert for you and your neighbors or co-workers.
  • The Clay Lady’s Campus announces the opening of an online Gallery featuring handmade work from artists. The first collection features cups and mugs.
  • The Playhouse on the Square Department of Theatre Education announced that the 35th annual Summer Youth Theatre Conservatory will move to a digital version this summer, in response to the effects of the city’s COVID-19 quarantine regulations. The education department, in partnership with ArtsMemphis, Autozone, Tennessee Arts Commission, and a generous grant by The Jeniam Foundation, will conduct Zoom meetings with instructors according to camp sessions. The sessions will resemble the traditional camp setting. Attendees will participate in classes for acting, dance, or playwriting; depending on their desired concentration. There is also an intensive session for future designers. Sessions will be a mixture of live and taped instruction by professional artists. One-on-one sessions will also be available for enhanced training of Senior Conservatory (grades 7-12) attendees.
  • Country Music Hall and Museum is preparing to reopen and is drafting policies to help ensure the safety and enjoyment of visitors, staff, and volunteers. They have asked input from the public through a short survey.
  • Dogwood Arts is offering a new way to protect yourself and support the arts with a line of limited edition dogwood face masks. Masks come in two colors and are available online now at for $20, while supplies last. For every mask sold, Dogwood Arts will donate two Art Kits to kids in need through the Arts Kits for Kids program. To date, Dogwood Arts has compiled and distributed 750 Art Kits through nonprofit organizations that already aid youth in East Tennessee including Boys & Girls Club of the Tennessee Valley, Centro Hispano, the YWCA, Knox County Head Start, and the Change Center.
  • The Belcourt Theatre, Nashville is currently offering a wide slate of virtual programming in lieu of physical programming. This includes: (1) making new film releases available for at-home streaming (releases that, in most cases, would have screened at the Belcourt); (2) offering film seminars and a Living Room Film Club online, which include discussions with area professors and other film experts and offer participants opportunities to ask their own questions; (3) hosting virtual “watch parties” of selected films, which include Belcourt -produced preshow material, and Belcourt staff introductions and commentary (these “watch parties” include many of the components of the longstanding Belcourt Midnights experience); (4) sharing and promoting opportunities for Belcourt audiences to watch/listen to live Q&As, Instagram chats, and other online engagements with many of the filmmakers whose work is part of their virtual programming. 
  • Americans for the Arts has a COVID-19’s Impact on the Arts Research update. The financial impact on Tennessee nonprofit arts organizations is -$18,352,459 as reported by 257 organizations.
  • Americans for the Arts and the Arts Action Fund need your help in capturing data on how arts groups and individual artists have tapped these funds, including IRS stimulus funds, SBA loans, and pandemic unemployment. Please take five minutes to complete the CARES Act Arts Funding Tracker. They are collecting this data from arts and cultural nonprofit organizations and commercial companies, as well as self-employed arts workers and independent arts contractors. This data will help quickly inform Congress and other decision-makers on how the CARES Act impacted the arts sector and what the needs are for the future. This is also the place for you to tell YOUR story about how the arts are being engaged in your community’s COVID-19 response or recovery effort.

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