Press Releases

NEA Chairman Jane Chu Visits Tennessee

August 25, 2016

National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu Visits Tennessee

Nashville—On Monday, August 22 and Tuesday, August 23, the Tennessee arts community welcomed National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) Chairman Jane Chu to Nashville. Her visit included a Town Hall and multiple site visits of NEA grantees.

“The investments that the NEA makes in Tennessee have positively impacted and helped define our state’s arts and cultural assets,” says Anne B. Pope, TN Arts Commission Executive Director. “Having Chairman Chu visit is a testament to the quality and strength of the creative landscape in Tennessee.”

Accompanied by NEA Arts Education Director Ayanna N. Hudson, the Chairman was given first-hand snapshots of the impact of NEA funding on arts and arts education in Nashville. Over the past two years, Tennessee has received over $4 million in NEA funding.

“The arts can instill value in a place, both economically, aesthetically and culturally,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “From training artists to engage more deeply with their communities to strengthening music education in public schools, the arts are playing a significant role in Nashville.”

On Monday the Chairman’s tour included a visit to the Tennessee Arts Commission, Metro Arts Commission, Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC), Nashville Children’s Theatre, Nashville Symphony, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s Taylor Swift Education Center, and the Oasis Center.

Kicking off her Tennessee tour with a visit to Nashville’s local arts commission, Chairman Chu met with various artists participating in the Learning Lab project—a partnership between the Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville and the Metro Arts Commission, funded by the NEA.

“Metro Arts was thrilled Chairman Chu was able to meet directly with local artists, as well as with arts organizations and community leaders helping to link more young people to arts access, careers and experiences,” says Metro Arts Executive Director Jennifer Cole.

The public Town Hall was hosted by the Tennessee Arts Commission at the Nashville Children’s Theatre. Chairman Chu spoke about the transformational power the arts have in communities and credited Tennessee for emerging as a national leader in arts education.

“We are thankful for the NEA’s support and honored to be part of Chairman Chu’s first official visit to Tennessee at the Town Hall,” says ArtsMemphis President and CEO Elizabeth Rouse. “In Memphis, we know that the arts are, as Chairman Chu said, truly ‘the heartbeat of our city.’ The NEA’s support for projects at both the state and local levels continues to be a driving force for positive change in our community.”
At the Oasis Center—an organization devoted to the safety, support and education of young people overcoming barriers—numerous community partners dedicated to positively serving the city’s youth gathered to discuss initiatives established to accomplish this goal through the arts.

“We are grateful to share with others our stories of success and culture of collaboration at the Underground Art Studio at Oasis Center, and it was a great privilege to do so with Chairman Chu,” says Oasis Program Coordinator Abby Whisenant.

Following a tour of the Nashville Symphony, the Chairman then visited The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum Taylor Swift Education Center. The center features three classrooms, a videoconference lab and an interactive gallery to offer educational programming through the culture of country music.

“The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s Words & Music program teaches students how to write an original song lyric and to express themselves creatively, and it connects students with professional songwriters who set their words to music. With the NEA and Tennessee Arts Commission’s grant investments, this ‘only-in-Nashville’ experience reaches 9,000 students and teachers around the corner and across the country each year,” says Kyle Young, CEO of The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

Chairman Chu concluded her visit to Nashville on Tuesday with a presentation by Music Makes Us and a classroom observation at Wright Middle School. Music Makes Us is a public-private partnership that focuses on music literacy and student participation to education students through music.

“The visit was an opportunity to showcase Music Makes Us and hear Chairman Chu and Ayanna Hudson’s thoughtful reflections and questions. Everyone around the table learned something new,” Laurie T. Schell, Director, Music Makes Us.

Following the presentation and discussion on the Music Makes Us program, the Chairman had the opportunity to see the program in action in a Mariachi class at Wright Middle.
“It was a great honor to welcome Chairman Chu—her visit demonstrated the great collective work being done to ensure that all students have access to music, as well as how much our students are valued and supported in their academic success,” says Dr. Erin Anderson, Principal of Wright Middle School.

The NEA is currently celebrating their 50th Anniversary and Chairman Chu is traveling to many states to see how organizations are actively engaging, serving and promoting the arts.
The Tennessee Arts Commission is a state arts agency whose mission is to cultivate the arts for the benefit of all Tennesseans and their communities. For more information, visit