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Tennessee’s Arts Advocate, Stephanie Barger Conner to join National Assembly of State Arts Agencies Board

Nashville, TN — The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA) announced the election of Stephanie Barger Conner to its board of directors. As part of a rigorous national nomination process, Conner was elected to the 15-member board at the NASAA Assembly 2014 conference in New Orleans.

Conner, who grew up in Claiborne County, is currently the vice-chair of the Tennessee Arts Commission serving for fiscal year 2015. She was appointed in 2012 by Governor Haslam and previously served on the Commission from 2002 to 2007, which included service as chair from 2005 to 2007. Her mother, Eleanor Barger, who was equally passionate about the arts in Tennessee, also served on the Tennessee Arts Commission for two terms and was a past chair.

“NASAA is thrilled that Stephanie Conner was elected to our board,” said NASAA Interim Chief Executive Officer Kelly Barsdate. “I’ve worked with the Tennessee Arts Commission and Tennesseans for the Arts several times over the years, so I’ve seen Stephanie’s smart, strategic and gracious leadership in action. Her advocacy for the arts—for all communities—and her knowledge of public policy will be assets to the whole nation through her work on the NASAA board.”

Conner’s father was a talented craft artist and amateur guitar picker. His and her mother’s influence became the foundations of Conner’s life long commitment to Tennessee’s arts and culture. She also grew up listening to poetry recitations by her grandmother who had spent years in the public schools in Claiborne County and surrounding rural counties teaching classic poetry to students.

As a young girl, Conner remembers spending time at the tobacco warehouse with her grandfather watching the farmers whittle figures, canes and other objects from slabs of cedar and weaving tobacco twists from tobacco leaves. She was always very proud of where she came from. Her drive today to champion the arts is a result of keen awareness how many of her community members lacked access and opportunities to the arts in the area, and also how vital it is to preserve those local traditions and heritage.

Conner has chaired the Commission’s Strategic Planning Committee and now chairs the Allocations Committee. Prior to her work with the Commission, she served as executive director of the Tennessee Film, Entertainment and Music Commission.

“We believe NASAA has gained an incredible resource by electing Stephanie. Her knowledge and experience with the arts in Tennessee will serve the nation’s art and cultural communities very well,” said Anne B. Pope, Tennessee Arts Commission Executive Director. “She is an incredible asset for Tennessee and her work is instrumental in helping move communities forward through the arts.”

Conner has also served as assistant to the Governor for Policy and was assistant to the Governor for Boards and Commissions. She was board president of Tennesseans for the Arts and served on the Executive Committee of South Arts. Currently, she sits on the board of Tennesseans for the Arts and of Watkins College of Art, Design & Film. Conner has a special interest in arts education, access for rural communities and advocacy. She received her bachelor’s degree in human and organizational development from Vanderbilt University.

The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies is the membership organization that unites, represents and serves the nation’s state and jurisdictional arts agencies. Founded in 1968, NASAA represents their individual and collective interests, empowers their work through knowledge, and advances the arts as an essential public benefit. To learn more about NASAA and state arts agencies, visit For more information on NASAA’s board members, visit NASAA 2015 Board of Directors.

The Tennessee Arts Commission is a state agency whose mission is to cultivate the arts for the benefit of all Tennesseans and their communities. For more information, visit