The Ups And Downs Of Tennessee Arts Funding | Nashville Public Radio

The Ups And Downs Of Tennessee Arts Funding

Aug 21, 2016

In terms of federal funding for the arts, Nashville organizations have received far more than other Tennessee cities — including twice as much as Memphis — in the past three years.

That’s one of the insights from data provided by the Tennessee Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), which is celebrating its 50th year.

The endowment’s chairwoman, Jane Chu, is visiting Nashville arts institutions for the first time this week, including for a 1 p.m. town hall meeting Monday at the Nashville Children’s Theatre.

On the eve of the visit, WPLN requested financial figures.

They show that the NEA has provided $4.1 million to Tennessee in the past three years — much of it to the state arts commission, which then allocates it through a grant process. The NEA’s contribution has ticked downward.

(The vast majority of funding for the Tennessee Arts Commission comes through the fees it gets from sales of the arts specialty license plates. This year, $4.4 million in state grants will be funded through license plate sales.) 

This table shows NEA grants to Tennessee in recent fiscal years.
Credit Tennessee Arts Commission

Among the artistic disciplines, the most NEA grants have gone to theater, musical theater, literature and folk arts endeavors — and less frequently to dance, design and opera.

Some cultural organizations apply directly to the NEA. With that method, Nashville groups pulled in more than $800,000 in the past three years. That’s double the amount claimed by Memphis and quadruple the count in Knoxville, data show.

The largest Nashville recipients have been the Metro government, Metro Schools and the Country Music Foundation.

Chu’s itinerary hits several major institutions, like the Tennessee Performing Arts Center and the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. She’ll also learn about afterschool arts programs and tour the Oasis Underground Arts Studio.