The Tennessee Arts Commission has awarded 359 Fiscal Year 2021 Annual Grants totaling $5,214,158 to help fund arts and cultural activities for nonprofit arts organizations, schools, and local governments in Tennessee. The awards are a combination of one-time funding from federal CARES Act funds distributed through the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and South Arts, an appropriation of state funds by the Tennessee General Assembly including revenue from Tennesseans who purchase specialty license plates.
The Tennessee Arts Commission was awarded $474,000 in NEA federal CARES Act funds and an additional $60,000 in federal CARES Act funds from South Arts, the regional arts agency for southern states, resulting in an amount that is higher than FY2020 awards of $4,746,900. Without the CARES Act money, the annual awards were projected to be down due to the overall economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Nashville tornado in March that destroyed the machinery that prints specialty license plates. Additionally, the TN General Assembly approved a 12% reduction to the FY2021 state budget resulting in the suspension of certain programmatic activities for FY2021, including the state conference, the statewide economic impact study, several rolling grant categories, and the Individual Artist Fellowship. All of the federal CARES Act funds were distributed to qualifying nonprofit arts and cultural organizations.
“The Tennessee Arts Commission is honored to award these annual grants to support more than 700 Tennessee nonprofit organizations, local governments, and schools across all 95 counties through the arts,'' said Tennessee Arts Commission Chair Jan McNally. “Tennessee’s nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $1.17 billion in annual economic activity contributing to our quality of life, economic vitality, tourism, and a more balanced education for our children.”
Annual Grants provide funds for operating and project support to nonprofit arts organizations; local entities of government for arts programming in rural and urban counties; and schools for a variety of community-based arts learning projects and programming for children in grades PK-12.
“The arts are a vital tool for attraction and retention of businesses, and help build stronger communities by enhancing the distinctive character of Tennessee places,” said Anne B. Pope, Executive Director for the Tennessee Arts Commission.
Annual Grant advisory panels were held during the months of March and April to review the grant applications against published criteria. Panels are divided into different categories including Community Learning, Arts Access, Community Arts, Folk Arts, Literary Arts, Visual Arts, Music, Dance, Theater, multi-disciplinary Inter-Arts, Funds for At-Risk Youth, Creative Placemaking and Rural Arts.
Panel members are appointed to two-year terms and consist of citizens from across the state with diverse expertise in specific art disciplines, business and planning, organizational and project management, and community building. Panels are often composed of community leaders, industry professionals, patrons, sponsors, and educators. Anyone interested in serving as a panelist is encouraged to contact Commission staff.
The Tennessee Arts Commission board members voted to approve the annual grants on May 28, 2020, at the Commission quarterly board meeting. The meeting was the last quarterly meeting of FY2020 at which the 15-member board voted on allocations for the next fiscal year.
The Annual Grants are the first of a series of grants that will be made by the Commission, which expects to award approximately 1,000 grants during FY2021 totaling up to $7.1 million. These funds have a direct impact on communities and schools across Tennessee, in both urban and rural areas.