Metro Arts Nashville: Creativity for All in Music City

The city of Nashville, Tennessee, is sometimes referred to as the “Athens of the South,” a thriving hub of arts and culture with a diverse population and a world-famous music scene. At the forefront of the city’s cultural blossoming is a longtime member of Americans for the Arts, the Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission, or Metro Arts. Metro Arts has a vision for every Nashvillian to participate in a creative life, and with population growth of a quarter million predicted over the next two decades, the commission is looking ahead to prepare Nashville’s cultural scene for the future. They believe that the arts are the key to a vibrant community culture, a strong creative workforce, and the spread of equity & inclusion. Through community-driven projects, education and partnerships, Metro Arts is working to bring access to the arts to everyone in Nashville.

In 2015, Metro Arts partnered with the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce to survey the arts & culture landscape and identify opportunities for cultural planning. The resulting report, “Culture Here,” details the broad extent of the city’s cultural impact on community and the local economy. More than 5,000 arts-related organizations and activities present their work in the Nashville area, and the music industry alone contributes more than $10 billion to the local economy. Metro Arts supports these organizations through projects like the THRIVE community arts funding program, Poetry in Motion, Artober Nashville,, and more. Additionally, it offers workshops, training and other resources for practicing artists. As part of its mission of a creative life for all, Metro Arts also invests in community arts with annual grants to local arts organizations. This year, the organization awarded more than $2 million in funding to support arts creation, access and education from local nonprofits.

Last year, Metro Arts also brought forward a new five-year strategic plan, “Crafting a Creative City,” which lays out new objectives for supporting Nashville’s creative life. Goals outlined in the report include increasing resources for the creative ecosystem, cultivating equity, and improving local creative infrastructure. This year, the commission is working to develop one key strategy in particular, a Public Art Community Investment Plan. The ten-month planning process is bringing together artists and community stakeholders for a conversation about the future of public art in Nashville. At least 44 public art works have been funded by the city’s Percent for Art fund, which allocates money for public art as a percentage of capital improvement projects.

To kick-start the creation of impactful public art projects, this year Metro Arts launched its inaugural “Learning Lab” training program for local artists. This professional development program is designed to train artists in civic, public, social, and placemaking practices, which will help develop community understanding and pave the way for neighborhood activation through the arts. Once the artists complete the program, they will be eligible for up to $5,000 in funding for temporary neighborhood art projects around the city. Twenty-five Nashville artists were selected to take part in the first Learning Lab, which will run from June through October, 2016. Through this unique program, Metro Arts is preparing a new cohort of artists to spread creativity throughout their communities, moving one step closer to a creative life for all.