Last week, the Brooks was proud to host a quarterly meeting of the Tennessee Arts Commission. The TAC is one of our major supporters, and you may have seen their logo on our website and our promotional materials. But what is the TAC, exactly, and what do they do?
An agency of the Tennessee state government, The Tennessee Arts Commission was created in 1967 “to stimulate and encourage the presentation of performing, visual and literary arts throughout the state and to encourage public interest in the cultural heritage of Tennessee.” To that end, the TAC awards dozens of grants to qualified arts organizations from Memphis to Knoxville, and everywhere in between.
Some of that money helps organizations like the Brooks with general operating costs—staff salaries, utilities, maintenance, and other fairly unexciting day-to-day expenses. (Sponsors rarely like to fund general operating costs, but it’s some of the most crucial funding we receive.) Other TAC funding goes toward specific programs that fit into categories like Arts Education, Professional Development Support, and Student Ticket Subsidies.
Naturally, TAC funds aren’t just handed out to anyone who wants them. Each year, organizations undergo a competitive (and rigorous) application process. We at the Brooks are proud to be the recipients of one of the TAC’s larger grants. We’ve received this funding for years—and yet every year we have to re-apply for it, in addition to appearing in Nashville every other year to undergo a panel review. These guys aren’t kidding around.
So where does the TAC get the funds it distributes? Well, the state contributes $2.8 million, and the National Endowment for the Arts and the Department of Education pitches in another $1.3 million. But the majority of the TAC’s funding—about $5.4 million annually—comes from our state’s innovative Specialty License Plate program. Any time you see a Tennessee license plate that promotes an organization or cause (including colleges, sports teams, clubs, etc.), the TAC has benefited from its purchase. If a plate is personalized, the TAC benefits even more.
So, thanks mostly to the license plate program, the TAC disburses more than $7.5 million in grants. (The remainder of their budget goes toward operating costs, like rent, salaries, and travel.) The TAC’s income numbers place Tennessee 12th in the nation—and 1st in the South—in per capita legislative appropriations for the arts.
You can support the TAC by joining its support group, Tennesseans for the Arts, or by upgrading your boring old license plate to a spiffy new one (and emblazoning it with your nickname). You can also help them out by keeping tabs on your legislators. Are your Senator and Representative voting their support for the arts? In addition to providing enrichment and enjoyment, the arts create thousands of jobs and generate millions in revenues, so supporting them is kind of a no-brainer.
The Brooks depends on a whole network of supporters that enable us to do what we do. So, a big thanks to the Tennessee Arts Commission as well as to our other foundation, corporate, and individual donors for keeping the doors open, the lights on, and the art accessible to everyone who wants to enjoy it.
This post is authored by our Grants Manager Bob Arnold.