Becoming an Arts Advocate

Funding for the arts increases when legislators are made aware of the tremendous impact the arts have on the lives of the people who live in the communities they represent.

Download a fact sheet for Nashville-Davidson County specific information from the study here.


Nashville Arts Coalition is a 501(C)3, volunteer-led, Davidson County focused organization, which supports Metro Arts - Nashville Office of Arts and Culture by mobilizing Davidson County arts advocates to connect with The Mayor’s Office and the Metropolitan Council of Davidson County.

Individual membership starts at $25.

Americans for the Arts (AFTA; see below) recently released their fifth Arts and Economic Prosperity report (AEP5), with Nashville-specific data for the first time. 

  • $429.3 million in annual economic activity is generated through nonprofit arts and cultural organizations;

  • $51.1 million was earned in state and local government revenue from the arts;

  • 14,277 full-time equivalent jobs were supported through the work of nonprofit arts and cultural organizations;

  • Davidson County has over 40,000 creative workers;

  • 6% of Nashville businesses are creative endeavors;

  • Nationally, Nashville is fourth in arts vibrancy and in creative vitality;

  • Nashvillians participate in performing arts and cultural activities at 500% the national average rate;

  • $26.41 was spent per resident who attends an arts event (and non-residents spent more than double that).

Arts funding is disbursed through Metro Arts - Nashville’s Office of Arts and Culture, a city agency through an annual grant cycle. The funds are allocated through the city's budget process beginning in the Mayor’s budget proposal, defended during hearings with the Metro Council, and approved by the Council. Grant funds are reinvested in our community and enrich neighborhoods in nearly every corner of Davidson County.

  • In FY17, the council Budget and Finance Committee led by Councilmember Bill Pridemore reallocated $300,000 for MNAC, the largest increase in nearly 15 years.

  • In FY18, Mayor Megan Barry included an increase of $500,000 for MNAC, the first administration led increase in over a decade.

Find your Councilor here. Connect with Mayor Briley's office here. 

Connect with them, thank them for their leadership and reiterate your support for continued and/or increased funding for the arts. 


Tennesseans for the Arts is a 501(C)3, volunteer led, statewide advocacy organization which partners with Tennessee Arts Commission (TAC) to advocate for the arts in every community and county of Tennessee by mobilizing arts advocates to connect with their elected leaders in the Tennessee General Assembly, including the Arts Caucus, and Transportation and Finance committees in both the House and Senate. 

Individual memberships start at $35.

Specialty license plate sales account for over two-thirds of state funding for the arts: $4.5M out of $5.2M, or 87%, of arts funding in Tennessee comes from specialty plates. The plates offer a way to publicly fund the arts by voluntary contributions from citizens (via the additional fees – over and above the cost of a regular license plate), and not through tax dollars

  • It doesn’t cost the state any additional expense to produce the plates (expense neutral), and the additional fee for Arts & Cultural plates result in a positive economic impact.

  • 50/40/10: 50% goes to the to sponsoring organization, 40% goes to the arts, and 10% goes to the state highway fund

  • There are 20 plates designated "Arts and Cultural". Currently, 90% ($30.75 - 50%+40%) of the fees from those plates goes to arts organizations through an annual TAC grant cycle.

  • A smaller portion of sales from dozens of other plates (plates benefiting a specific organization) — 40% — also benefit the arts.

The license plate funding is managed through a single "omnibus" transportation bill that has different bill numbers in the House or Senate, but is the same legislation. The funds are managed by Tennessee Arts Commission, a state agency, which disburses the funds in the form of grants to nearly every county in Tennessee. 

Each March, TFTA hosts Arts Advocacy on Capitol Hill. Put March 8, 2018 on your calendar and join advocates from across the state in sharing the power of the arts with our elected leaders. 

Find your Senators here. Find your Representatives here.

Connect with them, thank them for their leadership and reiterate your support for continued and/or increased funding for the arts. 

Americans for the Arts is a 501(C)3 Washington, D.C. based organization whose mission is to serve, advance, and lead the network of organizations and individuals who cultivate, promote, sustain, and support the arts in America. By connecting the best ideas and leaders from the arts, communities, and business, together we can work to ensure that every American has access to the transformative power of the arts.

AFTA is a national organization which partners with agencies and organizations across the country to elevate advocacy into action. By joining NAC (above), you are automatically opted-in to receive AFTA Arts Action Network emails. 

Individual memberships start at $30.

AFTA focuses on four core areas:

  • Advocacy: Your passion and our tools unite to trigger local, state, and federal leaders to see and understand the arts as a solution to the problems we face as a nation.

  • Research: Armed with our research, you can demonstrate how the arts enrich the economic, social, and educational fabric of our communities.

  • Connecting: Join our network and gain access to professional development and educational opportunities that help you lead your organization and community.

  • Leadership: Be a leader with us and other arts professionals, government officials, foundation and corporate leaders, artists, and community leaders and help provide access to the Arts for all Americans.

These areas of focus help AFTA maximize the impact of the Arts in the nation. Our goal is to ensure that the ARTS always play an important part at the decision table. The transformative power of the Arts will always be a catalyst to set innovation into motion.

  • Check out AFTA's Advocacy Toolkit here

AFTA has a State Action Network. Rodney Van Valkenburg, the Director of Grants and Initiatives at ArtsBuild in Chattanooga, TN, is the volunteer leader of Tennessee's chapter. 

In Washington, D.C., AFTA connects regularly with the Congressional Arts Caucus. Led by Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY), and co-chaired by Representative Leonard Lance (R-NJ), the 161 bipartisan Members of the Arts Caucus (127 Democratic, 34 Republican),  are dedicated to serving in the best interests of the public by promoting important arts-related issues.

Follow the Congressional Arts Caucus on Facebook.

FUNDING MECHANICS: From How the United States Funds the Arts:
Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is the designated arts organization of the U.S. government. It has played a substantial role in the development and preservation of dance, design, folk and traditional arts, literature, media arts, museums, music, opera, theater, and visual arts. Congressional consideration of the agency’s annual funding occurs within the House and Senate Appropriations Committees—specifically, in the two subcommittees overseeing the U.S. Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. In 2017, the agency’s appropriation was $149.849 million, of which 80 percent went toward grantmaking.

The U.S. arts system has no single benefactor, no overarching arbiter or agency, no Ministry of Culture. Instead, a variety of government subsidies compose roughly 7 percent of the nation’s total investment in not-for-profit arts groups. The NEA is the largest single funder of the arts across America, but the majority of direct public funding still flows from a combination of other federal, state, regional, and local agencies. Direct public support is not used to impose arts policy. Instead, government decisions on arts funding tend to be driven by experts in a given field or discipline. Candidates for those funds are almost always subject to rigorous peer review, which ensures that the awards are based on merit, not on policy aims or on political favoritism. In any case, direct grants do not finance the bulk of artistic activity in the U.S.; they fill gaps, enhance arts education, nourish arts creation, assist in the presentation and delivery of artworks, and enable preservation. These grants thus complement, and do not replace, other means of arts funding. As an example, the NEA requires, for most grants, that the recipient organization couple the amount awarded with an equal or greater amount of other, nonfederal contributions, as will be seen in a brief overview of the NEA. - from How the United States Funds the Arts,The NEA’s Office of Research & Analysis; Joanna Woronkowicz, Senior Research Officer Bonnie Nichols, Research Analyst Sunil Iyengar, Director, November 2012

The NEA and the state and regional arts agencies are partners in funding the arts. State arts agencies use NEA-provided funds in conjunction with state-appropriated funds to support locally determined initiatives. Close to 90 percent of NEA state partnership funding is allocated via formulas that reflect state populations and equal state proportions. The remaining funds— roughly 10 percent of NEA state partnership outlays—are awarded to states competitively. 

In Davidson County:

  • Contact Senator Lamar Alexander here

  • Contact Senator Bob Corker here.

  • Contact Representative Jim Cooper here.

Outside of Davidson County? Find your Representatives here.

Connect with them, thank them for their leadership, and reiterate your support for continued and/or increased funding for the arts.