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Metro Arts Awarded $75,000 NEA Our Town Grant For North Nashville Arts Partnership with Project Return


Public Art to Increase Public Safety, Foster Belonging

The Metro Nashville Arts Commission (“Metro Arts”) has been approved for a $75,000 Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) supporting a partnership with Project Return to create a series of community-based artistic interventions for the North Nashville neighborhood, designed to increase public safety, foster community belonging and assist Nashville citizens returning from incarceration.

With North Nashville writer and neighborhood advocate M. Simone Boyd serving as Lead Artist, Metro Arts and Project Return intend to use public art as a community investment tool for neighborhood transformation, creative workforce development and furthering equitable practices throughout the city.

In addition to temporary artworks and community gatherings, Metro Arts will commission and install permanent public art under the Arthur Avenue underpass that incorporates increased lighting, a safety feature that residents have long expressed a need for.

The award is one of 63 Our Town grants nationwide that the NEA has approved to support projects that integrate arts, culture, and design activities into efforts that strengthen communities by advancing local economic, physical, and/or social outcomes; ultimately laying the groundwork for sustainable systems change.

“As the country and the arts sector begin to work towards a post-pandemic world, the National Endowment for the Arts is proud to announce this Our Town funding. These awards will support cross-sector partnerships, such as the one led by Metro Arts, that demonstrate the power of the arts to help communities create a better future for themselves,” said NEA Acting Chairman Ann Eilers.

“We are thrilled to partner with M. Simone Boyd on this generous award to Metro Arts from the National Endowment for the Arts,” said Project Return CEO Bettie Kirkland. “Project Return is solely dedicated to the successful new beginnings of people who are returning to our community after incarceration. This funded project brings concerted uplift in a Nashville neighborhood that has been disproportionately ravaged by mass incarceration, embraces art as a part of rich community life, and empowers Project Return to generate and support meaningful employment opportunities for individuals who are building their new lives.”

“Metro Arts believes in the power of art to transform lives and communities.” said Caroline Vincent, Metro Arts Executive Director. “These funds allow us to continue meaningful work in North Nashville, informed by the neighborhood and its artist leaders, that contributes to the community’s vision for its own identity, sustainability and creative life.

For more information on the projects included in the Arts Endowment grant announcement, visit

About Metro Arts

Metro Arts is the Nashville Office of Arts + Culture. Our mission is to drive a vibrant and equitable community through the arts. Metro Arts strives to ensure that all Nashvillians have access to a creative life, and we work toward this goal through community investments, artist and organizational training, public art and creative placemaking, and direct programs involving residents in all forms of arts and culture. Metro Arts receives operational support from the Tennessee Arts Commission, and additional information is available online at

About Project Return

Project Return is a Tennessee nonprofit that is solely dedicated to the successful new beginnings of people who are returning to our community after incarceration. By the hundreds each year, individuals come to Project Return to gain employment opportunities and a full array of wraparound support. Project Return also operates social enterprises that create jobs as well as affordable housing.