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Metro Arts Announces New Project Funding for Emerging Local Artists


Learning Lab” project part of effort funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Kresge Foundation to expand national practice around artists and creative placemaking

NASHVILLE, TN —The Metro Nashville Arts Commission announced its first funding of temporary public art and civic practice projects funded through its Learning Lab program. The Learning Lab, funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, is a new effort intended to help more local artists develop the skills and practices to successfully create public art and community practice work.

From June through September, 25 local artists received training and coaching co-designed by the Center for Performance and Civic Practice, the Arts and Business Council of Greater Nashville, and Metro Arts covering topics from community partnerships, public contracting, working with fabricators, cultural competence in community engagement, and public listening skills. All participants were invited to then apply for funding to support either a social practice, civic partnership or temporary public art project.

Nashville artists Elisheba Israel, Xavier Payne, Julia Whitney Brown, Robin Paris, J. Elizabeth Williams, Rebekah Alexander, Jamal (Jay) Jenkins, LeXander (Le) Bryant, Courtney Adair Johnson and Robbie Lynn Hunsinger, were selected to implement projects ranging from a coloring book based on North Nashville history, to exploration of the Kurdish traditions of textile design and creation to an interactive theatre and a pottery studio that will offer long-term meaningful employment for adults with intellectual disabilities. Project funding ranges from $1,000 to $9,500 and will be implemented between December 2016 and August 2017. As project details and locations are finalized they will be posted at

Projects were supported with resources both from the Metro Arts budget and the National Endowment for the Arts. The National Endowment recently named the Learning Lab and Metro Arts as one of 14 emergent national models that will receive special technical assistance from Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC) and PolicyLink designed to advance each organization’s ability to lead successful projects that result in positive short- and long-term outcomes for their community.

“We are excited to work closely with and learn from projects on the ground,” said Jason Schupbach, director of Design Programs at the NEA. “This unique collaboration amongst government, foundation, and community development organizations will be beneficial to everyone in the U.S. who is interested in creative placemaking.”

National Press Release

“Stronger, more collaborative partnerships that foster equitable and inclusive community development will help advance creative placemaking projects that improve the life circumstances of vulnerable populations and strengthen neighborhoods,” said Regina Smith, managing director of Kresge’s Arts and Culture Program. “We are thrilled to partner with NEA, LISC, and PolicyLink to pilot this initiative.”

“Metro Arts has a long term strategic goal to both increase the skills of local artists and bring more resources into the arts ecosystem. The Learning Lab and the national support for its work helps build our community and the national practices of authentic, artist-driven community development. While supporting important artistic work, we are also building national learning about what works when artists deeply engage with community partners on important social issues. This is new territory for Metro Arts and we are proud to support these creators, their work and drive community change,” said Jennifer Cole, Executive Director at Metro Arts.

About the Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission (Metro Arts)

The Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission, a commission of the Metropolitan Nashville Government, drives a more equitable and vibrant community through the arts. Metro Arts receives operational support from the Tennessee Arts Commission, and additional information is available online at