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Metro Arts Announces 40th Anniversary Year

Jennifer Cole

Metro Arts New Logo

Office of Arts + Culture announces new look, project to purchase art from local artists and year-long social media campaign to celebrate the milestone year

Mayor Megan Barry and the Metro Arts Commission announced a year-long series of projects, events and activities to celebrate the agency’s 40th anniversary year.

The Metro Nashville Arts Commission or “Metro Arts” was created by ordinance in December, 1978 under the administration of Mayor Richard Fulton. In its 40 year history, the agency has supported and driven innovation in Nashville’s arts and culture sector through a variety of investments, programs and initiatives including:

  • Hosting the Summer Lights Festival for over a decade
  • Initiating and managing the largest municipal cultural grantmaking program in the state
  • Investing operational funds in key start up cultural organizations such as Alias Chamber Ensemble, Actors Bridge Ensemble, African American Cultural Alliance, Intersection, TN Craft, Global Education Center, Southern Word, that are now key leaders in our cultural landscape
  • Leading the passage of state legislation to establish publically funded public art program (now the state’s largest)
  • Establishing THRIVE neighborhood funding program and the Learning Lab Artist Training program—which are both national creative placemaking models
  • Launching a comprehensive race equity in the arts initiative
  • Establishing an arts-integrated intervention system for court-involved youth through a coalition of government agencies, nonprofits and individual artists

Today, Mayor Barry and Metro Arts Chairman Clay Haynes unveiled a new visual brand for the agency, designed by DVL Seigenthaler, a local leading brand identity firm. DVL worked for six months with the Metro Arts Commission and staff to reimagine a look that fits with both the cultural vibrancy of the city and the role Metro Arts plays locally and nationally.

“The arts are vital to Nashville and our city identity. In our 40 year history, our city and our role in its cultural landscape have changed. It was time to update our visual mark to reflect how our work reflects the city’s overall cultural openness and vibrancy,” noted Haynes. The mark also includes a new official tag, “Nashville’s Office of Arts + Culture” - a nod to the broader role Metro Arts has in community partnership coordination, inter-departmental arts integration, and national cultural policy innovation. The Metro Arts’ 2015 Strategic Plan, Crafting a Creative City, called for the agency to update its brand to better align with Nashville’s contemporary and cutting edge arts landscape.

In addition to the new brand, Metro Arts will celebrate its anniversary through targeted events, a social media campaign and an #OurArtsNash photo contest. Details and dates for the photo contest and program activities will be announced via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Mayor Barry and Metro Arts also announced the “40 for 40” project, a pilot program to acquire two-dimensional art works in a variety of mediums including watercolor, acrylic, oil, textile and mixed media created by local artists for public spaces in Metro buildings. The pilot will start in the historic Courthouse and the Metro Office Building. Twenty nine artists were selected in the first round from and open public call for artists living in Davidson County.

Metro Arts staff will complete studio visits throughout the winter and will select and install at least 40 new works by summer 2018 in the Metro Courthouse and Metro Office Building. The works will join 50 other pieces that form the city’s “One Percent for Art” public collection.

“Much of our public art collection over the last dozen years has focused on the development of integrated work alongside new construction,” noted Jennifer Cole, Executive Director. “The ’40 for 40’ project allows us to pilot a project we hope to scale—working with existing Metro buildings that could be enhanced by the acquisition and display of local art by local artists. It is a great way to celebrate our mission and support many of the Mayor’s priorities including supporting wages for creative workers, promoting local artisans and businesses, and improving the public spaces we all cherish.”

Mayor Megan Barry noted, “Metro Arts is a great example of public service in action - a department that coordinates within the city and with the community to ensure that every Nashvillian has access to arts and culture in their life. I’m thrilled to celebrate their success over the last 40 years and, more importantly, to lift up with Metro Arts and our residents what we love about our arts-incredible city for the next year.”

In its 40 year history, the agency has supported the growth of art in the public realm, increases in arts funding and partnerships with local schools, galleries, and cultural organizations; leading the city to be frequently identified as a top tier city for the arts nationwide. Last year, the National Center for Arts Research named Nashville #2 in cultural vibrancy.

“Metro Arts is setting a national standard of innovation through cross-sector partnerships and programming, and has been doing tremendous work to increase support for artists – in part through its focus on policy and practices that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion,” said Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts, based in Washington, D.C. “It isn’t easy to stand out among 4,500 local arts agencies nationwide, and Metro Arts continues to do this. Through their work and excellent leadership, they are positively impacting the lives of the people of Nashville and are strengthening the community as a whole.”

“Metro Arts is successful because our job is to support citizen engagement with artists and cultural life,” Cole concluded. “That work builds our economy, our workforce and our quality of life. We are focused on how arts are part of public transit, parks, and libraries. We are focused on how artists and cultural organizations are central to neighborhoods and their development. We are focused on lifting up the cultural stories and narratives of all Nashvillians. We couldn’t be happier to celebrate this milestone, and we look forward to another 40 years serving the residents of Nashville and Davidson County.” The updated brand and 40th anniversary activities are available at