Friday, March 22, 2024

How Did Metro Arts Get Here?

"Ghost Machine for the East Bank Machineworks" designed by
Alice Aycockis a project by the Metro Nashville Arts Commission.
Credit: Banner Photo/Martin Cherry

A detailed timeline of the issues surrounding Metro Arts, disputes over funding and more

By Connor Daryani, Nashville Banner, March 22, 2024 - What’s controversial about funding the arts? In Nashville, it turns out, a lot.

Metro Arts, the body responsible for distributing grants from Metro to local artists, has been embroiled in controversy over how funding is distributed. The issue has grown to include multiple legs of Metro government, multiple investigations and multiple layers. To better understand the issues, the Banner has created a timeline of key events that brought us to this moment. This timeline will be updated as the situation evolves. 

In 2021 Metro Arts began an overhaul when allegations of racism and mistreatment by leadership were revealed by the Nashville Scene. Those allegations led to the executive director’s departure and, in August 2022, Daniel Singh was hired with the task of bringing increased equity to the arts. 

A report from the Metro Human Relations Commission found that since 1987, the Arts Commission has awarded approximately $61,572,329 to arts organizations in Nashville, and 71 percent of it has gone to organizations with an annual budget of $1 million or more. Singh set out to change this, with the goal of increasing Thrive grant funding, which goes towards independent artists and small arts organizations, but the situation quickly devolved. Over the course of 2023, nearly half of the Metro Arts Commission resigned and multiple investigations were spawned out of events surrounding the grant distribution process, which ended with Thrive artists losing out on funding and operational grants being delayed by months. 

There are at least three ongoing reviews:

  • The Metro Human Relations Commission found probable cause of discriminatory action by the Arts Commission and Metro Legal. They plan to hold a public hearing on the matter, but a date has not yet been set. 
  • An audit of Metro Arts is expected to be completed “soon,” according to Metro Finance. 
  • On April 4, the Board of Ethical Conduct will consider a complaint made by an artist who was supposed to receive Thrive funding. 

How we got here:

December 2022

With Singh at the helm, the Metro Arts Commission adopted a grant funding formula that would fund independent artists and small art organizations at historic levels. Created with community input, this formula aimed to push funding towards independent and BIPOC (Black, indigenous and other people of color) artists and organizations, while still maintaining some level of funding for larger organizations that have historically received funding. 

June 2023 (Continue reading)

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