by Lauren Baud

What makes the arts so special? What do they do for our world? They encourage and foster creativity. They empower our youth to think outside the box and develop into active and engaged members of society. They enhance our quality of life. Arts Build Communities. That is the essential principle of the Tennessee Arts Commission’s (TAC) Arts Build Communities (ABC) grant program.

ABC has been in place since 1990, with a brief hiatus during fiscal year 2013
(July 1, 2012–June 30, 2013) due to budget restrictions. However, it is coming back this year, and organizations in Nashville will once again have the opportunity to enrich their community through these grants. ABC is a decentralized grant program of the TAC, and Metro Nashville Arts Commission (Metro Arts) serves as the Designated Agency for the Davidson County funds.

In the 2012 fiscal year, Metro Arts granted ABC funds to 24 organizations across Davidson County. Some of these organizations used their funds to produce programs that brought a wide range of arts activities to children. While ABC funds may not be used for in-school, curriculum-based projects, they can be used for projects that engage youth. The Street Theatre Company completed a production of The Little Prince that featured more than 20 Nashville area children and teens in strong acting roles. This show tied into the organization’s fall “Stepping Stone” classes, which educate youth ages 5–18 in the many aspects of theatre and acting.

Humanities Tennessee used ABC grant funds to partially fund the organization’s Student Reader Day program. This program brought authors from the Southern Festival of Books into schools to discuss their work, and it covered the fee of bussing students to a free, open forum at the festival where featured children’s authors spoke to the students. Humanities Tennessee also purchased a book for each participating student.

The Dance Theatre of Tennessee produced The Nutcracker, a ballet that toured Nashville and three surrounding cities with a cast of 25 professional ballet dancers for principal and soloist roles and a youth cast of 35 children in each city for the children’s roles. The cast of The Nutcracker also performed excerpts of the ballet in at-risk schools, bringing ballet to as many children as possible.

ALIAS Chamber Ensemble used ABC grant funds to bring new music from the American composer Kenji Bunch to a wider Nashville audience. Members of the ensemble played commissioned compositions by Bunch for students at local high schools and elementary schools.
For more detailed information about the ABC program and how to apply, visit and or contact Lauren Baud at

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