by Anne Pope, Executive Director, Tennessee Arts Commission

Statistics are continuously showing the benefits that Arts Education has in the lives and growth of children. A recent study from the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA) shows Tennessee as a leading state integrating arts into educational experiences.

The Tennessee Arts Commission offers numerous arts education grants, but arts education programming is often offered by many of the state’s major cultural institutions from the Commission’s annual grants.


Children enjoy Family Night Out

One of Tennessee’s cultural treasures, Cheekwood Botanical Gardens and Museum of Art, is significantly contributing to the Arts Education movement through various programs. In 2015, they reported serving an estimated 100,000 youth annually through year-round tours, competitions, festivals, and workshops. This includes school tours given free of charge to more than 10,000 students each year from Tennessee, Southern Kentucky, and Northern Alabama, with a discounted price to out-of-region schools.

Inspired by the natural beauty of the gardens, Cheekwood’s educational and public programming experiences are offered year round—not restricted to the typical academic year.

Fall Harvest gardens host six weeks of concerts, programs, and performances. Music and storytelling teach about horticulture and botany, and friendly scarecrows feature work created by students and community groups. Winter welcomes Holiday at Cheekwood with festive seasonal activities, and the garden design and artwork create “a winter wonderland of light.”

Moving into warmer weather, spring features Cheekwood in Bloom with live concerts and performances, as well as numerous arts activities. Summertime at Cheekwood burns brightly as “outdoor adventure meets art in nature.” In addition to popular summer camps, outdoor exhibitions and concerts geared specifically towards children give them the opportunity to learn through hands-on arts experiences.


ARTSprouts / Photography Courtesy of Cheekwood

Cheekwood strives to reach as many youth as possible by catering beyond the traditional classroom. Home School Day is offered twice a year, where garden and art tours, as well as art workshops and garden activities, are free for home-school students. Outreach and community programs are also offered and continue to be created.

Craft Outreach allows professional artists to demonstrate their craft in schools, bringing students close to the creative process in a familiar setting. Cheekwood Explorations invites third-grade students to explore the Museum of Art and Botanical Gardens and then participate in an art project. This intimate arts experience corresponds to art, science, and social studies curriculum standards. Priority for these programs is given to Title I and at-risk rural schools. Newly launched in 2014, ARTSprouts brings Cheekwood into the community through summer programs for at-risk youth, providing an overview of its exhibitions and an art activity. In 2014, 4,804 youth took part in these programs.

Opportunities start young at Cheekwood in Tuesdays for Tots. Through activities designed for children around ages 2 to 6, these little ones are able to participate creatively with the current art and garden exhibits with seasonal highlights.

Overall, Cheekwood provides an impressive number of intimate arts encounters for the youth of Tennessee and surrounding states. Beyond tapping into the creative intellect and experiencing the arts culture, benefits of an arts education include: increasing learning and achievement, developing critical thinking skills for a 21st-century workforce, and preparing students to lead meaningful lives.

For more information on Cheekwood’s educational programming, visit


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