Metro Arts- Commissioned Research Showcases Nashville’s Cultural Infrastructure


The Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission recently released a new study, “Culture Here,” that focuses on the city’s creative economy and infrastructure as well as prospects for continued growth within the creative community. The study was conducted by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce’s Research Center.

Chief among the research findings is the wide variety of public, private and nonprofit “cultural producers” active in the community and the economic impact of those activities. The report assesses activity of nearly 5,000 cultural nonprofits and businesses throughout Davidson County.

Despite the broad range of cultural facilities and activation, disparities exist in terms of financial and geographic access to cultural life in Nashville, according to the study.

“We are certainly proud of our city’s internationally known creative brand, but we must continue to invest in our arts and cultural organizations and creative small businesses in order to grow our creative economy. This research report builds on our strategic plan and that of NashvilleNext to outline critical cross-sector opportunities for action that can fuel job creation, cultural participation, cultural infrastructure development and the ongoing identity of Nashville as a world cultural center,” said Jennifer Cole, executive director of Metro Arts.

jen-cole-metro-artsFrom the findings, Metro Arts focuses on four priority recommendations:

  • create corridor redevelopment strategies that extend to performing and visual arts, makers and artisan manufacturing and creative small business infill, based on the successful cultural clustering in the Central Business Improvement District and Music Row;
  • recognize cultural producers (artists, artisans, makers) as key stakeholders of both transit and affordable housing planning and policies to retain them as “knowledge producers” in Davidson County;
  • reimagine city properties such as schools and libraries as “cultural assets” and via private partnerships, planning and targeting capital spending that reinvigorates the cultural participation and activation of neighborhoods; and
  • include cultural producers, makers and freelancers as part of Metro Nashville’s economic development strategy, and include new tools that support the capitalization, commercial ownership and financial sustainability of these producers (e.g., film, fashion, maker spaces), within Davidson County.

The research project included geomapping, survey research engaging with more than 400 cultural leaders and organizations between November 2014 and June 2015, U.S. Census and IRS data as well as other analytics to show where there are greater and lesser concentrations of cultural assets, concentrations of cultural participation and clustering of arts businesses.

The clustering effect is driven by the Central Business District links to increased economic prosperity and citizen cultural participation, while areas of the county that see lower concentrations of cultural assets experience underinvestment and low economic impact.

The study points to opportunities for creation of “cultural revitalization districts,” identifying areas such as Madison Station and Chestnut Hill that would benefit from “direct public investment, tax increment financing for redevelopment, zoning reform and density concessions that encourage presence of artists and arts organizations.”

The report documents the current status of cultural facilities across Davidson County and identifies gaps in both facility type and location. As an example, the report cites the lack of performance and rehearsal space in the city, but showcases how public schools and libraries might offer “auditoriums and other facilities,” as cultural community spaces.

The study cites the critical role of parks and libraries in providing cultural and arts activities, particularly to the lowest-income census tracks. “Culture Here” goes on to suggest that these public facilities “can provide a greater outlet for arts to flourish in small areas” and urges additional funding and collaboration opportunities to deepen arts and cultural programming and activation at existing public facilities like parks, libraries and other neighborhood based “centers.”

Pictured: Jen Cole, courtesy of Metro Arts