Helen on the Hill | Arts Advocacy
It’s been a really exciting first month working at Nashville Repertory Theatre! I’ve met so many amazing people and learned quite a bit about being an arts administrator. One of my favorite experiences so far was going to Arts Advocacy Day on The Hill. I met all kinds of interesting people—from music teachers to senators—all gathered to advocate the importance of supporting the arts here in Nashville. I even shook hands with the Tennessee State Treasurer, Treasurer David H. Lillard, Jr.! After hearing how much he and the Treasury Department have done to fund the arts through the Specialty License Plate Program, I couldn’t help but geek out a little bit…
Here’s how the day played out: In the morning our Cynthia, Shane, Hollis, and I all gathered at the TN State Museum to rally with other arts advocates and learn about the fabulous new Gift-A-Tag program. As soon as I walked in the museum I was instantly snapped out of my pre-coffee daze by the truly amazing voices of the Dobyns-Bennett High School A Capella Group. I never thought waiting in line could be so enjoyable. I had to fight the urge to let people go in front of me so I could stay and listen longer. But, there were things to be done so I had to move it along!
As a first time attendee, I was given a pretty swanky blue ribbon on my nametag, which kind of made my day. (Thank you to whoever thought that up!) Next, we all made our way down to the TN State Museum to mix and mingle over some yummy pastries and coffee. It was fun meeting some new faces, like Lois Riggins-Ezzell, the Executive Director of the TN State Museum, and I even ran into a few familiar faces. I got to catch up with one of my favorite mentors Becky Paxton from Cheekwood, which is always a treat. I also ran into Brandon Herrenbruck—one of my old high school teachers—and his incredibly stylish children. (Can they be my stylists please?) Brandon now works at Steinway Piano Gallery, and I thought it was so great to see him sharing Arts Advocacy Day with his family.
After the museum, we marched our way up to The Hill to the Legislative Plaza for the most exciting part of the day: learning about the Specialty License Plate Program and its genius new expansion, Gift-A-Tag. I had seen specialty license plates around town, but I had no idea that it raised MILLIONS of dollars for the arts! It makes me want to give everyone with a special plate a big ole hug. (If that wasn’t creepy.)
But seriously, grants distributed by the Tennessee Arts Commission through the specialty license plate program have funded more than 25 million art experiences all over Tennessee. That’s truly amazing.
So basically, I can pay $35 for a colorful “Tennesseans For the Arts” license plate or even that hilariously ironic looking cartoon fish plate, and 90% of that $35 is going straight to arts programs in my community. Then, let’s say the Predators win the Stanley Cup this year and I want to take my hockey fandom to the next level next year. I can totally rep the Preds with an official Predators plate and know that I donated just over $15 to the Predators Foundation and $15 to arts organizations! Why would anyone not do this? You get to advocate for something you love, donate to worthy causes, and always be able to find your car in a parking lot. It’s a win-win situation for sure.
All in all, Arts Advocacy Day was an amazing experience. It made me feel both proud and lucky to live in a state whose leadership understands the importance of the arts and its potential to bring people together. I can’t wait for next year!