Nashville’s Racial Equity in Arts Leadership (REAL) program received a $50,000 jump-start this week to continue its work. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) awarded the program in its Grants for Arts Projects on Thursday, along with over 1,000 other programs across the country. The NEA awarded over $27.5 million in grants.
The REAL program focuses on advancing racial equity in the arts through its speaker series. Topics have included “The New Being: Perception and the Spiritual Existence of People of Color” and “Radical Inclusion.” Participants are leaders in their field that engage in seminars and workshops focused on racial equity within procedures such as hiring or programming events.
“The endorsement and recognition of the REAL program by the National Endowment for the Arts conveys the important work that is happening within our Nashville arts sector,” stated Metro Arts Executive Director Caroline Vincent.
The Metro Nashville Arts Commission and Vanderbilt University’s Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy created the REAL program in 2015. The program originated unofficially from a series of monthly community workshops meeting in the university’s Curb Center. The official program established a curriculum that spanned over the course of six months every year. The program lasted until 2019, and had a total of over 70 participants.
The Tennessee Star inquired with the Metro Arts and the Curb Center about the accomplishments of program participants, as well as the meaning of advancing racial equity through the arts. Neither spokesperson responded by press time.
Nine other Tennessee programs and 1 individual received grants from the NEA as well. The International Storytelling Association, Indie Memphis, Belcourt Theatre, Chatterbird, Follow Your Heart Arts, Nashville Ballet, Nashville Symphony, OZ Arts, The Barbershop Harmony Society, and poet Marcus Wicker received anywhere from $10,000 to $35,000 in grants. However, the REAL program received the most funding by far – $15,000 more than the next recipient.
All Nashville-based artists and local arts organization leaders may apply for the REAL program beginning this summer.
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