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April 9, 2008

STATEWIDE CONFERENCE FEATURES NATIONAL ARTS LEADERS

Ambitious Agenda Will Showcase Tennessee Arts Commission's Strategic Plan

   NASHVILLE - - In the Spring of 2006, the Tennessee Arts Commission began a two-year planning process to assess the work of the agency over the past 40 years.  A unique and extensive interactive listening process was launched that resulted in a new and dynamic strategic plan. Talk To Me, Tennessee…A Statewide Conversation About The Arts was chosen for the name of the plan, and also identifies the statewide conference scheduled for May 12-14 at the Franklin Marriott Cool Springs Hotel and Conference Center in Franklin, Tennessee.
    The Commission hopes to attract over 500 participants to the conference, where Tennesseans will continue the dialogue created by the strategic plan - sharing their dreams, concerns, and ideas about the role of the arts in their everyday lives.  The ambitious agenda will feature nationally-recognized speakers and workshop leaders, with inspiring sessions offering substantive and useful information. Keynote speakers include Bill Strickland, president and CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corporation in Pittsburgh, and its subsidiaries Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild and Bidwell Training Center, where he has developed and implemented major fundraising plans of action; Bill Cleveland, director of the Center for the Study of Art and Community in Bainbridge Island, Washington, where he focuses on building relationships between the arts and the broader community; Donna Walker-Kuhne, president of Walker International Communications Group in New York, recognized as one of the nation’s foremost experts on audience diversification and an accomplished arts administrator and adult educator; and Barbara Schaffer Bacon, who co-directs the Animating Democracy Initiative, a program of Americans for the Arts, Institute for Community Development and the Arts, based in Washington, D.C.
  “This may be one of the most important meetings the Commission has ever convened,” says Rich Boyd, executive director of the Commission. “I have challenged the staff to bring the best arts leaders to Tennessee to share their stories, to inspire the arts industry in our state, and to have a conversation about the arts.  We have taken giant steps in the last ten years and that is reflected in a 60% increase in state funding and increased arts activities across the state.  We’ve have stories to tell, and stories to listen to, and the caliber of speakers will provide some very inspirational stories."   
  Planning for the conference has been underway for months, according to Ed Gerace, chair of the Commission from Johnson City.  “We have watched the agenda for this conference unfold over the last year as the staff has reported on their progress at each quarterly meeting,” added Gerace. “The meeting provides a stage to unveil the agency’s new statewide awareness campaign being developed by the Commission with Walker and Associates of Memphis and Tennesseans for the Arts.  This is one meeting that every arts group in the Volunteer state will want to attend.” 
  Sessions are planned on defining the value of the arts on the local level and using that value in leveraging local funding.  Workshops will address fundraising, Web site development, civic engagement, building partnerships, and sessions to benefit artists in the work environment.   Building on the strategic plan, conversation at the meeting will involve creative economies, using the arts for development and revitalization of cities and cultural districts, and programming the traditional arts for non-traditional groups.  Rod Reiner, deputy director of the Commission and conference coordinator, shares the excitement of Boyd and Gerace. “There is currently a feeling that we are poised to make a huge difference in the way people think about the arts in our state,” says Reiner. “I’m hoping that people will look back and view this conference as a turning point for the arts in Tennessee.”
  Registration is $75 before April 20. Beginning April 20 registration will be $100. Registration and additional information is available online at: www.arts.state.tn.us/ttmt_conference.htm
  For more information on the conference, contact Rod Reiner at 615-741-2093 or e-mail: rod.reiner@state.tn.us.

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