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September 22, 2011

Tennessee Arts Commission Executive Director Announces Retirement

Rich Boyd to leave agency after distinguished 28 year career

NASHVILLE - - Rich Boyd, executive director of the Tennessee Arts Commission, announced today his decision to leave the state arts agency after 28 years of service, effective January 31, 2012.

During his tenure with the agency, the TAC has become one of the foremost state arts agencies in the nation in terms of public funding, arts education, advocacy, promotion and preservation of cultural heritage, strategic planning, support of individual artists, and innovative services to constituents in all arts disciplines.

“I have served on many boards and commissions over the years and never have I worked with an executive director who has done more for an agency than Rich Boyd.  It is a testament to his abilities that the Tennessee Arts Commission is held in such high regard among other state arts agencies. Although he will be sincerely missed, it is because of his leadership that he leaves behind a strong agency poised to continue serving the citizens of Tennessee,” said Ellen Hays, chair of the Tennessee Arts Commission.  “Having Rich as executive director, and his commitment to ensure all Tennesseans have access to the arts, has been a gift to all of us.”

Commenting on his work at the agency, Boyd said, “It has been more than an honor to work with the dedicated members of the board, an energetic and talented staff, and with so many gifted arts leaders, supporters and artists across the state.  It has been an unexpected reward.  I have been on an incredible journey, enjoying every road I have traveled and delighting in the many individual paths I have crossed.  It was a new adventure every day.”

Boyd began his career with the Tennessee Arts Commission in 1984 where he served as the assistant director before he was appointed to his current position in 1999.  He is the fifth executive director to lead the agency.  During his time with the TAC he initiated conversation that spoke to the value of the arts to every Tennessee community and how they could change lives, especially the students of the state. He encouraged participation and involvement by those working in the arts and invited public access to the agency’s programs and activities.  His passion for making TAC funds available to all Tennesseans and demanding accountability will define his administration.

Boyd leaves behind an enviable record of successful programming and organizational transformation.  Funding provided by the Tennessee Arts Commission for cultural activities increased from $2.8 million in 1999 to $7.3 in the current fiscal year.  His promotion and marketing acumen has increased the agency’s dedicated revenue source and has earned Tennessee a respected reputation among state arts agencies.  His collaborative vision resulted in the rebirth of Tennesseans for the Arts and the formation of a state legislative arts caucus, considered a national model. He has led a professional staff in limiting bureaucratic red tape of the agency, improving grant making with online web-based grant application, developing new grant categories and increased funding for individual artists.   

Boyd initiated expansion of the Commission’s Arts Education Program where emphasis was placed on arts integration, resulting in $2 million in two Arts Education Model Development and Dissemination grants from the U.S. Department of Education for the Commission’s  Value Plus Schools and Arts 360° programs . Tennessee is the only state arts agency to have been awarded consecutive Federal funding.  Boyd’s skills at building strong collaborative relationships resulted in the Creativity In Education Institute that further promoted TAC’s work in arts integration.  Produced in partnership with Middle Tennessee State University and the Tennessee Department of Education in 2011, the training conference attracted arts educators from across the country.  

The Commission’s Folklife Program was developed in 2001 to celebrate the state’s rich cultural heritage through documentation of traditional artists and art forms.  Considered exemplary among state arts agencies, the Folklife Program published Tradition – Tennessee Lives and Legacies in 2010,an impressive photographic essay in words and images of 25 traditional folk art subjects.  Boyd edited Tradition and was instrumental in the development of a companion traveling photography exhibit on tour to venues across the state through 2013.  Additional books published during Boyd’s tenure include A History of Tennessee Arts, Creating Traditions, Expanding Horizons and Historic Tennessee Stages. 

Participation by the TAC in the National Endowment for the Arts American Masterpiece Initiative identified the Fisk University Jubilee Singers as a state and national treasure, and resulted in the presentation of the 2008 National Medal Arts to the group by President George W. Bush at a White House ceremony. 

Boyd has led in development of the Commission’s public awareness campaign focusing on public value, arts education and promoting investment in cultural assets that enrich the lives of Tennessee citizens.  As part of that campaign the agency has partnered with The Renaissance Center in Dickson, producing a series for public television stations in Tennessee.  “Creative License” features Tennessee artists, organizations and the work they produce.  The series was honored with a 2010 Regional Emmy Award for original arts programming.  

During Boyd’s career, the Commission played a pioneering role in bringing public art to the state with the Tennessee Interstate Welcome Center Program that included the installation of 12 large-scale sculptures serving as visual ambassadors for the State of Tennessee.  The Commission has been responsible for the creation of three pieces of public art at the Tennessee State Capitol, and Boyd coordinated efforts that commissioned work by Tennessee artists to be exhibited at The Tennessee Residence. He is currently working with First Lady Crissy Haslam to further showcase the work of the state’s diverse artist base at Conservation Hall.

Until 2009, the Tennessee Arts Commission maintained administrative oversight of the Tennessee State Museum with Boyd serving as appointing authority for both agencies.  He initiated the legislative process that separated the two agencies and created the Douglas S. Henry Tennessee State Museum Commission.
As executive director of the TAC, Boyd has had leadership responsibilities with South Arts, the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies and served as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts and was a member of the President’s Committee on Arts and Humanities committee. 

A native of Rutherford County, Boyd received a B.A. from Belmont University in Nashville, with graduate study at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro.  His professional experience includes five years as a classroom teacher in the Rutherford County School System where he was named “Teacher of the Year.”  His background includes work in community and professional theater as a producer/director, and is a published playwright and composer.  He is the author of Liberty Hall – Reclaiming a Family Heritage, a documentary book that chronicles his work on the restoration of the ancestral plantation home and gardens of the Kenans, one of North Carolina’s most prominent and historically significant families.  The soon- to- be- released book is published by UNC Chapel Hill Press.  His interest in classic architecture and work in preservation and restoration of historic properties has been featured in national print and broadcast media including Architectural Digest, Classic American Homes, Southern Living, Southern Accents and HGTV.  Currently he is involved in the development of a screenplay and other literary projects.

A search committee comprised of Tennessee Arts Commission board members will be appointed to conduct a national search for Boyd’s replacement.


The Tennessee Arts Commission is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to ensure the citizens of Tennessee have access to and participate in the arts.

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