Last night, all seven of the mayoral candidates discussed their vision for the arts in a forum hosted by Nashville Arts Coalition. All agree that arts and culture must be grown and sustained. Many discussed the fact that Nashville trails its peer cities in arts spending. The national average is $5.44 per capita spent on the arts and Nashville falls behind at $4.10. Cities like Charlotte and Austin are way ahead. Here are my take-aways from the forum.
Howard Gentry stressed arts programming in traditionally underserved communities, calling for revitalization districts. He says that “the arts and cultural aspect of the city has flatlined since 2000,” and he won’t shy away from dedicated funding. All of the candidates focused on affordable space. One of Gentry’s solutions is looking into unused and underused commercial spaces, especially in traditionally underserved neighborhoods.
Charter School founder Jeremy Kane mentioned moving forward with Envision Cayce, a revitalization project for the Cayce homes in East Nashville off Shelby Avenue. Kane talked the most about education and looking for innovative ways to involve artists with Metro schools. He also talked about the possibility of crowdfunding for the arts and noted improving public transit on his list of priorities.
Councilwoman Megan Barry discussed the Artisan Manufacturing Zoning bill that’s just been filed with council. Gentry and Charles Robert Bone agree that re-zoning is necessary to allow artists and artisans to have live/work spaces where they can legally manufacture. Barry also wants to expand the THRIVE program and is looking to Barnes Housing to continue providing affordable housing.
Bone also said he wants to provide more affordable loan options for artists: “If you’re an entrepreneur in this city and you want to start a new business, there’s 50 individual investors that I can tell you to go see; there’s 25 different funds. I think we have to be better and more creative at how we provide the same type of funding for those in the arts and those who want to pursue their creative interests,” Bone said.
Developer Bill Freeman predictably discussed his plans for building 10,000 affordable housing units over his four year term. This is a cornerstone of his campaign. Freeman favors involving the private sector and reaching out to developers across the country for affordable housing ideas. He also noted that expanding the budget for Metro schools will allow for more arts programming.
Linda Eskind Rebrovick touted her work in the technology sector as a natural bridge to the arts. She’s interested in co-housing plans that will encourage collaboration and networking amongst artists and musicians. She also wants to look into involving the city’s community centers in more arts programming.
David Fox is hesitant to promise funding without knowing where it will come from but agrees that it has to be stepped up. Barry mentioned putting more sales tax toward the arts and Kane wants to look into crowdsourcing, but no substantial plans for dedicated funding came up. David Fox also favors focusing on more incubator programs like Casa Azafran and Periscope to heed longterm results for artists and the public alike. He left early for another engagement.
If you’re interested in a rough transcript of the forum (mostly direct quotes, some in note form), let me know.