Mayoral forum on Arts

One of the criticisms of the series of forums that have defined the mayoral race is that the information in a forum only goes to a small group of people. A few — including the Banner’s forum with the Phoenix Club — have been placed online for people to watch, but not all have. And sometimes the lengthy questionnaires that campaigns have answered before forums have not been made public, either.

Enter the Nashville Creators Coalition, the umbrella organization of a host of sponsors of a May 10 forum held at the Museum of African-American Music that was focused on arts funding and the effect of Nashville’s economy on the creative class.  

After posting their live stream online, the group turned the responses from the candidate questionnaires into a rating system “focused on candidate’s potential for investment in Nashville’s creative community.”

The results of the ratings (using a 5-star system) were as follows:

  • Freddie O’Connell, 4.5 stars
  • Heidi Campbell, 4 stars
  • Sharon Hurt, 4 stars
  • Jeff Yarbro, 4 stars
  • Jim Gingrich, 3 stars
  • Alice Rolli, 3 stars
  • Matt Wiltshire, 3 stars
  • Natisha Brooks, 1 star

“These ratings are not meant to be an endorsement of any candidate at this stage,” said Jamie

Kent, a local songwriter and board member of the Arts and Business Council. “We hope that this rating inspires all the candidates to more strongly consider their platforms when it comes to supporting Nashville’s creative economy.”

Each answer on the questionnaire was rated by several of the organizers independently and those scores were averaged together into the candidate’s scores.

Here’s what each campaign was asked:

Creative workforce housing: Would you prioritize the development of creative workforce housing (for example, through an MDHA initiative such as the Ryman Lofts)?

Creative space: Would you support publicly owned, unoccupied space to be transformed into creative development or presentation space for music and the arts in Nashville? What additional solutions to the lack of creative space would you explore as Mayor (such as preserving existing spaces through a land trust for historic venues and the like)?

City arts funding: This city’s arts budget has not kept up with the growth of the artists and arts organizations in Nashville despite the growth of the city. Would you support funding Metro Arts at 1 percent of the combined Metro and MNPS budget? (Roughly $30 million of support annually.) 

City relief funding: The Arts & Business Council launched an Artist Relief Fund in 2020 to compensate for the cancellation of scheduled gigs or opportunities (such as a commission, performance, etc.), or due to layoff/furlough as a result of the March 2020 tornados and/or COVID-19 pandemic. It experienced such high demand that only half the applicants could be funded. Would you support the creation and funding of an ongoing emergency relief fund for Nashville’s creative workforce (similar to the Austin Music Disaster Relief Grant)? If so, at what level would you fund it?

Music education: Do you commit to working toward the establishment of fully funded music, visual art, and/or theater arts programs in every Metro Public School? If so, what strategies would you employ?

Click here for the candidates’ full list of answers.

Here’s a breakdown of the scores:

A couple of campaigns told the Banner that they did not know their answers were going to be turned into ratings. Kent confirmed that the decision to create ratings was made later. 

Steve is a three-decade veteran of newspapers, working around the country at places like the Washington Post and Chicago Tribune before returning home to Nashville in 2011 to edit The City Paper and Nashville...