Jim Schmidt, Chairman Metro Arts Commission

Nashville, Tenn.–Established in 1978, Metro Nashville Arts Commission is the office of Arts & Culture for the city of Nashville and Davidson County. We believe the arts produce a more vibrant and equitable community. Further, we strive to ensure that the broad scope of Nashvillians has access to a creative life through community investments, artist and organizational training, public art, and direct programs that involve residents in all forms of arts and culture. Needless to say we are very pleased with the number of physical displays of art we have placed throughout Nashville for the enjoyment of the entire community.

And while our arts community is thriving, we are also striving to ensure our in-house operations meet Metro’s equity expectations. We certainly recognize that inequity occurs within systems at all levels within the cultural/ creative ecosystem. And we are no exception. We have individuals currently making claims that Metro Arts is failing to enforce the standards of equality set by the Metro Arts Commission itself. We are determined to produce the effort and oversight to accomplish our DEI goals.

Two former and current staff member have filed charges alleging discrimination in this office. There have been 5 allegations and formal complaints lodged with Metro Human Resources through the standard process to gather the facts of each case. The 5 resulting reports were co-led and produced by a diverse team from Metro’s HR with extensive review and vetting by the HR department before publication. It is interesting that the first two complaints filed by former employees were then closely followed by a related article in another newspaper citing primarily the allegations. The Commission immediately requested Metro HR to investigate these claims as well. Metro HR thoroughly investigated and provided report copies in January 2022. Their independent reports found no violations of policy, rules, or laws by Metro Arts leadership.

These incidents caused us to look inward. This resulted in Metro Arts Commission adopting a list of recommendations. The first is the hiring of an external, experienced DEI consultant to add more resources to improve our DEI work across the board. Briefly, other steps include collaboration with Metro’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer to: (1) lead internal conversations among the staff toward healing the workplace, (2) reviewing and recommend additional management and leadership training for all management-level employees, and (3) conducting a specific review with Metro HR of the utilization of Performance Improvement Plans ensuring they are utilized appropriately, and (4) utilizing the agency’s upcoming strategic planning process to better define and craft our racial equity and antiracism work for the future to ensure we meet community needs.

We know this is a beginning and that this work is always ongoing. We commit to continuing
toward a better Metro Arts.

By Jim Schmidt, Chairman
Metro Arts Commission