In 1965 the Tennessee House of Representatives created a Commission on the Performing Arts to document and study artistic facilities in the state. Two years later, the study recommended the establishment of the Tennessee Arts Commission. Since its creation, the commission has assumed responsibility for arts development in Tennessee and, from time to time, such facilities as the Appalachian Center for Crafts. Today, in addition to its other activities, the commission supervises and administers the Tennessee State Museum. Bennett Tarleton served as the commission’s executive director from 1984 to 1999 and was succeeded by Richard Boyd. The Tennessee General Assembly, the National Endowment for the Arts, and private contributors provide the funding for the Arts Program division of the commission. The commission invests public money in Tennessee’s not-for-profit arts industry; provides services to citizens, artists, and arts organizations; and undertakes leadership projects to enhance Tennessee’s cultural life.
The commission is composed of fifteen members, broadly representative of all fields of the performing, visual, and literary arts. The governor appoints the commission members from among the state’s citizens who have demonstrated a vital interest in the performing, visual, and literary arts. At least one, but no more than two members must be selected from each U.S. congressional district.