Operating Support Grants


ArtsMemphis is engaged in a multi-year process of realigning our arts investment programs. In keeping with the needs of our community and trends in our field, we are developing strategies to better support the variety of arts in Shelby County, to base arts investments on organizations’ current work and progress in addressing the needs of communities, and to establish goals for diversity and inclusion for our staff, board and partners.  As we work through this process, we will communicate with and invite input from all artists and arts organizations – those that have previously received funds from ArtsMemphis as well as those that have not – to ensure this process is open and transparent, and the needs and perspectives of the full arts spectrum of Shelby County are integrated into our process. Our guidelines, criteria and funding totals will change in Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19), and once those details are determined, ArtsMemphis will communicate this information with all eligible arts organizations for FY19 budget planning.


Providing operating funds to arts organizations has been a cornerstone of ArtsMemphis’ since its founding in 1963. ArtsMemphis recognizes that unrestricted support is necessary to shape a dynamic and sustainable arts community. Thanks to the generosity of hundreds of local individuals, foundations and corporations and the Tennessee Arts Commission, ArtsMemphis will invest nearly $1.2M in arts organizations in FY18 through a competitive operating support arts investment program.

This unrestricted funding is intended to advance ArtsMemphis’ mission of sustaining Memphis’ world-renowned cultural vitality and strengthening local communities through the arts.  These investments should supplement other revenue, both earned and contributed, generated by the organization.

FY18 is a transitional year as we realign our arts investment programs.  ArtsMemphis reviewed the grant history and averaged expenses from the past three years of Form 990 reports for arts-missioned grantees to designate the following groups of organizations eligible for operating support in FY18.  As stated, we will make further changes to this program in FY19, therefore, the guidelines, criteria and funding totals noted for each group apply only to FY18.

The following entities are not eligible for Operating Support Investments but may be eligible for other funding through ArtsMemphis.

  • Organizations that have not received consecutive funding through ArtsMemphis in each of the past three fiscal years (FY2015, FY2016, FY2017).
  • Institutions of higher education or individual departments of colleges and universities.
  • Churches or church-affiliated programs receiving a significant portion of their base support from a church or religious organization.
  • Governmental institutions, i.e., public libraries, park and recreational facilities, schools, etc.
  • Arts-missioned programs or projects operating under a fiscal agent are not eligible. 

For reference, the papers linked below provide information and context on similar work happening across the country, examining arts funding trends and the need for more equitable funds distribution:

Workshop Presentation

The presentation that was delivered to all eligible organizations on September 13 and 14 is available here.

Group A: Organizations that received operating support in FY17 with a budget of $300K or higher.

Eligible Organizations:

  • Ballet Memphis
  • Blues Foundation
  • Germantown Community Theatre
  • Hattiloo Theatre
  • Indie Memphis
  • Memphis Brooks Museum of Art
  • Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum
  • Memphis Symphony Orchestra
  • Metal Museum
  • New Ballet Ensemble
  • Playhouse on the Square
  • Opera Memphis
  • Soulsville Foundation
  • Theatre Memphis
  • UrbanArt Commission

Group B: Organizations that received operating support in FY17 with a budget of less than $300K.

Eligible Organizations:

  • Africa in April
  • Beale Street Caravan
  • Beethoven Club
  • Concerts International
  • Memphis Wind Symphony
  • Theatre Works
  • Voices of the South

Group C: Organizations with an arts-mission that have received other grants through ArtsMemphis for the past three consecutive fiscal years. 

Eligible Organizations:

  • ArtWorks Foundation
  • Blues City Cultural Center
  • Collage Dance Collective
  • Creative Aging Memphis
  • Crosstown Arts
  • Dixon Gallery and Gardens
  • Germantown Performing Arts Center
  • IRIS Orchestra
  • Levitt Shell
  • Luna Nova Music
  • Memphis Boy Choir
  • Memphis Men's Chorale
  • New Day Children's Theatre
  • The Orpheum Theatre
  • Playback Memphis
  • PRIZM Ensemble
  • RiverArts Fest
  • Tennessee Shakespeare Company