ArtsMemphis Expands Impact by Increasing Operating Support to Record Number of Local Arts Organizations

MEMPHIS, TN (February 1, 2019) – Recognizing that it is the work of the artists and art experiences happening every day that make Memphis an incredible city, ArtsMemphis has expanded its cornerstone program to include any organization in Shelby County with an arts-based mission, regardless of its history, genre or budget size.

In 2018, ArtsMemphis provided operating support grants to 39 arts organizations totaling $1.3 million, up from 22 in 2016. Changes in eligibility and decision making practices have enabled ArtsMemphis to have a deeper and broader impact on the organizations and their audiences.

ArtsMemphis lends stability to the overall arts landscape in Memphis by nurturing small, community-based arts organizations and continuing to uphold its commitment to larger organizations. Expansion in ArtsMemphis granting recognizes that unrestricted support empowers organizations.

 “Unrestricted support is necessary to shape a dynamic and sustainable arts community. We want organizations to apply grant dollars where they are most needed to achieve their mission.” said Lucy Lee, chairman of the ArtsMemphis board of directors.

ArtsMemphis invested $2.4 million in 2018 in local artists and arts groups, thanks to the generosity of hundreds of local individuals, foundations, corporations and the Tennessee Arts Commission.

“ArtsMemphis has made funds available to a broader spectrum of arts organizations, many of whom serve underrepresented communities. We are supporting more art experiences for increasing numbers of people - people who are more representative of our community.” said Elizabeth Rouse, President and CEO of ArtsMemphis.

In 2018, operating funds granted through ArtsMemphis supported 1.2 million arts experiences for people of color, an increase of 51% since 2016. During this same period, experiences for youth increased by 103%.

The Plough Foundation is very supportive of ArtsMemphis choices in allocating funds. Diane Rudner, chair of the board of trustees for the Plough Foundation emphasizes ArtsMemphis’ commitment to capacity-building grants. “We are excited with the approach taken by ArtsMemphis and the diversity in arts organizations which make for a vibrant and healthy city. The stronger the arts, the better city we have for everybody.” 

While ArtsMemphis continues its support of flagship arts organizations such as Theater Memphis, now approaching its centennial season, two examples of newly funded organizations this year are Music Export Memphis and AngelStreet. Music Export Memphis helps put Memphis musicians on the road, bringing our city’s art and culture to audiences across the country, enhancing their own careers and driving attention back to Memphis in the form of tourism and talent attraction.

AngelStreet’s program in North Memphis and Graham Heights mentors girls by providing musical training in communities with limited artistic opportunities. The program provides an outlet for young women to grow as leaders in their community. 

Theater Memphis, Music Export Memphis and AngelStreet each build on our city’s cultural vitality and strengthen specific communities through their programs and services.  These are just three examples of meaningful and impactful work being done daily by arts organizations in every zip code in Shelby County.

ArtsMemphis is a leader in moving Memphis forward by supporting the organizations that sustain and expand the artistic legacy which shapes our city’s modern character. 

The following 39 organizations were awarded an operating support grant in 2018: 


Africa In April Cultural Awareness Festival

Memphis Wind Symphony


Metal Museum

Ballet Memphis

Music Export Memphis

Beale Street Caravan

New Ballet Ensemble and School

Beethoven Club

New Day Children's Theatre

Blues City Cultural Center

Opera Memphis

Carpenter Art Garden

Orpheum Theatre Group

Circuit Playhouse

Playback Memphis

Collage Dance Collective

PRIZM Ensemble

Creative Aging Memphis


Germantown Community Theatre

Tennessee Shakespeare Company


The Blues Foundation

Hattiloo Theatre

The Collective | The CLTV

Indie Memphis

The Soulsville Foundation

IRIS Orchestra

The Withers Collection

Levitt Shell

Theatre Memphis

Memphis Black Arts Alliance, Inc.


Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

UrbanArt Commission

Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum

Voices of the South

Memphis Symphony Orchestra



The grant application for 2019 opened on February 1.

About ArtsMemphis:

For more than 55 years, ArtsMemphis has been sustaining Memphis's world-renowned cultural vitality and strengthening local communities through the arts. ArtsMemphis achieves this mission by amplifying awareness, driving support, and building capacity and connections of artists and organizations through grants and services. In 2018, ArtsMemphis awarded $2.4 million in grants to 80 local arts groups and artists. For more information, visit

Posted by Kelsea Lewis at 12:19 PM
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