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ART IS ALIVE in Tennessee

How the Specialty License Plate Program is Impacting TN's Largest Rural Not-For-Profit Theater.

Cumberland County Playhouse
Bryce McDonald

“Art grows anywhere,” said my colleague and director, Harry Bryce. A truer statement about the Cumberland County Playhouse, Tennessee’s largest rural, not-for-profit theater, has never been told. Our story is special and an unlikely one. Our theater began in 1965 in Crossville, Tn—a one-horse town of less than 3,000 people in the Upper Cumberland. Interstate 40 had not been completed, and local historians comment that Crossville got its name because it was a place you “crossed through” to get somewhere else, not a place you stayed. The Playhouse’s founding families were visionaries who stood alongside Playhouse creators and original CEO Paul and Mary Crabtree. They wanted to change Crossville; they knew that arts build communities and directly impact economic development and growth.

Now, 58 years later, the Cumberland County Playhouse continues the legacy of creating accessible, high-quality theater experiences that have the potential to touch hearts, open minds, and change lives. None of this would have been possible without the support provided through the years by the Specialty License Plate program. Grants supported by the License Plate through the Tennessee Arts Commission have sometimes been the heartbeat of a focused production, a kickstart for a new arts education initiative, or a life-saving injection of support in a critical crisis of producing live theater in the mountains of Tennessee. Each of these programs and other opportunities the Playhouse creates continues to promote the development of our Upper Cumberland Region and assist in making us a tourist destination that supports other businesses and helps to serve and grow this community.

I love pulling into the theater parking lot and seeing a sea of Specialty License Plates bolted to the back of their vehicles. I often ask myself, do these individuals realize what an impact the simple act of purchasing a Specialty License Plate has? Their support of this license plate program has an effect that ripples like waves in a pond. Through the help of the license plate program, Arts, Dance, and Live Theater programs, Tennessee’s metropolitan areas and all 95 counties in Tennessee are affected. The staff at the Playhouse makes every effort to thank our patrons, volunteers, and board members who purchase the Specialty License Plates and are always looking for opportunities to educate on the power and significance of their support of the program. It is always rewarding to ask at the curtain speech how many specialty license plate owners are in the house and seeing an overwhelming number of hands shoot up in the air before a performance.

The Cumberland County Playhouse and every arts institution in Tennessee are so grateful for the Specialty License Plate program. With this program, ART IS ALIVE in Tennessee, and regardless of your geographic location, ART GROWS ANYWHERE.


Bryce McDonald

Producing Director/CEO of Cumberland County Playhouse

Board Member, Tennesseans for the Arts

Become a Member and Start Making a Difference Today!


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