"To encourage literature and the arts is a duty which every good citizen owes to his country.”
For years, TFTA has repeated the same mantra. “Protect the arts in Tennessee, become a
member, and support the specialty license plate program”. But, some of you may be asking
yourselves,” What do license plates have to do with supporting the arts? The TN Specialty
License Plate Program was created in the 1980s to provide a dedicated revenue source for arts and cultural activities across our state. Today, the State of Tennessee offers more than 100 specialty license plates that represent special interest organizations, professional organizations, colleges and universities, branches of the military, and other topics. Specifically, the revenue from four of those designs helps us, along with the Tennessee Arts Commission (TAC), to fund some of the organizations and programs that make Tennessee so amazing. In fact, Tennessee rates #13 out of 50 states when it comes to State Arts Appropriations per capita. Currently, only 15 states (Alabama, Alaska, California, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia) have arts license plates. On average, 80% of arts grants in Tennessee are funded by the purchase of state specialty license plates, and, last year alone, 982 grants were given across all 95 counties. By purchasing an Arts Plate, you support arts organizations, schools, and communities across our state!
But the question remains, why even bother supporting the arts in the first place? Why should the arts receive funds when so many other critical needs are pressing? In short, the arts help resolve some of our most serious public policy problems. First, the arts act as a driver for the state economy. As an important component of a strategy for growth, the arts create jobs, produce tax revenue, stimulate business activity, attract tourism, and revitalize rural areas and populations struggling with poverty. Overall, the arts help communities to prosper. Additionally, the arts play a critically important role in education and the workforce. Not only do the arts help keep kids in school, but students perform better academically and students who receive arts education have stronger social skills, improved motivation to learn, and better self-esteem. This leads to a future generation of workers that are creative and innovative. According to the World Economic Forum, “Creativity, originality, and initiative” are some of the most in-demand skills predicted for 2022, especially as the demand for manual skills and physical ability continues to fall. Finally, the arts are shown to have a positive impact in all aspects of our health. According to the evidence, engagement with the arts can facilitate healing, contribute to healthy aging, aid wounded combat veterans, improve medical environments, and can effectively treat mental and emotional health issues.
Finally, you might be asking yourself, “Why not simply donate directly to arts organizations--why purchase a specialty license plate?” The answer is visibility. Specialty plates can serve as an awesome advocacy tool. When you show off your Tennessee arts plate, you are sharing a message with the world that you believe art changes lives. Your license plate could catch the eye and spark the curiosity of a future arts advocate! A thriving creative sector creates a positive ripple effect throughout a community. We all benefit when neighborhoods are more livable, when kids do better in school, when our economy is more productive, and when diverse populations come together—all of which result from inclusive access to arts activities and experiences. The arts are a public good and all of our citizens benefit from them. Please consider buying a specialty license plate to support the arts in Tennessee. Your community will thank you for it!