Racial Equity in Arts Leadership (REAL)

A project sponsored by the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, Scarritt Bennett Center, and The Curb Center at Vanderbilt

Since 2015, the Curb Center has partnered with the Metro Nashville Arts Commission (Metro Arts) to develop and implement the Racial Equity in Arts Leadership (REAL) program, a series of workshops and seminars designed to drive racial equity in Nashville’s arts sector. The program brings together arts administrators, executive leaders of cultural institutions, community-based arts organizations, and individual artists for regular seminars and organizational workshops that provide insight into how institutional practices such as hiring processes and arts programming choices can advance racial equity in our community. REAL participants meet regularly to address challenges they encounter as they work to build more equitable practices in their institutions.

As part of the REAL program, the Curb Center also sponsors public conversations with national leaders in the fields of arts-based civic engagement and cultural policy to address matters of racial equity.

The White Paper: "Holding the Mirror Up"

Jyoti Gupta’s 2015 white paper, “Holding the Mirror Up,” served as key resource for initial conversations amongst the first cadre of REAL partcipants.  Based on interviews with Nashville arts organizations, Jyoti’s white paper frames key practices and arts organization’s own reflections on their role in Nashville’s cultural ecosystem and in creating a more equitable city.


REAL Cadre Overview

In 2015, REAL brought together twenty arts leaders, including individual artists and representatives of the Nashville Symphony, Frist Center for Visual Arts, Nashville Opera, Nashville Repertory Theater, Tennessee Performing Arts Center, Nashville Ballet, National Museum of African American Music, DancEast, Tennessee Jazz and Blues Society, Nashville in Harmony, Intersection, Southern Word, and SeedSpace. These leaders met for intensive workshops each month at the Curb Center and grounded their discussions in an innovative curriculum that reviewed research and leading practices in the field on racial and cultural equity. These discussions revealed the impact of racism on organizations and art forms, and created a peer network dedicated to positive change. Read more about how the cadre is organized, characteristics of cadre members, and questions and topics posed. A second learning cadre will be launching in early 2017.

About Metro Arts


Metro Arts is the designated driver and facilitator of programs, policies and practices that support Nashville’s arts and cultural vibrancy. Metro Arts vision is that every Nashvillian be able to participate in a creative life and its mission is to drive an equitable and vibrant community through the arts.

About Scarritt Bennett

Scarritt Bennett logoScarritt Bennett Center is a nonprofit educational center and conference and special events venue located in the heart of Nashville, Tennessee, on ten tree-filled acres. Drawing on a rich history of community engagement and social activism, Scarritt Bennett Center seeks to maintain an active role at the forefront of social justice issues, with particular emphasis on racial equality, women’s empowerment, intercultural understanding, and spiritual enrichment.