Arts organizations are still waiting for half the grant money Metro Arts promised to distribute last year, and this week, a memo from Nashville’s finance director suggests there will be further delays in handing out those funds.
In the memo, finance director Kevin Crumbo wrote that, while the city has enough money to pay the arts organizations, Metro Arts will need to “demonstrate that its operations are stable and that its financial affairs are in good order” before it will be allowed to distribute the money.
As a first step, he wants the Metro Arts board of commissioners to form an oversight committee he can meet with. The commissioners will vote on this proposal at their meeting next week.
Crumbo isn’t the only city official concerned about Metro Arts. City auditor Lauren Riley is also looking into the department. And legal director Wally Dietz, who co-wrote the memo with Crumbo, told commissioners that several Metro Arts staffers have come forward with allegations of workplace misconduct. The city has hired Ogletree Deakins, an outside law firm, to investigate those complaints as well.
At the center of these investigations is Daniel Singh, who has been Executive Director of Metro Arts since fall 2022. In his first year on the job, Singh pushed to greatly expand the amount of arts funding that went to individual artists and art projects, and was willing to cut back on larger organizations that traditionally received the bulk of grant money. But he faced resistance from the majority of his commissioners, who thought the plan would destabilize Nashville’s major arts institutions..
Some in the arts community applaud Singh’s efforts to make arts funding more equitable, especially for artists of color and from marginalized communities. A group of activists called Arts Equity Nashville has made statements online and in public meetings calling Singh’s critics racist.
But others in the community feel that Singh alienated larger organizations, which have served as key negotiators in the fight to secure more city money for the arts. They also blame Singh for a number of bureaucratic snafus that caused the funding delays in last year’s grant cycle. Many hope the city auditor will find definitive answers about what caused the delays.