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No. 647: Decolonizing the Arts
Photo by Anna Zakharova / Unsplash

No. 647: Decolonizing the Arts

🎨 How Metro Arts is seeking to use anti-racism to decolonize the arts and what to expect from the new commissioners.

Good afternoon, everyone.

Last week, I took up the task of defending country music from those who, in determining who to elevate, seek to de-emphasize merit and emphasize race. This week, we pick up where that left off, taking a look at Metro Arts’ radical effort to re-imagine itself as a vehicle for "decolonization" on its quest to distribute funds more equitably.

The primary purpose of Metro Arts is to provide operating grants to local arts institutions, such as the Frist, the Belcourt Theatre, the Country Music Hall of Fame, TPAC, and a variety of other cultural staples. However, under current Executive Director Daniel Singh—appointed by the Metro Arts Commission in August 2022—the organization has attempted to redistribute money from these purportedly "white" institutions and apply an equity framework to give it back to minorities.

You can read the full story and get a sense of the radical language pushed forth by Metro Arts leadership below. Megan also previews the five Metro Arts commission members set to be voted on by Metro Council tonight.



✸ EXCLUSIVE: Metro Arts launches initiative to 'return land, money, and resources' to 'Indigenous, African, and Asian peoples'

Executive Director Daniel Singh has surrounded himself with a cadre of radical consultants and has pledged to re-envision Metro Arts as an anti-racist organization committed to decolonization

From The Pamphleteer

Since Daniel Singh was appointed Executive Director of Metro Arts two summers ago, controversy and dysfunction have reigned supreme. Not only is the organization’s fifteen-member commission short seven members after a spate of resignations, but the city is also conducting an audit of its financial management after it failed to fully pay out the operating grants it was designed to administer. Much of the chaos has arisen from Singh’s efforts to introduce a “more equitable funding model.”

A presentation circulated internally to staff and members of the Metro Arts Commission reveals that a radical agenda has taken hold at the beleaguered office. Authored in collaboration with Justin Laing of Hillombo Consulting and titled “What Could An Anti Racist Cultural Planning Process Look Like,” the presentation outlines a vision advocating the organization’s adoption of “antiracist planning” to create “antiracist outcomes.”

According to the presentation, a racist arts practice is one that “maintains the distribution of land, money, & narrative resources between European and Indigenous, African/Black and Asian peoples within the ‘cultural community.’” Conversely, an anti-racist arts practice “returns land, money and narrative resources to Indigenous, African and Asian peoples within the ‘cultural community.’” Another slide reads, “‘Race’, ‘the arts’, and ‘white people’ emerged at a similar point in history and worked together to facilitate the development of colonial and imperialism.”

The slides reveal the guiding principles Singh hopes to promote within the organization as the Metro Council is set to approve five new commission members during tonight’s meeting.

Continue reading...


From Megan Podsiedlik

After a series of resignations, Nashville’s new mayor has the unenviable task of restructuring the Metro Arts Commission. Five nominees are up for vote at tonight’s council meeting, which has the potential of bringing O’Connell’s total of Arts Commission appointees up to six within the last two months. 


Back in 2022, Metro Arts Executive Director Caroline Vincent resigned following allegations of creating a “toxic work environment plagued by racial bias.” After a four-month, nationwide search following Vincent’s resignation, the commission settled on Daniel Singh, a former board member of Maryland Citizens for the Arts: a move some now consider an over-corrective swing in the opposite direction. 

Today, as the council weighs in on the latest handful of nominees proposed to fill all but two of the commission’s seven vacant seats, new appointees will be walking into a lion’s den of scrutiny due to grant money that has gone missing under Singh’s leadership.


Timothy Jester: Jester describes himself as a “faithful husband, father, friend, financial advisor and fiddler, in that order.” A certified financial planner at Roussel & Associates, and a graduate of Southern Adventist University in Chattanooga, Tennessee, he also uses his musical skills as a volunteer for Musicians On Call.

Heather Lefkowitz: “A teacher, artist, and advisor to works-in-progress” according to her website, Lefkowitz lectures and leads undergraduate advising at Peabody College’s Department of Human and Organizational Development. A Vanderbilt grad, she also chairs the board of the Actors Bridge Ensemble.

Arlene Nicholas-Phillips: A doctor of education, Nicholas-Phillips is the Assistant Vice President for Global Initiatives & Partnerships at Tennessee State University. She is also the founder of RenuVita, where she coaches the “benefits of yoga and the knowledge of how money works.”

Dawana Wade: Wade is the Executive Director of Salama Urban Ministries, a nonprofit that provides a year-round “holistic program that emphasizes academics, the arts, and spiritual development” to students in the Nashville area.

Beverly Watts: Perhaps the most controversial of the bunch, Watts is the retired former director of the Tennessee Human Rights Commission. In 2022, she took her leave from the commission after the state looked into multiple complaints and allegations that her leadership “created a toxic work environment through profanity, demeaning language, and micromanaging.” 

Before becoming members of the Metro Arts Commission, all nominees have to be approved by the council and are subject to discussions on the floor during tonight’s vote.


Titans to hire Bengals OC Brian Callahan as next head coach (Yahoo) The Titans are finalizing a deal to hire Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on Monday. Callahan had his second interview with the Titans on Monday, something that clearly went well. He will be the sixth head coach for the franchise since it relocated to Tennessee.

Tennessee Legislature will consider property tax increase cap (Center Square) A Tennessee bill would cap property tax increases in the state at 2% plus inflation each year and 6% plus inflation over a three-year span. A higher percentage increase in property tax rates would require a referendum.

Plans for Affordable Housing and TPAC on the East Bank Revealed (Banner) At 550 acres, the East Bank is a massive developmental undertaking, expected to take decades to complete. Currently an underdeveloped sea of concrete centrally located between the Cumberland River and I-24, the land has been a sore spot in Nashville for years as development grows around it.


  • Progress At The 12-Story ‘Caption By Hyatt’ In The Nashville Gulch (Now Next)
  • Dallas-based Mesero restaurant to bring Tex-Mex to 12South (NBJ)
  • Lipscomb finalizes latest in series of campus-area home buys (Post)
  • Dunkin’ drive-thru planned for Zanies-area site (Post)
  • West End building sells for $4.5M (Post)


View our calendar for the week here and our weekly film rundown here.

📅 Visit our On The Radar list to find upcoming events around Nashville.

🎧 On Spotify: Pamphleteer's Picks, a playlist of our favorite bands in town this week.

👨🏻‍🌾 Check out our Nashville farmer's market guide.


🎻 Chamber Music Series: Divergent - Convergent @ Schermerhorn Symphony Center, 7:30p, Choose What You Pay, Info

🎸 Nathan Kalish @ Acme Feed and Seed, 7p, Info
+ read our interview with Nathan here

🎸 Tool @ Bridgestone Arena, 7:30p, $84+, Info

🎺 Todd Day Wait @ The Underdog, 11:30p, Free, Info‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌
+ Honky Tonk Tuesday afterparty, down the street

🎸 Honky Tonk Tuesday @ American Legion Post 82, 5p, Free, Info‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌‌
+ two-step lessons @ 7p, The Cowpokes @ 8p

In case you missed it...

📰 Check out the full newsletter archive here.

No. 646: The Metro Labyrinth
🗓 Today, Miles discusses men’s basketball at UT and the prospect of their reaching the Final Four for the first time in program history, and Megan breaks down the labyrinth-like stormwater fee snafu.
No. 645: Engineering Outcomes to Attract More Snow to Middle Tennessee
🗓 Today, Davis talks about the weather, Jerod reviews the new Wonka movie, Megan talks about the loophole keeping violent criminals on the streets, and we furnish our weekly film rundown.
No. 644: What’s An American?
📅 Today, Davis talks about America and Americans, and Megan talks about politics and politicians.
No. 643: The Great School Choice Debate
📅 Today, Davis gets ready for his conversation with Corey DeAngelis, and Megan rounds up some news about the pending transit referendum, TVA, and gun legislation.
No. 642: Country Music Doesn’t Have a Diversity Problem
📅 Today, Davis talks about country music again, and Megan talks about the winter storm we’ve witnessed this week.


  • 🍭 The latest iteration of Roald Dahl’s classic, Wonka, is a deeply felt ode to entrepreneurship (Read)
  • 📖 The Anti-Nostalgia of Bret Easton Ellis: A review of The Shards (Read)
  • 🖊 G.K. Chesterton's commentary on Nashville and the broader South from his 1921 tour of the US still resonates (Read)
  • 🏘 The double-edged sword of prosperity in Tennessee's small towns (Read)
  • And check out our podcast, YouTube, and article archive for more.