I tell you, I just do not understand what the fuck is up with our mayor. Does he not understand what a disaster it is that Nashville proper has no reporting bookstores?* Does he not see that the library has had to step in and provide a place for authors to promote their books? And don’t get me wrong, libraries are great. And libraries should indeed also be doing stuff like this.
But something like the Salon@615 is like a grand dining room added on to a sturdy house. That is great, useful, and amazing. When you’re being told that you have to live in the dining room because the rest of your house is being destroyed?
Does it really matter how nice the dining room is?
So, the Mayor’s people aren’t funding the Southern Festival of Books this year. Even though they have always been funded, because, mysteriously, the agreement Humanities Tennessee had with the Mayor’s people has mysteriously changed. In the past, Humanities Tennessee has been allowed to get a basic op grant to run the Southern Festival of Books, even though it doesn’t quite fit the grant, because the city has valued it. Now, it still doesn’t quite fit the grant and somehow this is a problem.
To Cole, however, the distinction between arts and humanities makes Humanities Tennessee ineligible for a basic op grant — and the Southern Festival of Books doesn’t qualify for their current project grants, which are skewed toward neighborhoods and after-school programs. To clarify which groups can get basic op grants, the new guidelines define “arts organization” as “those whose primary mission is to directly support performances, programs, exhibits and the dissemination of artistic content that engage professional artists in creative works.” This statement replaced the previous guidelines: “Primary purpose must be to produce or present art or cultural programs.”
“Only arts organizations are eligible for basic operational support, and they’re a humanities organization,” Cole says. She points to the Humanities Tennessee website: “Their mission statement doesn’t mention the word ‘arts.’ And the majority of their programs aren’t literary arts, they’re community history, culture — the humanities.”
Never mind the other programs still in the running for grants that also don’t have “arts” in their mission or don’t have a majority of their programs dedicated to art.
And if Humanities Tennessee can’t come up with the money some other way? They might be forced to shutter Chapter 16.
Is Mayor Dean really prepared to dick over the state-wide literary community like this?
We need Bredesen to put on the Green Vest of Comfort and go have a talk with Dean about the importance of supporting Nashville and maybe getting some people in his administration who understand that books, indeed, are art.
*By “reporting,” I mean bookstores that report their sales to Bookscan.