A broad coalition of community volunteers announced Wednesday, Jan. 9 the launch of Rutherford Arts Alliance, an advocacy group dedicated to identifying, uniting, and promoting arts, culture, and heritage in Rutherford County.
"The overarching goal of Rutherford Arts Alliance is to connect creatives and community," said Ginny Togrye, founding president of the organization. "This new nonprofit reflects an inclusive, grassroots effort to make Rutherford County known for the significant social and economic impact of its creative culture."
Togrye said Rutherford County is reaching a critical mass in its cultural growth, which is backed by recent research completed by Americans for the Arts.
According to Americans for the Arts 2017 Arts and Economic Prosperity Study, the arts generated over $31.2 million in annual economic activity in the county. During the same period, the Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin metropolitan area ranked fourth in the nation in arts vibrancy for communities more than 1 million in population, according to SMU National Center for Arts Research.
Significant local arts-related projects in planning or implementation stages echo these studies. These include a new staff position directing cultural and heritage tourism at the Rutherford County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Boro Art Crawl, the continued growth of Carpe Artista in Smyrna, volunteer work on an asset list of more than 1,200 constituents in local arts and culture, and the City of Murfreesboro Arts Laureates program.
"These are just a few examples of our growing local arts scene," Togrye said.
The Arts Laureates program had a particular role in the birth of Rutherford Arts Alliance.
In 2017, all three inaugural laureates realized the difficulty of reaching other locals interested in their genres of painting, photography, and poetry. This "glaring need" to better connect creatives—and all citizens who would benefit from a creative culture—led to more than a year's worth of meetings shepherded by Murfreesboro resident Andrea Loughry, current Vice-Chair of the Tennessee Arts Commission. In recent months, approximately 60 community volunteers have attended meetings, contributed ideas and experience, and participated in establishing the alliance as a 501(c)(3) entity.
"Rutherford Arts Alliance is not just an organization, it's a movement," Loughry said. "It's a call for community change. We've long identified as a growing county that works for great schools, infrastructure, and commerce. It's time for us to prioritize our unique identity as a thriving cultural community that benefits local business, tourism, and our quality of life."
Togrye, who served as Murfreesboro's inaugural Painter Laureate, was quick to point out that the alliance's purpose is to better connect, not replace, existing arts groups, and to better support individual artists and ventures. Membership options, expected by spring, will be available to any individuals or organizations interested in the cultural vibrancy of the county.
Inauguration of the Rutherford Arts Alliance was celebrated at an open house held at the Center for the Arts in Murfreesboro. Stones River Total Beverages and Five Senses Restaurant and Catering provided refreshments. Lynn Lien, Tina Patel and Sharon Kolli served as the hospitality committee.
The new alliance is building its email list and recruiting volunteers for numerous committees who will shape the future of the organization.
The group's next meeting will be from 4-6 p.m. Feb. 12 at Carpe Artista in Smyrna. The public is invited. For more information, contact Ginny Togrye at 615-403-7161 or firstname.lastname@example.org.