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Nashville taxpayers spend less on arts than other peer cities

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NASHVILLE, Tenn --- Nashville may be known as Music City, but some say taxpayers aren't spending as much on the arts as peer cities.

Metro Arts Commission Executive Director Jennifer Cole says Nashville spends $4.12 a person on the arts. Austin and Portland both spend more than $9.

One reason for the disparity, Cole says her arts grants budget hasn't seen a real increase in a decade. During that time Metro has seen plenty of new arts projects requesting money.

"Fifteen percent of organizations that requested money last year didn't exist ten years ago so we've had the same pool and a lot more people playing in the pool," said Cole.

The Metro Arts Commission provides money to roughly 50 arts companies and projects including the Nashville Opera. Executive Director Noah Spiegel says his funding level from Metro has dropped by about $20 thousand because Metro Arts is funding more projects with the same budget.

"We operate on a razor thin margin so anytime we don't have money in one place we have to find it somewhere else in order to make it happen," said Spiegel.

Spiegel says the funding the Opera gets from Metro goes to a variety of things including a program that impacts kids. The Opera performs as many as 80 times for schools across the region.

"We have a waiting list of 12 to 24 schools every year. If we had additional funding we could serve more kids," said Spiegel.

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