Every year that it has staked out its tents on legislative plaza, since the first "Celebration of the Written Word" in 1989, the Southern Festival of Books has received assistance from the Metro Nashville Arts Commission. This year, however, the commission's books snapped shut.Scene reporter Christine Kreyling spoke with both Humanities Tennessee president Robert Meacham and MNAC executive director Jennifer Cole, who said that "'the guidelines clearly state that no organization is guaranteed funding from year to year, so past awards are irrelevant.'"
The rationale charts a tortuous trail through the grants guidelines. But the bottom line is that the fest — a free event that draws people from all over the state and beyond to Nashville — will receive no support from its host city this year.
While this may be true, it's hard not to find fault with MNAC's refusal to grant funds for SFB. After all, the Festival -- which offers free admission -- draws thousands to the Nashville area, where Festival attendees rent hotel rooms and dine out at Nashville's restaurants.
Point being? Nashville undoubtedly receives revenue from the Festival. The Metro Nashville Arts Commission's choice to not support the Festival this year shows poor judgement and may have repercussions in years to come.
After all, while Legislative Plaza was being renovated several years ago, Humanities Tennessee successfully held the Festival in Memphis. President Meacham told Kreyling that during that two-year span, they "'of course didn't apply'" for the grant money. With the lack of support from the Nashville community, and prior success elsewhere, it's possible SFB could feasibly change cities.
I, for one, would hate to see that happen. SFB is one of the last literary arts strongholds that Nashville has to offer, after the closing of most of its independent bookstores and also of its Borders chain branch. Hopefully, next year will see a renewed commitment to the Festival and a return of MNAC grant funds. Until then, be sure to show your support and donate if you visit the Festival this year!
Also, Humanities Tennessee and Nashville's Yazoo Brewing Company will kick-off fundraising for the Festival with an event at Yazoo. Beer, Books, & Banter will take place on September 6th, with tickets $20 per person. Festival authors will be on hand for conversation, and the first 100 patrons will receive a commemorative glass. For more information, visit the Festival website.