Arts and Culture

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris announces the county's first Arts and Culture Liaison. 

Click here to read the entire press release. 

Committee Accomplishments

The Shelby County Nonprofit Committee brought together nonprofits across varied sectors to share concerns and draw attention to issues that are barriers to residents’ success. We collectively identified major issues per sector and identified ways to address a part of a systemic problem. This is a different approach. Our focus has been on narrowing a focus, coming up with a project that chips away at a big problem, that’s achievable in a year. Previous projects in this sector include:

2021-2022 Projects

  • Problem: Advocacy and representation of and for the arts were missing in the public sector. We are the only city and county of our size that doesn’t have a formal office of staff members devoted to arts and culture.
  • Strategy: The Art and Culture Committee researched and developed a plan to create an Arts and Culture Liaison position to advocate for this important sector and create more coordination, funding opportunities, and a stronger and more sustainable sector. We welcome Nykesha Cole, our new Liaison for Arts and Culture, in July 2022. 

2022-2023 Projects

  • Problem: Awareness of Art and Culture Contributions is lacking in the county. Many residents don’t know about the breadth of art and cultural organizations around the county and in their neighborhoods.
  • Strategy: The Art and Culture Committee created a large-scale arts awareness campaign to generatepride and enthusiasm for this sector that was hit the hardest amongst nonprofit organizations during COVID-19, culminating in a series of events.
    • Since then, we launched With a huge reach.
    • held 2 Neighborhood art parties, in Soulsville and Frayser, aimed at leveraging our collective power to lift the great work of undercelebrated nonprofits.
    • and one festival, that had over 40 nonprofits, 13 performances on 2 stages, 1000 attendees, and already working on plans for the next

2023-2024 Projects

  • Problem: How can we increase awareness of access to art and culture opportunities to all residents, especially residents in underserved and undercelebrated communities? 
  • Strategy: Work with MATA to develop an Art and Culture System Map that celebrates the organization we have, with a video that celebrates the vibrancy of the arts in the county on every bus and trolley, and a listing on that lists free ongoing programming.

2024 Co-leads

Nykesha Cole, Shelby County Liaison for Arts and Culture

Whitney Jo, Playhouse on the Square

Participating Nonprofits

  • Arkwings Foundation
  • Arrow Creative
  • ARTSMemphis
  • Blues City Cultural Center
  • Carpenter Art Garden 
  • CazaTeatro Bilingual Theater Group
  • Collage Dance Collective
  • Contemporary Arts Memphis
  • Cooper-Young Garden Club
  • Creative Aging
  • Danz901 Foundation
  • Davies Manor Association
  • Deaf Connect of the Mid-South
  • Dixon Gallery and Gardens
  • Elmwood Cemetery
  • Germantown Performing Arts Center (GPAC)
  • Hattiloo Theatre
  • Hug Neighborhood Park Friends
  • Image Builders Memphis
  • IOBY
  • Iris Collective Orchestra
  • Memphis Black Arts Alliance, Inc
  • Memphis Botanic Garden
  • Memphis Brooks Museum of Art
  • Memphis Heritage
  • Memphis Jazz Workshop
  • Memphis Juneteenth
  • Memphis Music Initiative
  • Memphis Slim Collaboratory
  • Metal Museum
  • Music Export Memphis
  • My ZIP
  • New Ballet Ensemble and School
  • New Day Children's Theatre
  • Opera Memphis
  • Orpheum Theatre Group
  • Overton Park Shell
  • Paint Memphis, Inc. 
  • Perfecting Gifts Inc
  • Playback memphis
  • Playhouse on the Square
  • Seeding Success
  • Soulsville Foundation
  • Successful, Inc.
  • The Arts Cafe 
  • Theatre Memphis
  • Transformations ECD
  • TriState Adaptive Sports Association Inc. 
  • Urban Art Commisiion
  • Whitehavn Arts Alliance
  • WYXR 91.7 FM