With the release of "A Nation at Risk" in April of 1983, Americans faced a decade of increasing interest in education reform. In Tennessee, that emphasis took the form of the Better Schools Program through which new tax dollars and expanded state programs were instituted.
For the first time, the Tennessee Department of Education began to play an active role in promoting the importance of the arts as integral parts of the education of all students. When a panel of prominent arts educators was convened to establish priorities, they included the importance of creating ways to train teachers in the effective use of new state curriculum frameworks in the arts.
Two initiatives resulted from this determined need. One was a series of state workshops taken to school systems throughout the state during the academic year and during the summer. The other continues today as the Tennessee Arts Academy.
In the summers of 1985 and 1986, pilot programs were introduced in East, Middle and West Tennessee. Teachers flocked to the free weeklong events in which nationally known arts educators came to Tennessee and, using the new arts frameworks as a guide, provided stimulating and intensive training for teachers of art and music.
From the beginning, a conscious decision was made that the Tennessee Arts Academy should be the top-of-the-line program in professional development for teachers of the arts. The faculty, performances and speakers have been chosen applying stringent standards of personal and professional excellence so that Tennessee's teachers would not only acquire knowledge, but would be inspired and renewed in the mission of educating the complete child.
After two years of remarkable success, and in order to maximize the use of funding, it was decided to institutionalize the summer program in one location to which teachers could travel. The campus of Belmont
Class of 1986: "Come Home to the Arts" the predecessor
to the Tennessee Arts Academy - held on the campus
of Belmont University
University was chosen because of its central location, its aesthetic beauty and its personnel who were interested in working with the state to develop the new entity, the Tennessee Arts Academy.
After many years and much scrutiny and refining, the Tennessee Arts Academy continues as the longest-running and premier summer program for teacher training in music, visual art and theatre in America.