The Tennessee Arts Academy, a program of the Tennessee Department of Education, opened in 1987 during the reform movement of the 1980s. It has evolved into the nation's premier program for professional development in arts education.

The Academy trains over 300 teachers every summer, who in turn impact over 150,000 Tennessee students each year. The advanced curriculum, cutting-edge methodology and unique philosophical perspective offered at the Academy attract a diverse and enthusiastic group of K-12 educators from across the state. Leading academic instructors and talented artists form the rotating faculty, providing unparalleled instruction, community and renewal.

The Academy sessions are held on the campus of Belmont University in Nashville. The Academy consists of two divisions, one geared to elementary/lower middle school teachers and the other designed for upper middle/high school teachers. Participants in each division may choose from among five different tracks.  Individual core tracks are offered in music, theatre and visual art. A special Trio Track session allows those participants who desire a multidisciplinary approach to engage in all three core arts areas throughout the week. The Arts Leadership, Administration and Assessment track, designed for arts administrators, supervisors and arts teachers, offers insight and strategies on national and state policy issues, advocacy, leadership strategies, developing opportunities for students, and the Tennessee Fine Arts Portfolio Growth Measures System.

A day at the Academy is varied and stimulating. Two to three sessions per day are spent studying with a faculty of experts from colleges and universities, studios and workplaces across the United States. In these classes the latest techniques are applied to instruction that will directly aid participants in their own teaching. In addition, each day features an artistic performance or art exhibition, the Academy's philosophical component called "Musings", and special choice sessions ("Interludes") that vary from day to day.

Throughout the week special events add interest to the regular schedule. Sunday night features an opening celebration and performance followed by an elegant reception. The day ends on Monday with high tea and music in the historic Belmont mansion.  Tuesday evening the Arts Academy hosts a reception and art crawl for its own exclusive art exhibitions displayed in both the  Leu Art Gallery and in Gallery 121. Wednesday night's Academy Awards Banquet honors an outstanding national artist as participants are treated to a festive dinner meal and entertainment. A special Ice Cream Social for TAA alumni and friends is held on Thursday afternoon. The Academy week concludes with Friday’s Finale Luncheon, an event which includes a performance by the Academy Chorale as well as words of appreciation, closure and challenge. As participants depart, bittersweet farewells can be heard at the close of the busy but exciting week of study, learning and networking.

Since its inception, the Academy has reached teachers from all school districts in Tennessee. In 2002 with the addition of the Arts Academy America component, arts teachers from outside Tennessee now have the opportunity to become full participants in the Academy experience.

The Tennessee Arts Academy emerged from an expressed need by arts teachers for a staff development program to better meet the needs of a more assessment-based curriculum that emphasizes teacher accountability. Today, the vision for arts education shines brighter throughout Tennessee and the nation because of the ongoing success of the Academy. Teachers who have completed the rigorous TAA program are provided with the proper tools and direction to optimize their learning environment. Most importantly, teachers trained at the Tennessee Arts Academy are able to give students the necessary skills and experience that allow them to become more creative and productive members of our work force and society.

Tennessee is truly fortunate to be the home of this one-of-a-kind program that has become the national model for arts-based teacher training institutes.