MTSU’s Arts and Culture Initiatives Helps Draw Millions to Local Economy

The contributions of Middle Tennessee State University’s College of Liberal to the Rutherford County arts community has paid off, with a recent study detailing how the community’s arts and culture sector generated a staggering $52.4 million in economic activity for the county in 2022-23.

MTSU partnered with the Rutherford Arts Alliance to obtain the data for the Arts and Economic Prosperity Study, coordinated by Americans for the Arts.

With help from the MTSU Center for Chinese Music and Culture, School of Music and Theatre and Dance Department, the Rutherford Arts Alliance collected 779 surveys from MTSU and other community events, revealing a 68% increase in economic growth in the county compared to the 2017 study.

The report also showed the arts supported 915 jobs, generated almost $9.5 million in local, state and federal tax revenue, and attracted over 2,100 volunteers. It also shows that the average person spent almost $40 per event, beyond the cost of admission, on things such as dining out, parking and childcare. And those visiting from outside the county spent more. Over 24% of attendees were nonlocal visitors who spent an average of $57.

One new goal of the study was to measure not only the economic impact of the arts,
but also the social impact. Of those surveyed, 87% of arts and culture attendees agreed that the activity or venue where they were “is inspiring a sense of pride in this neighborhood or community,” an affirmation of the transformative power of cultural engagement.

The MTSU College of Liberal Arts continues demonstrating a steadfast commitment to fostering community engagement and economic prosperity through innovative arts and culture initiatives.

In 2018, the college took a pioneering step by establishing a new position within the dean’s office, underscoring its dedication to enhancing collaborations within the campus and the wider community. Lucy Langworthy assumed this pivotal role in May 2018, spearheading efforts to forge partnerships between MTSU and various arts and culture entities in Rutherford County.

Along with other leaders from the community, Langworthy provided key leadership to the Rutherford Arts Alliance in December 2018, when it became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

MTSU’s College of Liberal Arts, under the guidance of Dean Leah Tolbert Lyons, emerged as a key ally in the Arts Alliance’s endeavors. CLA alumni, such as Regina Ward, exemplify the enduring impact of these initiatives on the community.

Ward serves as the executive director of Murfreesboro’s Center for the Arts, providing the community with 14 excellent productions each year, two of which are performed at MTSU’s Tucker Theatre, allowing them a venue for larger audiences.

In 2023, the Center for the Arts staged “Peter Pan” and “White Christmas” in Tucker Theatre to sellout crowds.

Art associate professor Michael Baggarly is also making significant contributions to the arts landscape.

Baggarly is working with Arts Alliance artists Ginny Togrye and Sharon Kolli to design and create a 14-foot bronze sculpture in the shape of a heart to designate Murfreesboro as the geographical center of the state. This sculpture will also serve as a symbol of MTSU’s commitment to artistic innovation and community enrichment.

MTSU students are also actively contributing to the local arts scene, with theatre students providing technical expertise to theatres in Nashville, under the guidance of theatre professor Darren Levin.

Levin understands the importance of giving students off-campus opportunities to complement the skills they are acquiring in the classroom and MTSU’s own performance spaces.

“These experiences provide incredible opportunities for our students to gain professional credit and begin to establish their design and technology careers in Metro Nashville and beyond,” he said. “An essential part of a healthy arts community is nurturing the arts ecosystem in the area. Seeing the growth of our students is incredible and truly embodies hands-on learning.”

As Rutherford Arts Alliance embarks on its next chapter, strengthened by the results of this study and ready to appoint its first executive director, the message is clear: when communities invest in the arts and culture, they are investing in a sector that stimulates the economy, supports local jobs, and contributes to a more livable, innovative and creative community that MTSU and RAA are creating together.

Edit Post

Welcome to This site was designed to help foster communication between the residents of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Whether you're looking for news, events, jobs, etc. you can find it all right here on

Related Articles

Back to top button