Home to more than 6.5 million residents, Tennessee is the nation’s 17th largest state. More than 1.3 million residents live in the state’s top two largest cities—Memphis and Nashville. Memphis is home to nearly 657,000 residents, while Nashville is home to nearly 645,000. Knoxville, Chattanooga, Clarksville, and Murfreesboro are also high on the list of major cities, but Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville (the state’s third largest city) are leaders when it comes to arts and culture.
First, Memphis is home to major art museums such as Memphis Brooks Museum of Art and Dixon Gallery and Gardens, while Nashville is home to The Parthenon, Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery, and Cheekwood Art & Gardens. Knoxville is home to the hip Knoxville Museum of Art and the lively Jubilee Community Arts Cultural Center (JCA). The Bijou Theater Center, where most major performances take place, is located in Downtown Knoxville in the cities fourth oldest building, which was built in 1817. Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville are also home to hundreds of independent art galleries, dozens of major performance venues, hundreds of design studios, and an endless number of art centers.
Besides housing a large number of art venues, Tennessee’s major cities are home to many of the state’s top art and design schools. In fact, of the more than a dozen schools for artists and designers, only three are located in small cities or towns. Just a few top Tennessee art and design schools include Watkins College of Art, Design & Film (Nashville), O’More College of Design (Franklin), and Belmont University (Nashville).
Tennessee Art Schools
Tennessee is home to 109 Title IV degree-granting colleges and universities with more than 330,000 enrolled. More than 8,600 students attend the state’s top art schools alone. These schools offer a variety of programs for artists and designers of all kinds. Scroll through the list below to find out which Tennessee schools are tops for aspiring artists and where you can find them.
Austin Peay State University - Degrees Offered: BFA Art with a Concentration in Visual Communications, BFA Studio Arts with a Concentration in Digital Media, Illustration
O’More College of Design – Degrees Offered: BFA Graphic Design, Interactive Design
Tusculum College - Degrees Offered: BA Art and Design with Concentrations in Graphic Design, Studio Art, Art Education; BA Art and Design with a Digital Media Concentration Core
Carson-Newman College - Degrees Offered: BA Art with an Emphasis in Graphic Design, Drawing and Painting, Photography, Art Education
East Tennessee State University - Degrees Offered: BFA Art with Specializations in Graphic Design, Drawing, Painting, Photography, Printmaking, Art Education, Fibers, Art History
Memphis College of Art (MCA) – Degrees Offered: BFA Animation, Digital Cinema, Digital Media, Photography; BFA Fine Arts with Concentrations in Drawing, Painting, Photography, Printmaking, Sculpture, BFA Design Arts with Concentrations in Digital Media, Graphic Design, Illustration, Sequential Narrative; MFA Studio Art, Photography, Art Education
University of Memphis - Degrees Offered: BFA Art with Concentrations in Studio Arts, Graphic Design, Photography, Foundation Studies, Art Education, Art History; MFA Graphic Design, Painting, Photography, Printmaking, Art Education, Art History
Belmont University – Degrees Offered: BA Motion Pictures, Entertainment Industry Studies (EIS), Multimedia Production, Video Production, Audio-Video Production; BS Entertainment Industry Studies, Web Programming and Development
Nossi College of Art – Degrees Offered: Bachelor of Graphic Arts (BGA) Illustration, Graphic Design Media, Web and Interactive, Video and Film, Commercial Photography; Associate of Occupational Studies (AOS) Interactive Graphic Design, Digital Photography
The Art Institute of Tennessee – Degrees Offered: BFA Media Arts & Animation, Visual Effects & Motion Graphics, Digital Filmmaking & Video Production, Digital Photography, Graphic & Web Design; BA Audio Production; AA Digital Filmmaking & Video Production, Graphic & Web Design; Diploma Digital Image Management, Web Design & Interactive Communications
Watkins College of Art, Design & Film – Degrees Offered: BA Art with Concentrations in Film and Time-Based Media, Drawing and Printmaking, Media, Painting and Drawing, and Photography; BFA Fine Art, Film, Photography and Graphic Design with a Concentration in Illustration or Web Design; MFA Film
More Tennessee Art related programs to consider:
- Winter Park, FL & Online
- Computer Animation - Bachelor's - Online & Campus
- Game Programs - Bachelor's & Master's - Online & Campus
- Graphic Design & Digital Arts - Bachelor's - Online & Campus
- Film & Digital Cinematography - Bachelor's & Master's - Online & Campus
- Mobile Development - Bachelor's - Online & Campus
- Simulation & Visualization - Bachelor's - Campus
- Orlando, Florida (Online Programs Available)
Employment and Salary Trends for Tennessee Artists
Tennessee is home to more than 28,860 professionals working in Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media (ADESM) occupations. They earn an average annual salary of $49,260, up from $44,670 in 2010, when the state was home to 25,130 ADESM professionals. Of the nearly 29,000 salaried ADESM professionals living in Tennessee today, an impressive 3,150 are graphic designers, making this the largest group artists and designers in the state. The average annual salary for these artists is $44,490, up from $39,350 in 2010 when the state was home to 2,970 salaried graphic designers.
Other prominent members of the ADESM group are producers and directors (pop. 1,130, $58,100/year), film and video editors (pop. 460, $66,920/year), media and communication workers (pop. 460, $35,130), art directors (pop. 330, $77,380/year), multimedia artists and animators (pop. 200, $51,050/year), fine artists (pop. 170, $29,670/year), and craft artists (pop. 160, $34,540/year).
It is important to note that many artists and designers are self-employed, so it is safe to assume that the population of ADESM professionals in Tennessee is much higher. These individuals typically earn more as well—especially in larger states and major cities. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the “Independent Artists, Writers, and Performers” ‘industry’ has the highest concentration of employment (not the highest level of employment) in ADESM occupations, and it is one of the highest paying industries for ADESM professionals.
Overall, independent artists average $70,620 per year. Independent artists working in animation average $75,150 per year and those working as art directors average $91,100 per year. Independent fine artists average $43,390 per year, and independent craft artists average $36,590 per year. Nationwide, the median annual wage for art and design workers was $43,100 in May 2014, which was higher than the median annual wage of $35,540 for all occupations.
Employment of art and design occupations is projected to grow two percent from 2014 to 2024, which is slower than the average for all occupations, adding about 16,700 new jobs. Projected growth, says the BLS, will be due to increased demand for animation and visual effects in video games, movies, television, and on smartphones. As companies continue to increase their digital presence, more art and design workers will be needed to help create visually appealing and effective layouts of websites and other media platforms.
The top five highest paying states for ADESM professionals are:
- District of Columbia ($89,950)
- New York ($74,100)
- California ($70,440)
- Massachusetts ($58,200)
- Maryland ($57,330)
The industries with the highest levels of employment for ADESM professionals are:
- Motion Picture and Video Industries
- Radio and Television Broadcasting
- Newspaper, Periodical, Book, and Directory Publishers
- Advertising, Public Relations, and Related Services
- Elementary and Secondary Schools
The industries with the highest concentration of employment for ADESM professionals are:
- Independent artists, Writers, and Performers
- Radio and Television Broadcasting
- Specialized Design Services
- Performing Arts Companies
The states with the highest employment levels for ADESM professionals are California, New York, Texas, Florida, and Illinois. Aspiring artists and designers in Tennessee may increase their chances of finding employment by exploring major cities and the top industries first. Besides the cities mentioned earlier, consider Franklin, Jackson, and Johnson City.
Awesome Animation Fact: The animators for Pixar's animated feature Inside Out (2015) drew a lot of characters that didn't make it through to the movie. Some of the lost characters are Guilt, Greed, Gloom, Irritation, and Shame & Embarrassment. -Creative Bloq (CB), Future Publishing Limited, UK