Immediately following her graduation from the University of Central Florida with a Master of Fine Arts degree in Theatre for Young Audiences, Alicia Fuss threw all her belongings into a U-Haul and headed for Nashville. Little did she know that her undergraduate time as a theatre arts major and Brownie Girl Scout Troop Leader, or her residency assignments at the Orlando Repertory Theater and TYA Department at the Kennedy Center, would lead her to NCT’s gleaming green and purple haven of theatre education on 2nd Ave in downtown Nashville.
Eleven years later, this past December, Alicia’s journey led her to the most unpredictable and exhilarating place yet, as the new Director of Arts Education at the Tennessee Arts Commission. Created in 1967, the Commission’s purpose is “to stimulate and encourage the presentation of the visual, literary, music, and performing arts and to encourage public interest in the cultural heritage of Tennessee.” As a collaborative for all artistic nonprofits in the Volunteer State, they have lived up to that mission.
“The mission of the TN Arts Commission is to cultivate the arts for the benefit of all Tennesseans and their communities, and that’s what really drew me to the position. At the Children’s Theatre, I loved knowing I was serving so many students and families, connecting them to high-quality theatre experiences, and with this position, I get to do that all across the state, with different populations and different art forms,” Fuss explains.
In speaking with Fuss, who laughs about falling in love with arts education, a field she didn’t fully explore until after her undergraduate studies, she is enjoying her new position. It allows her to serve “learners of all ages because arts are for everyone and can enrich our lives at any age.”
Her journey to the TN Arts Commission wouldn’t be complete without her experience at Nashville Children’s Theatre, which she feels prepared her for her current role. Fuss reflects:
“So much of the Arts Commission’s work supports non-profit organizations across the state. Having the perspective of working in a nonprofit for over a decade then helps me put myself in their shoes. Every organization is different, so it’s not that I can understand what it’s like to work in any non-profit, but it absolutely cultivates that empathy and understanding that every organization is unique. They all have their own story and mission. My time at NCT helps me feel genuinely curious about all the unique, incredible work happening everywhere.”
While the NCT family is sad to see her go, there is joy in witnessing her dedication to the arts applied on a grand scale. According to Fuss, it is “an honor and a privilege to have a front-row seat to the incredible organizations in rural communities, big cities, and everything in between so focused on changing lives through the arts.” We, too, are grateful for the privilege to see Alicia thrive in this new season of her career, inspiring and supporting individuals making arts accessible to everyone throughout Tennessee.