In Charge '14: The Arts

As is our annual tradition, the Post team presents In Charge, a compendium of Middle Tennessee’s top business, political and civic leaders. The 450-plus women and men on our list — our fifth annual — make a positive impact not just on their individual sectors, but on the city in general. These folks are the best of the best — and always “in charge.”


1. Anne Brown — Owner, The Arts Company: Ex-Metro Arts commissioner and longtime leader of Nashville’s visual arts community. Her Salon Saturdays events and other grassroots gallery work were key sparks in growth of Fifth Avenue of the Arts community.

2. Jen Cole — Executive Director, Metro Nashville Arts Commission: Key nexus for focusing energy of arts organizations, growing presence of public art and boosting creative community. Two-decade nonprofit leadership veteran who launched ambitious annual Artober program and the Nash-Up Seminar to spotlight breadth of region’s arts community.

3. René Copeland — Producing Artistic Director, Tennessee Repertory Theatre: Former co-founder of Mockingbird Theatre who joined Rep in 2004 and helped steer group’s 2005 separation from TPAC. Intensely focused on using local talent to stage productions.

4. Susan Edwards — Executive Director and CEO, Frist Center for the Visual Arts: Has built 13-year-old museum into true downtown anchor and regular destination for high-profile exhibitions. Effectively teams with chief curator Mark Scala, who has been instrumental in bringing many exciting shows to the Frist, including the showstopping Sensuous Steel: Art Deco Automobiles exhibit.

5. Tim Henderson — Executive Director, Humanities Tennessee: Tapped in late 2012 to succeed longtime President Robert Cheatham. Had been director of operations and director of digital programs at group that organizes Southern Festival of Books.

6. Denice Hicks — Artistic Director, Nashville Shakespeare Festival: One of city’s most respected actors, has led Shakespeare Festival since 2005. Moved to town in 1980 to perform at Opryland before playing key roles at various theater groups. Celebrated the festival’s 25th anniversary this year.

7. John Hoomes — CEO and General Director, Nashville Opera: Became organization’s leader in 2012 after having served as artistic director since 1995. Has directed more than 150 productions. A June 2010 Opera Newsfeature article noted, “Hoomes has proved himself one of the most interesting stage directors in the regional market today with a seemingly limitless knowledge of repertoire.”

8. Martha Ingram — Chairman Emerita, Ingram Industries: Doyenne of Nashville philanthropy and steadfast supporter of arts, particularly symphony, TPAC and Vanderbilt. Key backer of Symphony officials’ 2013 financial restructuring and their long-term plans to convert vacant riverfront site into performance venue.

9. Toby Leonard — Programming Director, Belcourt Theatre: Has worked with the arthouse theatre for over a decade; curates films for the Belcourt. Along with executive director Stephanie Silverman and education and engagement director Allison Inman, responsible for continued growth of the theater and large opening weekends for films such asMoonrise Kingdom.

10. Jane MacLeod — President and CEO, Cheekwood: Came to the helm of Cheekwood in late 2010 following stints at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden and The Nasher Sculpture Center. Under her leadership, Cheekwood brought high-profile exhibits like 2013’s LIGHTby Bruce Munro and the multimedia More Loveexhibit at the Cheekwood Mansion.

11. Kathleen O’Brien — President and CEO, Tennessee Performing Arts Center: Runs group with $20 million endowment and annual budget that consistently mixes big-name musicals and artists with educational outreach to thousands statewide. Events draw more than 500,000 people annually.

12. Brian Owens — Artistic Director, Nashville Film Festival: Took over in 2008 after launching and building Indianapolis International Film Festival. Event screens 200-plus films each year and draws more than 25,000 people.

13. Ryan Schemmel — Co-Founder, Fort Houston: Led the transformation of The Brick Factory in Cummins Station to Fort Houston’s current space near Greer Stadium, housing several facilities for makers such as a printmaking studio and darkroom with a variety of classes available to the public.

14. Alan Valentine — President & CEO, Nashville Symphony: Joined symphony in 1998 and has overseen major changes to programming (including rock concerts) at Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Steered recovery from $42 million of flood damage in 2010 and then helped organization battle through recent fiscal difficulties that resulted in major cuts.

15. Paul Vasterling — CEO and Artistic Director, Nashville Ballet: Took on top role at state’s largest professional ballet group in 2010 after directing productions since 1998. Premiered big shows Nutcracker and Carmina Burana and has built roster of professional and pre-professional dancers to more than 40.

16. Lain York — Director, Zeitgeist Gallery: Painter and gallery director at Zeitgeist and known affectionately as the “Mayor of Art Town.” Has provided a venue for world-class art shows since 1994, leading the gallery through location changes from Cummins Station to its current home in the creatively thriving Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood.