One America Community Efforts
Little Bar

Program: Scarritt-Bennett Center, Nashville, TN
Contact(s): Dr. Carolyn Oehler, Executive Director: (615) 340-7500
Purpose: To enhance the awareness and understanding of the growing cultural diversity of Middle Tennessee, by providing an opportunity for the multiethnic and multiracial communities to combat prejudice and promote mutual appreciation, cooperation and social tolerance.

Background Program Operations Outcomes


The Scarritt-Bennett Center (Center) is a nonprofit conference, education and retreat center committed to promoting cross-cultural understanding, education and artistic creativity. The Center provides conference accommodations for nonprofit groups, as well as educational programing and retreat services. The Center offers an array of multi-faith, multicultural art and music workshops, as well as seminars in leadership, reconciliation and healing, theology, and women's issues.

Program Operations

As a part of the Center, the Hartzler-Towner Multicultural Museum offers temporary and permanent exhibits, using a collection of over 4,500 ethnographic artifacts from around the world. Through the museum, an interactive, multicultural education program is offered to schools and other groups. A museum educator, along with members of the local international community, leads classes designed to teach about life in other countries. The Center, designated as a botanical arboretum, also maintains the "In Defense of Creation" Organic Garden. A master gardener presents classes in environmental stewardship, ecology and gardening for people of all ages. Held annually on the second Saturday in July, the "Celebration of Cultures" festival is a one-day celebration that gives the Middle Tennessee community, representing more than 40 ethnic groups and nationalities, a chance to share the hospitality and arts of their cultures with each other. The event showcases entertainers dressed in national attire performing as singers, dancers, storytellers and musicians. International games, storytelling, music and hands-on craft activities are available in the children's area. The celebration also features several educational displays, museum exhibits, a bazaar, crafts and foods. The goal is to commemorate the significance and depth of music, art, stories, history and folklore. Volunteers, led by an advisory committee, develop and implement the festival. Past Honorary Chairs include Mrs. Tipper Gore, Dr. Henry Foster, Jr. and Mr. Arun Gandhi. Local corporate and area government sponsorship of Celebration of Cultures has broadened the impact of the festival on the Nashville community. The Center co-hosts area "Study Circles" with the Nashville Coalition Against Racism (NCAR). Study Circles are community dialogue groups that discuss racism and race relations. Discussion topics include racism, youth, crime and violence. The goal of Study Circles is to improve race relations in Nashville by providing opportunities for dialogue, citizen involvement and community action.

Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments

Approximately 40,000 people visit the Center annually. Over 10,000 children and adults participate in museum and organic gardening programs throughout the year. The 1998 Celebration of Cultures attracted over 3,000 visitors for the one-day event. The Study Circles have included over 140 participants since its inception in 1997. The programs at Scarritt-Bennett Center help create new bridges among the diverse members of the Nashville community.

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