published Thursday, August 18th, 2011

License plate designs wanted for specialty plate contest

by Andrew Pantazi


* Before a specialty license plate is sold to the public, 500 pre-sell orders must be made before March 1, 2012.

* Specialty license plates are sold for $35 more than a standard license plate

Source: Tennessee Department of Revenue


For more information on submitting a design, visit

The nonprofit group Tennesseans for the Arts is asking state residents to contribute their best designs for the group's specialty license plate contest.

Forty percent of the money earned from all specialty license plates is given to the Tennessee Arts Commission, making up 70 percent of the revenue the commission uses for grants that support local art initiatives.

Jonah Rabinowitz, commission president, said some of those initiatives include the Chattanooga Symphony and Orchestra, the Discovery Museum and Ballet Tennessee.

This license plate, because it's solely focused on supporting the arts, could potentially give as much as 90 percent of its revenue to the commission, Rabinowitz said.

"People make a choice to buy these license plates," he said. "People buy them because they like them."

This is the first new license plate the arts commission has issued in about 10 years, he said.

The Chattanooga Symphony and Opera will receive a total of $62,300 in grants from the arts commission for the 2012 fiscal year. Molly Sasse, the executive director of the CSO, said the license-plate revenue is important to support the symphony's 120 free concerts at area schools. Sasse has an arts commission license plate featuring a cat playing saxophone, which was issued about 10 years ago.

  • photo
    Henry Schulson, executive director of the Creative Discovery Museum

Henry Schulson, executive director of the Creative Discovery Museum, said the revenue earned from arts commission license plates is critical to arts funding.

In total, Hamilton County organizations receive $473,000 in state grants, with $330,000 coming from license-plate revenue.

The contest, which started Monday, will run until Oct. 15. Rabinowitz said he expects to receive hundreds of submissions.

The submissions will be narrowed to the 20 finalists by an art jury, and Tennesseans can then vote on their favorites of the 20 finalists.

The arts drive tourism and industry, Rabinowitz said, so the license plate helps broadcast the state's artistic offerings.

"It's probably going to be the most visible artwork anyone in Tennessee will see," he said.

He expects the winner will be chosen before the winter holidays, and a pre-sale of the license plate should start at the beginning of 2012.

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about Andrew Pantazi...

Andrew Pantazi is an intern at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who says that when he was 7 he knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life: play hockey for the Colorado Avalanche. Unfortunately, he says he wasn't any good at hockey, so he became a journalist instead. He writes about the lives we hide, like the man who suffered a stroke but smiled, or the football walk-on who endured 5 ...

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