Mayor Robert Walkup

Tucson Pima Arts Council Multimedia Arts Education Program

In December 1999, nine middle school students represent the eighth graduating class of the Tucson-Pima Arts Council (TPAC) Multimedia Arts Education Program.

Youth enter the program as 6th or 7'h grade students and must maintain a C+ average to remain in the program. They must demonstrate proficiency in one 120 hour arts technology lab to move onto the next lab, until they complete 600 hours in five after-school fall and spring sessions or summer session, to graduate. Upon graduation a computer is awarded to each graduate and their family.

The approximately 70 youth annually impacted by this program fully represent those left behind in the "digital divide." The students are all low-income, predominately minority youth from populations with a 35-50% drop out rate from school and do not have a computer in their home. English is the second language for more than half the students. Longitudinal research tracking graduates of the Multimedia program through their high school career, (begun in 1998 through a Kellogg Foundation University of Arizona-Community Collaboration grant), predicts a 95% high school graduation rate for Multimedia program graduates. Skills of time management, motivation, and goal setting incorporated into the program have proven as important as the multimedia skills.

The five arts technology labs focus on basic skill building, sequential learning, self-assessment and critiquing that culminates with application of skills to individual student projects. Guest speakers and/or field trips are scheduled with each session to expand awareness of career options. Journal writing and internet-access are part of all five arts technology labs. As students demonstrate proficiency in skills during the session they can earn up to two $25 educational incentives. The five arts technology sessions include the following content taught in classes with a 10:1 student-teacher ratio. 

Language arts - use of the internet, an overview of creative writing to include poetry short stories, novels, articles and essays as well as reinforcement of grammar, spelling, punctuation, effective word choice and vocabulary skills (Clarisworks software, internet).

Computer graphics and design - basic graphic design including conceptual drawing, thumbnail sketches, color theory, typography and layout. Students learn to draw, scan and manipulate images (Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop software, PowerMac computers and digital cameras).

Computer animation -traditional and digital animation techniques using sketching and drawing, flip books, character techniques such as "squash and stretch", exaggeration and morphing (Deluxe Paint software, Amiga computers).

Video production - history of video technology, camera operation, audio, critical viewing, analysis/deconstruction, and the creative process are covered (VHS and SVHS cameras and editing decks, Amiga toaster, hand-held and Laviler microphones, three instrument editing package)

Portfolio preparation - creation of individual student portfolios featuring the their best work in the four labs. Students design either a Website or CD ROM of their work and present this on graduation night to the assembled family, friends, and community (Quark and Pagemill software, plus all previous hardware and software).

City Support

TPAC receives $26,000 a year for the Multimedia program from the City of Tucson, one of four TPAC after-school youth programs supported with City Youth allocations. TPAC also receives basic support of $815,500 from the City for grants to artists and arts organizations ($500,000) and administration of the City's Percent for Art Program. The city designated TPAC is one of 95 drops on the community fiber optics loop.

Financing Mechanisms

The award of a $225,000 National Endowment for the Arts Challenge Grant provided initial support for Multimedia program design and initial implementation. The 15,000 square foot TPAC building was leased for five years at $300 a year, from the Pima Association of Governments and the Arizona Department of Transportation, to enable TPAC focus revenue on developing this program rather than the cost of a facility. Beginning with the first class in January 1996, there has been a diverse source of revenue from foundations, corporations, and government. The Stocker, Wallace, and Benton Foundations have provided support. The Amazon Foundation provided support to recruit Latina girls into the program and will present computers to graduates December 1999. Nathan Cummings awarded a $35,000 grant for this and other TPAC youth programs in October, 1999. Target stores and U.S. West have been corporate sponsors. There has also been annual support from Pima County Youth Programs, and  the Arizona Office of the Governor, Drug Prevention Youth Programs.

Community Need/Opportunity

The Multimedia program addresses the "digital divide" recognized as a widening gap between those with computer access and knowledge and those without. Recent national studies have researched race and income relative to students having access to computers in the home. The study indicates while 73% of white students had a computer at home, compared to 33% of minority students.

Career analysts project the number one job in the next decade is multimedia software designer. In 1999, one in ten information technology jobs goes unfilled, and these jobs pay an average 78% more than jobs in other industries. There are over 300 software companies in Tucson. Creativity is critical in this profession.

Target Population

All students in the program are from low-income households and are on either the free or reduced school lunch programs, receive food stamps, or qualify for AHCCCS. The demographic breakdown is 69% Latino/Hispanic; 22% Native American (Yaqui and O'odham); 2% African American; 5% White/AngIo; and 2% Arabic. The program has demonstrated success with ADD students. A special effort had to be made to recruit girls to the program which now has an equal number of each sex enrolled.

Evidence of Best Practice

"Arts and Technology Integration: Multimedia Arts Education Program, " J. David Betts, Ph.D., (American Educational Research Association Journal) describes the TPAC program, student development of aesthetic response and the role of art as a mediator for learning computer skills to prepare for electronic arts workplace. TPAC youth programs have been designated one of the top 50 in the nation for the last two years by the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.


There are three efforts to replicate this program underway. One with the Tucson Unified School District, to replicate the program in middle schools with existing computer capabilities as an after-school program as part of a 21S' Century Community Learning Center. The City of Tucson, Community Services Department is working with TPAC to replicate the program in the Learning Center being built as part of a HOPE VI Public Housing program. As part of an Arizona Juvenile Justice grant to Elvira neighborhood, TPAC is replicating the program in the neighborhood Challenger Middle School.

Case Study

Chris (May, 1998 graduating class) a Latino youth with ADD, from a single parent household, initially was placed on contract, with good behavior a condition for remaining in the program. He sent a letter last summer to announce that he and a friend (both in high school) had begun a graphic design business. "Your teachings helped me to use my talents in ways I thought were never possible...if it were not for TPAC I do not know where I'd be."


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