Two-Way Mirror: Ethnography as a Way to Assess Civic Impact of Arts-based Engagement in Tucson, Arizona

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Resource Details
Maribel Alvarez
University of Arizona
Animating Democracy resource
PDF icon Two-Way Mirror.pdf2.77 MB

Finding Voice, an ongoing program supported by the Tucson Pima Arts Council (TPAC) and Every Voice in Action Foundation, helps refugee and immigrant youth develop literacy and second language skills by researching, photographing, writing, and speaking out about critical social issues in their lives and communities. Finding Voice educators, Julie Kasper (Catalina Magnet High School ESL/English Teacher) and Josh Schachter (Tucson-based photographer and educator) founded the program in 2007 in collaboration with the Tucson chapter of the International Rescue Committee. Through the creative process, young people develop a better understanding of their Tucson neighborhood and U.S. culture, build a strong connection to their culture and family, as well as improve literacy skills, critical thinking and self-confidence. Young people’s work was exhibited at the University of Arizona, in the Tucson Vice-Mayor’s office, and in the U.S. Capitol,  where six of the young artists traveled to discuss their work at a Congressional briefing. Finding Voice has engaged youth in arts-based projects exploring their personal experiences with health, war, and immigration after which students hosted interactive community forums where they shared their stories through art and together identified actions to address shared issues and concerns. As part of Animating Democracy’s Art & Civic Engagement Impact Initiative, TPAC collaborated with ethnographer and evaluator Maribel Alvarez to learn how principles and practices of ethnography could be applied as qualitative evaluation strategies to better understand the social and civic effects of Finding Voices as well as help TPAC reconceptualize its role in and approach to assessing the civic impact of its work toward more effective casemaking with local civic leaders. For more information about the Finding Voice project, go to Finding Voice’s website:

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