MAX-ing Out the Arts for Students

"You brought music back into the house." -- Captain von Trapp, The Sound of Music

Like Maria in that sad Austrian chateau, the MAX program brought art back into our school.

For all sorts of reasons -- budget cuts, an extreme focus on NCLB tests during a school transformation, a couple of spectacularly ill-suited art teachers -- our school currently lacks an art program. No visual arts, no music, no pep band. Just the ever ubiquitous iPod.

Bringing back the arts program is on everyone's list, but it's always fourth or fifth or sixth on those lists, and so it doesn't get done.

But we lucked out the last two summers with the MAX Program, and it's making a world of difference.

MAX (Media-Art-Xchanges) has collaborated with the Tiziano Project to bring a cumulative arts education program to students at our reservation school in eastern Arizona. The four-week program combines poetry, music, art, digital photography and video, and gives students a chance to tell their own stories about their life here on the San Carlos Apache Reservation. The students work directly with artists and media mentors, peers and other resources, face-to-face and online.

To see some of the projects, go to, and click on the red Stories From banner at the upper left.

MAX brings us African drummers, Los Angeles street poets, experts on digital photography and video, a wonderful Navajo painter named Dennis Jeffy, and a whole group of teachers and artists who work intensively with our kids for an entire month.

The projects from that month are amazing, but even more heartening is the spillover effect into the entire school. The kids who participated in June 2011 spent much of the last school year producing art -- making documentary films about life on the Rez, covering the school with posters about sports and testing and graduating, and continuing to making their own art and music.

The art, and the fact that our students are making art about their own lives and experiences, creates an excitement about school generally that is playing a significant role in our improvement efforts.

MAX came back this summer, we again filled the seats, and this time the kids picked up where they left off, producing a raft of videos, songs, stories and pictures about Apache life in eastern Arizona.

Kids need art in their lives, and MAX brings it.

Go to the websites: MAX is at, and Tiziano is at

For more information, contact John Tandy (