Mayor Howard W. Peak

Our Part of Town

Quality of Instruction & Participant Performance

Contestants for the Our Part Of Town (OPOT) Talent Show create and choreograph their acts. Program staff and volunteers coach contestants, offering suggestions for improvement and enhancement of the overall quality of the performance. Staff organizes show rehearsals, to insure each participant has the opportunity to Fine-tune and improve their performance. Program staff provides a combined total of thirty years' experience in the performing arts that assists us in the overall critiquing of the program. Contestants are urged to reach a higher level of creativity in their performances and to exceed their own performance expectations. For many, this is an opportunity to showcase their talent in front of a live audience, as well as a television viewing audience.

Program Design & Creative Content

The Our Part of Town Talent Show is sponsored by the City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department in conjunction with Paragon Cable. The Our Part of Town talent show has been in existence for eighteen years. This showcase spotlights local talent in the San Antonio Community. There are three categories of competition: Ages 12 and under, 13 - 19 years and 20 and over. The competition takes place in the 10 San Antonio City Council Districts. Three winners from each category are selected from each district and the first place winners advance to the Mayor's Finals. Contestants are required to reside in the Council District in which they perform. Contestants must be in stage attire, provide their own accompanist, background music, or props used in their act. Routines may not exceed 3.5 minutes. All auditions and shows are free and open to the public.

Creativity of the Program's Approach Toward Engaging Youth Participants

To expand community center activities and increase access to quality performing arts education during non-school hours for urban youth. To provide programs that recognize and appreciate the culturally diverse heritage of San Antonio, Texas. To provide a celebration of accomplishment and sharing of neighborhood pride through the various talent shows. To increase the opportunity for children to meet and experience professional performers that will assist them in the development of self-expression and creative potential through cultural and artistic diversity, while nurturing self-esteem and inspiring academic and career experience. To create a climate in which the youth's contribution to the show is valued and supported.

The integration of support services, prevention strategies, and child development components with arts/performing arts programming:

The San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department is dedicated to providing quality recreational and educational programs for all ages. Recognizing and enabling each individual's birthright to participate in the arts and engage in the creative process, resulting in the indispensable freedom of inquiry and self-expression. This program promotes the development of self-expression and creative potential through cultural and artistic diversity, while nurturing self-esteem and inspiring academic and career excellence. This program provides art education by building community and school networks, focusing on joint ventures that affirm the important role of the arts and educating students as future skilled workers, innovative leaders and professional artists.

Positive Impact

Evidence that the program is making a positive impact on the attitudes and development of children and youth through improved school grades, improved school attendance, increased knowledge regarding at-risk behaviors, etc.

Parents of the participants have stated that they see the "Our Part of Town" Talent Show teaching their children the importance of responsibility and teamwork; improving their social skills; gaining confidence and a better sense of self: and appreciation for art and/or having an impact on future career choices school. Staff communicates the general idea of being successful and trying to do one's best in any area of involvement, (d) Parks and Recreation Staff provides recreational activities on a year round bases for participants of all ages that encourage self-expression and builds on one's self-esteem. Our Part of Town is just one example, (e) Parks and Recreation Staff addresses the needs of its youth/ teens who participate in recreational programs and assist them in making positive choices for the future.

Role of the Mayor & City Government

The OPOT Talent Show relies on the support of the Mayor and City Council Members to help make each show a success. The "Our Part of Town Talent Show" is centered on community involvement. Each Show highlights the talent of the council districts. To be successful in getting community participation, the Mayor and Council Members Help promote and encourage participation in the shows. Auditions and Talent Shows take place in each of the 10 (ten) city council districts. The Council Member (or representative) from each district serves as the Talent Show Master of Ceremonies, introducing each act and providing a brief description of the performance. The Council Members take pride in recognizing the level of talent and the number talented constituents from their district. The amount of time, energy and commitment the Mayor and City Council Members dedicate to this event is paramount to its success. This demonstrates their support to the OPOT and our community.

A Description of Financing Mechanisms for the Program

Please include general information about the financing provided by your city government as well as specific information about any other sources of funding.

Funding for the Our Part of Town Talent Show and the Mayor’s Final is provided in part by the City's general fund. The City covers general costs, such as salaries, car mileage, trophies, stage decorations, venues for shows, and sound and stage equipment. An estimated $9,800.00 comes from the city's general fund.

Other sources of funding come from outside businesses, such as Paragon Cable, a Time Warner Company. Paragon provides savings bonds for the winners, air time promoting the event, and air time to replay each of the shows.



Program Design and Creative Content

In 1991, the City of San Antonio approved public policy to address a rise in juvenile crime, gang activity, and youth violence. The Office of Youth Initiatives was created and established an aggressive and proactive plan to increase funding and innovative programming to expand available services for youth. The awarding of a $64,488.00 competitive grant from the Criminal Justice Division and additional funding from the City of San Antonio and San Antonio Independent School District made possible the implementation of "Summer smARTs" in 1993. It operated in 5 inner-city schools. The program occurred as a result of the YouthARTS Development Project - a collaborative research effort between the Regional Arts and Culture Council in Portland, Oregon, the Fulton County Arts Council in Atlanta, and the City of San Antonio, Department of Arts and Cultural Affairs to resolve the problem of youth at risk.

One year later, Urban smARTs evolved, a partnership between the Department of Arts and Cultural Affairs, Department of Community Initiatives, and San Antonio Independent School District. Designed to prevent youth from becoming involved in the juvenile justice system, the program targeted sixth graders, the age when many youth begin to exhibit behavioral problems and are often recruited by gangs. The partnership continued for the five year duration of the grant until 1998 when the City of San Antonio, following existing policy to improve the quality of life for its citizens, assumed total funding for the program. Administration and implementation are now managed by the Department of the Community Initiatives, Youth Services Division.

The goals of Urban smARTs, which have remained unchanged since 1994, are designed to 1) divert at-risk youth from the juvenile justice system, 2) improve social behavior and social skills, 3) improve academic performance and commitment to school, 4) develop art skills, 5) provide opportunities for artistic performances and exhibitions, and 6) provide an after-school safe haven. Selection of program participants remains the responsibility of teachers and counselors using the following criteria: 1) student must be enrolled in the 5th or 6th grade, 2) student must live at or below the poverty level in areas with a high incidence of juvenile crime, and 3) student must be experiencing some academic failure, demonstrating irregular school attendance, and displaying persistent anti-social behavior. Using the social development strategy, the program was designed to meet three needs, - the opportunity to make meaningful contributions to the program, the need to acquire skills to contribute effectively, and the need for recognition for their contributions.

Quality of Instruction and Participant Performance

The program includes an arts and cultural component (teaching artist), case management (caseworker), field trips, nutrition, and transportation. In addition, caseworkers provide a Life Skills component to build students’ resiliency.

Artists, teachers, and caseworkers work together as a team and make collective decisions on discipline, program formats, field trips, incentives, and schedules. Artists undergo training focusing on arts education, classroom management, developing age-appropriate curriculum, positive reinforcement procedures, and working with the teacher liaisons and school administrators. Teacher liaisons are responsible for coordinating meeting space, keeping attendance, enforcing discipline, and arranging transportation.

Integration of Support Services, Prevention Strategies, and Child Development Components

One "partner" of the team is the caseworker who administers the life skills curriculum in conjunction with the arts and cultural instruction (exposure to various media such as theater, music, media arts or literary arts). Caseworkers offer counseling and referral services to meet the needs of the student and family. Each participant is visited in the home by the caseworker who will complete an intake, assessment, and plan of action and provide supportive services for immediate needs. Parent participation and involvement in exhibitions and performances are strongly encouraged.

Engagement of Youth

Targeting non-adjudicated youth ages 10-13, the program meets three times a week in eight middle and elementary schools. In addition to the after-school arts education program, nutritious snacks, field trips, and transportation home are provided. Whenever possible, incentives are provided to reaffirm positive behavior, a good attitude, and commitment to the program. Art exhibits are one element of the incentive program.

Evaluation of Program/Positive Impact

Evaluation of Urban smARTs was conducted in 1994 and 1996 by the Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA), and in 1996 by Caliber Associates. Findings included a noticeable improvement in students’ program-related skills (communication and teamwork) by the end of the program, showed improvements in their attitudes toward school, in self-esteem, in positive peer associations, and in resistance to peer pressure, along with fewer court referrals.

Description of Role of Mayor and City Government/Financing

The City of San Antonio, under the leadership of Mayor Howard W. Peak, continues to support Urban smARTs, recently approving a general fund allocation of $121,584.00 to serve 345 students, ages 10-13, in eight schools. For the 1999-2000 school year, a Latin jazz component will also be offered in one school. Targeting 25 sixth grade students, the program will offer creative and artistic opportunities for the majority Hispanic population.

Demonstration of Community Wide Support

Numerous school districts within the San Antonio metropolitan area have requested Urban smARTs. Interest in the program has extended from as far away as Menlo Park, California, and the Joint Jewish Distribution Committee in Jerusalem. Funding limitations will not allow for further expansion at this time, however, the department has made available the YouthARTS tool kit (a result of the YouthARTS Development Project to develop, test, and disseminate "best practices" models of national art intervention programs). In addition, Youth Services has been willing to provide technical support to interested individuals and groups.

The City of San Antonio received national recognition on October 7, 1998, with the presentation of the "The Coming Up Taller Award" by the First Lady at the White House. The program has also been featured in local newspapers and was the subject of Congressional Testimony on April 14, 1999 by Nina Ozlu of the Americans for the Arts and again on June 29,1999 by Benjamin O. Canada, Ph.D., Superintendent of Portland Public Schools (Oregon).


Home Search

The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
1620 Eye Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006
Telephone (202) 293-7330, FAX (202) 293-2352

Copyright ©2000, U.S. Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.