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Program Description

Overview The Totally Cool, Totally Art (TCTA) program offers after school visual arts classes to youth in Austin, Texas. The program's goals are to increase youth's: (1) sense of belonging and feeling that they have safe, positive, and creative environments in which to participate during free time; (2) opportunities to expand knowledge, skills, and possible career interest in art; (3) trust and respect for other youth, adult mentors, artists, and other authority figures; (4) ability to work cooperatively with other youth and communicate effectively in a group; and (5) ability to make creative and positive choices through self-expression. The program is coordinated by staff from the Dougherty Arts Center (DAC), Austin Parks and Recreation Department (APARD), as part of the Austin City Council's Social Fabric Initiative, an effort to deal with teen issues in the city of Austin.
Start Date fall 1996
Scope local
Type after school
Location urban
Setting recreation centers
Participants middle and high school students (The focus is on seventh through twelfth grade, although a limited number of youth as young as nine years of age are sometimes served.)
Number of Sites/Grantees nine recreation centers in 1996–1997; 11 recreation centers in 1997–1998; 12 recreation centers in 1998–2000
Number Served 1,059 in 1996–2001
Components Six separate four-week TCTA sessions are offered during each school year at APARD recreation centers. Youth can sign up for as many sessions as they wish. Each session meets twice weekly for three hours after school and focuses on a different art medium. TCTA also maintains a mentoring component both before the classes, with recreation center Teen Leaders, and during the classes where youth work along side professional artists.

The program begins with a one-hour tutoring program or other activity organized by the Teen Leader at each site, followed by a two-hour class taught by one or more practicing artists. The media types featured, which change each year to provide variety for youth who participate for multiple years, are a function of availability of artists in a given area and the experience gained in past program years. Media for 1999–2000 included video and film art, storytelling/illustration, printmaking, photography, and computer animation/ claymation. Youth are transported to the DAC for the art portion of the session when specialized computer equipment or facilities are required. TCTA sponsors exhibitions twice a year to showcase youth's artwork. Youth with advanced art abilities are referred to art classes offered by other providers or other community resources for advanced training.

The DAC Arts School Manager provides overall program management. Two Program Specialists are responsible for day-to-day management. Teen Leaders at each site recruit students and provide site leadership and discipline. Roving Leaders, APARD staff who serve as detached street workers in various sections of the city, help recruit participants.
Funding Level The program costs were $95,906 in 1996–1997, $148,381 in 1997–1998, $162,305 in 1998–1999, and $171,683 in 1999–2000.
Funding Sources City of Austin (through the Austin City Council's Social Fabric Initiative)
Other The National Recreation and Parks Association named TCTA a National Model Program, which allows for national distribution and implementation of the TCTA program.


Overview Evaluations were conducted annually 1996–2000, covering program recruitment and participation, costs, quality, and effectiveness. Each annual evaluation report includes the cumulative results of the program evaluation from the time of the program's inception. Thus, the 2000 report includes findings from the first four years (1996–2000)..
Evaluator Dr. Peter A. Witt, Texas A&M University
Evaluations Profiled Evaluation of the Totally Cool, Totally Art Program, 1999–2000
Evaluations Planned The year 2000 was the last year comprehensive evaluations of the program were undertaken, although the evaluator has continued to work with TCTA staff to report attendance and results of occasional surveys.
Report Availability Witt, P. A. (1999). Evaluation of the Totally Cool, Totally Art Program Austin Parks and Recreation Department. College Station: Texas A&M University. [Available at (Acrobat file)]

Witt, P. A. (2000). Evaluation of the Totally Cool, Totally Art Program Austin Parks and Recreation Department, 1999–2000. College Station: Texas A&M University. [Available at]


Evaluation Peter A. Witt
Elda K. Bradberry Recreation and Youth Development Chair
Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences
Texas A&M University
2261 TAMU
College Station, TX 77843-2261
Tel: 409-845-7325
Program Maria Cicciarelli
Totally Cool, Totally Art
Culture Arts Division Manager
Austin Parks and Recreation Department
P.O. Box 1088
Austin, TX 78767
Tel: 512-397-1458
Profile Updated December 3, 2003

Evaluation: Evaluation of the Totally Cool, Totally Art Program, 1999–2000

Evaluation Description

Evaluation Purpose To examine TCTA's workload (number of participants, total participation hours, etc.), efficiency (cost of serving each participant), quality (participant ratings of the quality of site and leader characteristics and of the overall program value), and effectiveness (program impact) for the first four years of the program (1996–2000).
Evaluation Design Non-Experimental: Data were collected on participants from all program sites for all four years of the evaluation.
Data Collection Methods Document Review: TCTA organizers supplied a copy of the program budget to examine cost/efficiency issues.

Interviews/Focus Groups: Interviews with youth participants (n=10) and their parents (n=10), Teen Leaders (n=12), program specialists (n=2), and other program organizers (n=5) were conducted each year. The interviews included questions about program outcomes, how well the program met its goals, and means for improving the program.

Secondary Source/Data Review: Teen Coordinators at each site provided the evaluator with registration and attendance data for each of the six sessions each year.

Surveys/Questionnaires: Program outcome, quality, and satisfaction surveys were administered to participants in each of the six sessions offered each year. Although surveys varied some from year to year, and even session to session, items covered such areas as staff quality; facilities' cleanliness; registration processes; accessibility of program information; perceptions of TCTA's impact on youth's interest in art, resiliency, and goal achievement; and what youth liked best and what they would improve about the program. The evaluator estimates that surveys were returned by approximately 80% of youth participating at the time surveys were administered.

Tests/Assessments: One of the youth surveys used the Protective Factors Scale (Witt, Baker & Scott, 1996) to create single items for each of nine sub-dimensions of resiliency: knowledge of neighborhood resources, awareness of the presence of caring adults, sense of belonging, controls against deviant behavior, respect for positive role models, ability to develop a positive outlook about the future, value on achievement, ability to work with others, and ability to work out conflicts. Questions were worded in the format, “As a result of my participation in the TCTA, I have increased my….” Each item was answered on a scale of 1 = “strongly disagree” to 5 = “strongly agree.”

Witt, P. A., Baker, D., & Scott, D. (1996). Protective Factors Scale. College Station: Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences, Texas A&M University.
Data Collection Timeframe The evaluation includes findings for four school years: 1996–1997, 1997–1998, 1998–1999, and 1999–2000.

Formative/Process Findings

Activity Implementation One medium in particular—printmaking—had program quality ratings considerably above the overall average. These results were consistent over the four years.

The 1999–2000 survey results indicated that items that participants thought could be improved in the program included the food provided and several of the activities (e.g., drawing). In 1998–1999, the most frequent suggestion was to have different or more advanced experiences for youth who had worked in a particular medium before or to allow youth who finished a project to go on to other activities without waiting for the rest of the group. Students also suggested including other activities or media, such as acting, photography, and cartooning.
Costs/Revenues The cost per participant hour (exclusive of time spent at exhibitions) was $10.13 in 1996–1997, $9.38 in 1997–1998, $11.52 in 1998–1999, and $10.96 in 1999–2000.

Total program costs per year increased each year. Specifically, the total costs were $95,906, $148,381 $164,949, and $171,683 for each of the four years respectively.

Higher total program costs in 1997–1998 than the previous year were due in part to adding three recreation centers, the increase of total participant hours by 67.1%, purchasing additional supplies, and additional marketing costs. Van rental costs were also somewhat higher due to two instances in which recreation centers were closed for renovations and youth traveled by van to the DAC for class sessions.

For 1998–1999, additional total program costs were incurred to increase the number of artists at each site for many of the sessions. Artists' salaries were also slightly increased.

For 1999–2000, the budget was similar in scope and cost to the previous fiscal year. Increased program expenses were included under the marketing and receptions category, and included expenses for special events and field trips.
Program Context/Infrastructure Youth gave high marks to the program quality each year. For example, on one of the two survey instruments administered to youth in 1999–2000, program quality score ratings ranged from 8.55 to 8.93 (on a scale of 1 = “strongly disagree” to 10 = “strongly agree”)for multiple quality items. Measured on another survey form in the same year, youth gave high overall program quality ratings at the end of sessions 3 (4.23) and 6 (4.50) on a five point scale from 1 = “very poor” to 5 = “very good.”

Among the items that youth liked best in 1999-2000 were the program staff and activities.

Through the years, youth reported in interviews that the program provided an alternative to hanging out on the street or participating in an unstructured activity. Youth also saw the program as a way to avoid boredom. Participants indicated that they would be sitting at home, watching television, or doing homework if they were not participating in TCTA.
Recruitment/Participation Over the four years of the program, 1,059 different youth participated in at least one TCTA session. By year, the number of participants was 287 in 1996–1997, 373 in 1997–1998, 402 in 1998–1999, and 367 in 1999–2000. Part of the increases over the first two years can be accounted for by the increase in program sites from 9 to 12.

Participants averaged 3.5 sessions of participation over the four years. Of these youth, 32.0% participated in only one session, 54.2% in 2–6 sessions, 12.9% in 7–12 sessions, and .9% in 13–18 sessions. By year, youth registered for an average of 2.4, 2.8, 2.3, and 3.0 sessions respectively.

Participants averaged 17.4 days of participation for all four years. By year, youth averaged 11.0, 14.1, 11.9, and 14.2 days of participation respectively.

While the number of participants in 1999–2000 was down from the previous year, youth attending the program averaged more sessions and days of attendance.

Of the first-year participants, 25.1% also participated during the second year (1997–1998). Of the 1997–1998 participants, 37.5% carried over to 1998–1999. For 1998–1999, 25.4% carried over to 1999–2000. Putting this in a slightly different format, 19.3% of the 1997–1998 participants were carryovers from the previous year. For 1998–1999 and 1999–2000, 34.9% and 27.8% respectively of the participants were carryovers from the previous year.

On average, carryover enrollees participated in more sessions and more days in any given year than the average for all youth for that year.

Program organizers sought to fill each session to a reasonable capacity level-capacity was defined as 20 youth per session per site. Based on enrollment (regardless of youth's actual attendance), the program operated at 65.2%, 79.0%, 64.9%, and 74.1% capacity for each of the four years respectively. Based on percent of possible participant days, the program operated at 44.2%, 57.1%, 47.4%, and 48.3% of capacity respectively in each of the four years.

In 1999–2000, participants reported an average rating of 7.88 (on a scale of 1–10) in response to their level of interest in art before the program.

Approximately equal numbers of females and males participated in the program (51.2%, 47.1%, 50.9%, and 48.8% female for the four years respectively).

For the first year of TCTA, 61.4% of the participants were 12 years of age or under. This number fell in the next two years to 21.5% and 35.7% respectively. The change was due to efforts to emphasize older youth's enrollment. Thus, the number of youth 13 and above rose from 38.6% to 78.5% and 64.3% respectively. In 1999–2000, 34.7% of the youth were 12 or less, with 65.3% 13 years old or greater. Some centers admitted 12 year olds if they were in middle school, while others continued to admit youth as young as 9 years old.

Participation by race remained fairly constant over the four years. The participant distribution by race in 1999–2000 was 46.7% Hispanic, 38.0% African American, 12.5% white, and 2.9% other (mainly Asian).

In describing the sample of participating youth, survey responses indicated that many participants encountered difficult situations in their lives and that these situations negatively impacted their self-esteem, desire to remain in school, and perceptions that they will accomplish meaningful things in their lives.
Satisfaction Program satisfaction ratings were relatively high each year. In 1999-2000, ratings on one of two surveys administered to youth that year had means of 8.67 for whether participants would recommend the program to other youth, 8.94 for whether they felt the program was worth their time, and 9.10 for whether they would sign up again in the future (on a scale of 1 = “strongly disagree” to 10 = “strongly agree”). Measured on another survey form in the same year, the vast majority of youth also indicated on a scale of 1 = “no,” 2 = “not sure,” and 3 = “yes” that they would recommend the program to other teens (2.75 for both sessions 3 and 6) and sign up again in the future (2.82 for 3 and 2.84 for session 6).

Summative/Outcome Findings

Youth Development For 1999–2000, means for the nine resiliency outcome items ranged from 3.77 to 4.38 (on a scale of 1 =“strongly disagree” to 5 = “strongly agree”), depending on the item and the session. Data for 1998–1999 when the survey was administered once at the end of the program ranged from 3.66 to 3.98 by item. The rank order of scores for each item was fairly similar from one session to the next, although the relative level of scores differed by session. The role of adults as mentors and positive role models received high ratings for all sessions. The lowest rating for all sessions was given to knowledge of neighborhood resources, which is not an emphasized area of the program.

For the art outcome items (specific abilities and attitudes related to art) for 1999–2000, there was great similarity in the relative scores (around 4.0, on a scale of 1 =“strongly disagree” to 5 = “strongly agree”) for most of the items across all administrations. Rated a bit lower on all administrations was the ability to “share my ideas with other teens.”

Youth indicated that they increased their interest in art and would do more art in the future as a result of participating in TCTA. In 1999–2000, youth gave a mean rating of 8.42 (on a scale of 1–10) when asked if their interest in art increased as a result of this program.

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