In the spring of 2019, the Catalina Rotary Club’s president, Bob Grady, challenged members to come up with a project that would benefit Tucson youth; an effort he called the Big Idea. The Catalina Club routinely provides annual grants totaling twenty-five to thirty thousand dollars to area organizations serving children, families, and veterans. But the Big Idea would be different: One large contribution, plus members’ sweat equity, to help a single organization. After soliciting and reviewing a wide array of proposals, the Catalina Club’s Board of Directors issued a grant of $50,000 to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Tucson for a Creative Arts Center (CAC).
The Creative Arts Center would be a space where kids from all area BGCT clubhouses could come to engage in performing and visual arts, movement, dance, and music (the CAC would even have a recording studio).
Why a Creative Arts Center? Like many cities across the U.S., funding shortfalls have either cut or entirely limited arts and music programs in most Tucson schools. That’s tragic, because data show that youth who participate in arts and music programs tend to achieve higher grade point averages, score better on standardized reading and math tests, and drop out at lower rates.
Catalina Rotary Club members eagerly endorsed the project. In June of 2019, Catalina Rotarians, family and friends descended on the Frank and Edith Morton Clubhouse to clear out the space designated for the CAC and ready it for the contractors.
Progress was swift. On September 25, 2019, the Catalina Rotary Club Creative Arts Center was opened with a gala celebration and ribbon-cutting.
Boys and Girls Clubs of Tucson CEO Debbie Wagner summed up her feelings about the Catalina Rotary Club’s gift: BGCT cannot thank the Catalina Rotary enough for their support to create a dynamic and inspiring space for youth arts events and programs that will serve to open our young people’s minds to the greatest of gifts, creativity. The new center will provide young people from all six of our clubhouses with the opportunity to explore the arts hands-on. In addition, the HeART works program, a Catalina Rotary-sponsored BGCT program, started by Cindy and Tom Robertson, will now have a home from which to build on the incredible success it has accomplished over the past year.