Investing in the future: Caldwell Arts Academy partners with Group M7
Tyler Morning Telegraph. Ben Fenton. September 12, 2020.

Though many schools have experienced stunted growth and complications during the COVID-19 outbreak, Caldwell Arts Academy is using this time to broaden the resources available to its students.

Caldwell Arts Academy is partnering with Tyler-based media company Group M7 Design to give its digital arts program a creative boost.

Caldwell Arts Academy is a K-8 fine arts magnet school. The digital arts program has been operating for three years and is presently only available at the middle-school level.

“When we first started the digital arts program three years ago, it was a K-6 program; but because of just scheduling and things we shifted it to middle school for right now,” said Principal Bobby Markle. “In doing that, we started noticing that these middle-schoolers have some really strong skill sets. So our teacher was really able to advance what they were doing when she just had them to focus on everything from photography, to graphic design, to animation, to even film. These kids have very strong aesthetics towards how to use technology.”

The digital arts teacher, Julianna Wynn, said she is very excited about the shift in direction of the school’s digital arts program.

“We are able to get more in depth into each subject and have a career connection with each subject through master teachers that are in the community. Last year, we had a professional photographer come in with the photography class and teach them photography,” Wynn said. “This year, I have to get a local graphic designer to come and teach my students how to graphically design a T-shirt and we hope that we can actually market and sell those so the kids can see the beginning-to-the-end process.”

Up to this point, Caldwell Arts Academy has been using Tyler ISD’s Career Technology Center as a resource by using its server and digital arts software.

“The graphics that we need to do this stuff is really advanced compared to what you usually get at a school,” said Markle. “We learned very quickly that wasn’t going to be sustainable. We really needed our own server, we really needed the equipment ourselves.”

After searching for a partnership with a local company, Markle felt like Group M7 Design was the obvious choice.

“The idea was looking for corporate sponsorship, community partnerships that really sustain some of our programming needs and trying to find things that make sense and align with what we do,” Markle said.

Caldwell’s new partnership with Group M7 Design will provide $60,000 over the course of a few years. This money will go toward the school creating its own server, and will also provide students with the school’s own software and a state-of-the-art digital arts lab.

Through content such as graphic design, photo editing, print-making, and video production, students will be able to use the new lab to create unique projects that grow their skills for art and business applications. The digital arts lab will be furnished with 24 virtual desktops and 24 drawing tablets.

“Group M7 is proud to be a corporate sponsor of Caldwell Arts Academy,” Michael Mahfood, Group M7 Design founder and senior partner, said. “The value of a digital arts and graphic design program for K-8 students will prove to be an immeasurable attribute to this community. We look forward to working with the students at Caldwell to help mold the future of Tyler, Texas.”

Caldwell Arts Academy said they hope the partnership with M7 Design will also allow middle-school students to have real-world experiences that will help them decide what courses to take in high school, as well provide better insight into any fields study they may want to explore after high school.

“We are really excited about this new partnership with Group M7 Design,” Markle said. “This partnership will help our innovative curriculum excel forward and create the most unique arts learning environment in East Texas.”

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