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Arts in Technology: Texas Arts Non-Profit Chosen From More Than 3,000 Entries to Present Panel for SXSW Interactive 2014
Texas Cultural Trust

December, 2013

The Texas Cultural Trust is thrilled to be selected as part of the 2014 SXSW Festival. Their proposal, Using Games to Kick-Start Education has been named to a premier list of panels to be presented at the festival’s Interactive portion. The announcement comes after a vigorous selection process by members of the online community through the SXSW Panel Picker project, along with SXSW Advisory Boards and staff. The Panel Picker project saw more than 3,000 entrants, and of those entries approximately only 500 were selected.


Moderated by Texas Cultural Trust Executive Director Jennifer Ransom Rice, the panel will be presented during the SXSW Gaming Expo in March – a free and open to the public event that bridges the gap between industry insiders and consumers, and will feature a distinguished team of experts in the arts sector, as well as the gaming industry. 


“Our session aims to show attendees the importance of digital literacy by enabling students to develop capacities for critical thinking, creativity, imagination and innovation,” Rice said. “Digital literacy explores the space where technology and science meet the arts and humanities, creating a highly engaging and complex educational ecosystem, ruled by hands-on experiential learning. Communication skills learned through this fusion of fine arts and technology gives students the invaluable tools needed to not only succeed in their learning environments today, but perhaps more importantly, the creative workforce of tomorrow.”


The panel, featuring gaming guru Warren Spector, as well as Dean Doug Dempster and Paul Toprac from The University of Texas, and will focus on the importance of digital literacy in the classroom and its real world effects on the economy. Spector revolutionized role-playing games in the early ‘90s with releases like System Shock and more recently, Epic Mickey. The game designer and engineer will speak to the statistics surrounding digital literacy, most notably its effect on the economy and in the classroom.


According to a findings released by Any Given Child – an initiative seeking to bring access, balance, and equity to children’s arts education – arts engaged, low-income students are four times more likely to have higher academic achievements than their low-income counterparts not involved in the arts. Additionally, digital literacy programs like the ones that will be addressed in the panel promote higher attendance, graduation, and college enrollment rates. Not to mention the positive ramifications on the economy. According to TXP– an economic analysis and public policy consulting firm– data from the Office of the Governor (Texas) revealed in 2012 “nonprofit arts and culture industries generated $4.6 billion in taxable sales, $2.46 billion in tourism spending, translating into 21,000 jobs with earnings in excess of $700 million. Additionally, the state and local governments received $158.5 million in tax revenue from the visitors.”


About the Panelists:


Dr. Doug Dempster (panelist)

Dr. Douglas Dempster is Dean of the College of Fine Arts at The University of Texas at Austin and professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance.  Before his appointment as dean in 2007, he served as Senior Associate Dean of the College of Fine Arts, a leading, public, comprehensive college of the fine and performing arts. He is a philosopher by training and profession, with research and teaching specialties in philosophical aesthetics, music theory, cultural policy studies, and the philosophy of language.


Warren Spector (panelist)

Warren Spector has been making games for 30 years. The Walt Disney Company acquired his studio, Junction Point in 2007. The recipient of lifetime achievement awards from the Game Developers Conference and Cartoons on the Bay, his work has been featured at the Australian Center for the Moving Image and the Smithsonian Institution.


Paul Toprac (panelist)

Paul Toprac is the Associate Director of Game Development at The University of Texas and Senior Lecturer. He was Graduate Committee Chair, Institutional Effectiveness Manager, and Lecturer at The Guildhall at Southern Methodist University, a game development graduate program. Paul has served as the Executive Director of the Austin Technology Council, and has been in the software industry for more than 20 years.


Jennifer Ransom Rice (Moderator)

As Executive Director of the Texas Cultural Trust, Jennifer Ransom Rice oversees the operations of the Trust, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization whose mission is to promote and highlight the importance of the arts in educating our children and sustaining our vibrant Texas economy.  In 2009, the 81st Texas Legislature appropriated $1 million to the Trust to develop an art and digital literacy curriculum and to research and compile best practices from across the state where the arts have successfully been used for economic development. Jennifer earned her MA in journalism from The University of Texas, and BA in mass communications from Midwestern State University. She has almost 20 years experience in public relations and legislative work. As chief of staff for State Senator Florence Shapiro, Jennifer shepherded the Senators legislative package to success, with an emphasis on education and arts education. 



About the Texas Cultural Trust

Established in 1995, the Texas Cultural Trust is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that raises private dollars statewide to elevate the importance of art education and heighten arts awareness. The Texas Cultural Trust supports the programs of the Texas Commission on the Arts and other qualifying state agencies. In addition to the Arts and Digital Literacy Initiative, some of the Trust's other programs include the Young Masters Scholarship Program, Adventures in the ARTS children's book, and Texas Women for the Arts, Founders for the Arts.


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