In an era of shrinking education budgets, it’s often the arts that are the first to be eliminated from school curricula.

Tucson has an exception: The Drawing Studio, which is marking its 21st year of art education as it continues to expand class offerings.

Lynn Fleishman, executive director and a co-founder, says The Drawing Studio's success comes from the fact that classes in the visual arts have the ability to benefit just about anyone.

“Our argument is that the skills of visual thinking are applicable to a wide variety of jobs and professions,” Fleishman says.

The nonprofit visual art cooperative in downtown Tucson has become a prominent component of the local art community. Fleishman says the core curriculum teaches skills of observation “and teaches the skills of paying attention – as odd as that sounds. As anyone that has tried to meditate knows, knowing how to pay attention is not easy.”

Fleishman says local artists led by former University of Arizona Art Professor Andy Rush, a studio co-founder, developed the classes, with a curriculum intended for people of any age or walk of life.