A roundtable of local arts voices gathered to discuss the importance of arts education, and what role art has played in the Tucson community.

With recent budget cuts in education, art classes seem to be the first to be gutted.

"There does seem to be in our society at the moment a mistrust of intellectual pursuits of many sorts, the arts among them," said Daniel Buckley, a local filmmaker and artist. "I don't know whether it's government or a response to dumbing down of society, but one...that...artists are not seen as the important element of the city that they once were."

Art influenced a lot of the revitalization of downtown Tucson. Michael Keith, CEO of Downtown Tucson Partnership, said art played a tremendous role in the area's development.

"...The performing arts have been an anchor in downtown for 50 years, but the visual arts...2nd Saturdays, the murals that have gone out...the transformation of Tool Avenue..." he said. "As we move forward, the soul of the community is expressed through its artists. If we don't find a way to keep them downtown...we are not really going to achieve who we are."

David Aguirre, a Tucson artist and entrepreneur, said he expects to see more growth in the area, particularly in what is known now as the Warehouse Arts District.

"There is a long history of artistic...basic revitalization...and I think we are seeing some of the results of that in downtown Tucson," he said. "In the surrounding areas, too. We see more energy going down Fourth Avenue..."

But in the 1980s and '90s, east of Broadway Boulevard was known as the arts district, Aguirre said.

"East of Broadway...artists were there before the current tenants...we had a number of galleries, it was known as the arts district, now artists are starting to move off to the edges...to the Warehouse District...the city has helped us get space there that is going to be permanent artists' space," he said.

But the growth is also happening in the classrooms, despite budget cuts.

Tucson Unified School District's Opening Minds Through the Arts has brought professional artists to its classrooms to teach students about math, writing and science.

"They are transforming schools, bringing that creative problem solving and those strengths that bring energy to the schools," said Joan Ashcraft, director of fine arts at TUSD, OMA.