Imagine entering a television and radio studio. On-air talent is interviewing a local hero in one space and introducing a jazz piece in a booth around the corner. Down the corridor is a performance venue, with live music playing as a visiting dance ensemble takes the stage. The combination of media creates a captivating atmosphere that immerses people in a world where different art forms and intellectual discourse merge.
That’s what the future has in store at the Paul and Alice Baker Center for Public Media at the University of Arizona Tech Park at The Bridges. The new facility is an upgrade for Arizona Public Media, Southern Arizona’s award-winning public media organization. AZPM’s studios currently reside in cramped and technologically outdated headquarters in the basement of the Modern Languages Building on campus, making public access somewhat difficult.
“I am wildly excited about the possibilities this new facility will bring,” says Jack Gibson, AZPM CEO. “I’m also humbled and honored to have so many donors place their trust, faith and treasury behind the work that we do. They are more than donors to us: They are friends. They offer their experiences and perspectives, taking a sincere interest in the work and the difference we can make in people’s lives.”
The new center, which is 100% donor funded, will welcome the community to an inside look into AZPM’s television and radio studios. It also will offer a gathering space for entertainment and community activities — a convening ground for open debates, presentations, screenings and other events intended to bring the community together. Expansion, innovation and new partnerships will be made possible thanks to the many donors who have supported the AZPM facility upgrade. It is scheduled to break ground February 2024.
“We are pleased to help bring Arizona Public Media into the 21st century. While we know the programming is of such high quality that no improvement is needed, we want AZPM to be able to accomplish its mission in a proper, welcoming space and with the most advanced technology available,” say the Bakers, longtime university supporters.
The new, state-of-the-art facility, which will include the latest in audio-visual and connectivity technology, also will help AZPM attract, recruit and retain talented staff and supporters and add new revenue streams through facility rentals. The main studio will include retractable seating, permanent balcony seating and 5,000 square feet of space that can accommodate large performance groups.
“AZPM has stood the test of time as an important part of our community and our lives. Our children and grandchildren were raised on PBS shows like ‘Sesame Street’ and ‘Mr. Rogers.’ Now, we watch PBS almost daily,” the Bakers say. “We can’t wait to see the ways AZPM will continue to evolve. We share the excitement of so many and know the increased technical capabilities and improved physical space and location will impact all of us in important ways.”
AZPM staff and students are in for a treat as well. New workspaces, designed for maximum collaboration, will offer mobility, flexibility and efficiency while content creators work in spaces designed for optimal productivity.
For students like Jordan Chin, working at AZPM makes all the difference. He graduated in May with a bachelor of arts degree in broadcast journalism and will enter the university’s master’s program in bilingual journalism this fall.
Chin was recognized with his first Rocky Mountain Emmy® award for an “Arizona Illustrated” segment called “Hearing Isaiah” about Tucson environmentalist Isaiah Haley, who is a “cause for hope and optimism about a clean, safe and more sustainable future.”
Chin says, “Everyone at AZPM is super talented, and it’s been a great learning opportunity. I’ve learned to flourish and fail because producers are willing to give me actual feedback and ways to improve. And that’s what I really appreciate.”
As for Gibson, he sees a path to the future that includes a vision of a community “in which ideas abound, knowledge is sought and learning never ends.”