Mad students visit Paramount studios
MAD students visit Paramount Studios
The Multimedia Arts and Design Academy at Santa Barbara High School opened its doors in 1997 as a “school within a school” intended to provide a strong academic curriculum and occupation-based training in a variety of marketable digital media-arts skills. The academy was further charged with bringing this engaging, career-focused education to students from diverse ethnic, socio-economic and academic backgrounds.

Beginning with 47 students (only two were girls) and a few computers, the academy has grown tremendously since then under the leadership of academy director, Dan Williams, fulfilling its early promise and continuing to respond, innovate and evolve going forward. The academic and technical aspects of the curriculum have been supplemented by an additional focus on building the sense of community within MAD and serving the greater community beyond it.

Computer Lab circa 1998
Enrollment grew to 150 students per year in 2007 and reached 250 for the 2011-2012 school year, with increased staff, a full-time counselor and more technology than ever. Forty percent of MAD students are now girls, and the academy’s Latino population has doubled for three consecutive years. Annual Fund contributions have grown logarithmically, from $5,000 to $180,000 per year. An MOU with the Santa Barbara School District enhanced stability by formalizing the academy operations within the high school, and partnerships with Santa Barbara City College and Brooks Institute of Photography have brought the area’s best media-arts educators into the academy.
Dan Williams receives signed photo of graduating class in 1999

In 2008, MAD was awarded a CTE Modernization Grant and Loan to update and increase the size of the MAD facilities from 2,500 square feet in the current building to 6,500 square feet in the renovated former trade-arts building on Nopal Street. Construction is set to take place during summer 2012, with classes starting in fall.

Parents have taken on ever-greater responsibilities, such as organizing monthly student lunches, running the lounge, and spearheading any number of committee efforts for art shows, trips, marketing, fundraisers and more.

MAD Team Building Retreat

Programs and initiatives have been added, including the MAD Tutorial Center and MAD Bridges, a diversity-focused partnership program that prepares Santa Barbara Junior High School students for entrance into the academy. The after-school MAD Elements class allows students to increase their technical skills, and students in MAD Studio take on a professional level of accountability while providing digital-media services to local businesses and organizations.


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