Jan. 16, 2013 — Rough construction of the MAC with paper tree and English Building in the background
Jan. 16, 2013 — Rough construction of the MAC.

The Media Arts Center at Palo Alto High School supports the growing demand for the teaching of media arts in the 21st century. Built in the heart of Silicon Valley, the 23,000-square-foot building houses 600 students a day engaged in photography, video production, audio music production, multi-platform journalism (radio/podcast, television, print, web and social media) and more. The journalism program alone houses a competitive media marketplace for an ever-changing stable of between a half-dozen and dozen publications, including many award-winners and some titles (The Campanile newspaper and Madrono yearbook) dating back more than a century. 

The MAC was funded in 2008 by a bond passed by Palo Alto voters as well as a $2.7 million grant from the State of California. In addition, as a result of efforts from our Paly MAC Booster parent group, multiple foundations and families have donated to support interior furnishings, equipment, and other support for the programs in the building.

The goal of the MAC program is to provide state-of-the-art, project-based educational opportunities for students, with an emphasis five founding principles (borrowed from the former San Jose Mercury News reporter Chris O’Brien’s Next Newsroom project): Community, Collaboration, Innovation, Multi-platform publishing, and Transparency

The Campanile (Oct. 13, 2014)
The Campanile (Oct. 13, 2014)

True to its purpose, the MAC involved students as far back as 2008, when students from across the school’s media arts programs were asked to design their own versions of the building, with the five founding principles in mind. The most popular of these ideas were integrated into the building’s conceptual design presented to the Board of Education in September 2009.

The community’s appreciation for the conceptual design of the project was recorded by The Paly Voice on Sept. 26, 2009, in “School Board enthusiastically approves new media arts center and classrooms.” In January 2010, Palo Alto Online reporter Chris Kenrick recorded a similar reaction after a presentation of the schematic design to the board in “Paly, Gunn teachers laud campus building plans” (Jan. 13, 2010) 

As the building neared its opening in 2014 and the student press at Paly gained access in early hardhat tours, it became clear that the MAC was indeed something special.

Beyond Palo Alto, the MAC also was making its mark as an achievement in scholastic architecture and a landmark for student free expression, from the First Amendment sign affixed outside the main entrance to the student-selected comic headlines immortalized on tiles on the bathroom walls. .

The most significant press occurred in fall 2014, when the school hosted a three-day celebration of its opening.

Palo Alto Weekly cover (Oct. 17, 2014)
Palo Alto Weekly cover (Oct. 17, 2014)