The city of Tucson is partnering with local nonprofits and school districts to expose schoolchildren to art, history and science.

Mayor Jonathan Rothschild launched the Great Start initiative Wednesday, which links cultural institutions to school districts for children to experience art shows, symphony performances and more.

“I want our school districts to have the ability to work closely with our cultural institutions,” Rothschild said during a news conference at City Hall.

Students who live below the poverty line typically have higher barriers to accessing arts, said H.T. Sanchez, superintendent of the Tucson Unified School District.

If schools don’t facilitate, some may never visit an art museum or an orchestra performance, Sanchez said.

“It provides access to kids who don’t otherwise have the opportunity,” he said of the Great Start program.

Through the initiative, each participating organizations donated 150 to 200 tickets to their respective institutions, which were split evenly between the Amphitheater, Tucson Unified, Sunnyside, Flowing Wells and Vail school districts.

Organizations that contributed tickets, vouchers or coupons are: the Arizona Historical Society, the Children’s Museum Tucson, the Jewish History Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Reid Park Zoo, the Tucson Museum of Art, the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, the University of Arizona Museum of Art and the Arizona Theatre Company Tucson.

Each district will get to decide how those tickets are given out.

Tucson Unified, for example, will work with its art teachers to identify students who have shown growth, Sanchez said.

Many children will never get to see an elephant, tiger or a rhino in their natural habitats, said Jason Jacobs, Reid Park Zoo administrator.

Going to a museum should be a right for every child, not a privilege, said Michael Luria, executive director of Children’s Museum Tucson.

Through Great Start, Rothschild said he hopes to create a community of tolerance, diversity, experience and imagination.

“It all has to start with an invitation,” he said.

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