Media Arts Center San Diego

aka MACSD, Digital Gym   |   San Diego, CA   |


Providing new media tools and channels to create equitable and engaged communities where underserved voices are heard.

Ruling year info


Principal Officer

Mr. Ethan Patrick van Thillo

Main address

2921 El Cajon Blvd

San Diego, CA 92104 USA

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NTEE code info

Media, Communications Organizations (A30)

Citizen Participation (W24)

Community, Neighborhood Development, Improvement (S20)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

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Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

San Diego Latino Film Festival

The San Diego Latino Film Festival (SDLFF) is a multi-faceted two-week film festival each March that includes Latino art and music, film workshops for professionals and community outreach programs for youth and families and discussion. Now in its 26th year, SDLFF has developed into the 2nd largest and well-respected Latino film festivals in the country. Over 300,000 people have attended past festivals, and 2000+ films and videos from Latin America and the United States have been screened.

Population(s) Served

The Teen Producers Project (TPP), in its tenth year, engages local teens, ages 11-18, from diverse economic and cultural backgrounds who live in the San Diego/Tijuana border region. Its mission is to educate youth in media arts and emerging technologies for use in self-expression, communication, and documentation, so youth may reinforce their academic skills, continue higher education, and become social entrepreneurs and leaders in their communities working for empowering social change.

Population(s) Served

The Digital Gym provides the tech tools and professional media artists that help individuals and groups of all ages drop by the center for fun, creative and enriching media making activities. Hands on digital media workshops are for geeks, children and families in San Diego. DIY (do-it-yourself) workshops and camps make media-making accessible and fun. D.I.Y. is a program of MEDIA ARTS Center San Diego | Funded in part by the James Irvine Foundation and support from makers like you

Population(s) Served

Explore character, composition, and sound as you create a series of hands-on video projects. This camp provides many possibilities of creative media making.
Work with live-action video, stop-motion animation, interactive media and design, sound recording, digital photography, and more. Use software such as iStopMotion, GarageBand, and iMovie.Every week-long camp ends with a screening and exhibition for family and friends!

Population(s) Served

Where we work

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

MACSD nurtures and supports media artists working in film, video, audio and computer-based multimedia. Founded to challenge the historical exclusion of under-represented communities from the media arts field and the distorted images of these communities by mainstream media, MACSD seeks to provide a forum for and promote the diversity of interests of San Diego Border Region media artists through screenings, educational outreach, film festivals, distribution, production, tech assistance, scholarships and fiscal sponsorships. Our overall goal is to remain consistent, relevant and continue to reach under-represented communities. This year we will be celebrating our 21st anniversary in the biggest production our organization puts on, The San Diego Latino Film Festival. This festival creates lasting and meaningful change as it reaches many surrounding communities, populations, and helps to support our youth programming through eleven days of local to global cinema, arts and music about the Latino experience.

MACSD’s long-term goals for planned impact include partnerships, strategies and programming which empower voices of all ages and groups in San Diego’s underrepresented communities, with access to current media technology and training. Media arts, digital and mobile media tools all enable participants to creatively express their own authentic images, hopes and concerns about their daily lives. This helps to better inform mainstream media with more authentic portrayals to share with the wider San Diego border region. Most MACSD target populations live with low to moderate incomes, and are challenged by immigration issues, poverty, unemployment and violence. Many are refugees from war-torn African nations, Latinos and immigrants. Media arts training and tools enable people to tell their stories, and to critically analyze issues that affect them and their communities. Youth especially benefit from 21st century academic, social, team building and job readiness skills; plus, they explore emerging digital media careers with professionals in the field.

Key strategies to accomplish our long-term goals and outcomes include: Continuing to provide programs to target audiences and enabling them to be involved in as many aspects of the media arts field as possible; and networking and partnership building with community stakeholders, to better inform us about programming directions, relevancy and prospective audiences.

Strategies to reach across cultures and generations include our exhibitions, workshops and our educational based programs. Our strategic programming includes: Now Showing Film Screenings: In addition to the San Diego Latino Film Festival, we’ve created Cinema en Tu Idioma: The Monthly Latino Film/Video Series; Que Viva Cine Latino Film Series; the new summer Exitos del Cine Latino; and weekly, independent, culturally diverse Latino/ global cinema reflecting the neighborhoods at our new and nearby Digital Gym theater. This all helps to optimize community participation; and at our bi-annual SDLFF and Exitos Latino film, art and music festivals at Digiplex Cinemas, MACSD also shares its year-round programming and partnerships.

MACSD is a resource and catalyst to the growing community of film and video makers in the San Diego area. As such, our strategies in Education & Learning programming include: Filmmaker Workshops, Youth Media and Tech Camps; Mobile Stories; the Speak City Heights Media Collaborative; Teen Producers Project - an education program for migrant and at-risk youth that provides instruction in technical production and narrative development. Student work is aired on such media outlets as KPBS Evening News & Univision KBNT. Our Create & Produce programs cover: Filmmaker/ video equipment, services; professional development and one to one trainings; Media Artist Fiscal Sponsorship Program; Frontera Filmmakers’ productions; Storefront video installations; and Digital Story Stations in 45 California libraries.

MACSD's newest effort for expanding audiences is the Digital Gym ( community technology center. Funded in part by the James Irvine Foundation, the Digital Gym includes a Cinema, Store, New Media Lounge, outdoor garden space; and provides media arts workshops, trainings, and movie screenings. Our Digital Gym is also rejuvenating the iconic El Cajon Blvd. business corridor with inviting and limitless digital arts possibilities. Our programming strategies engage new audiences who may have no previous connection to our work, while deepening relationships with our Festival-going audiences via interactive media arts workshops and new media and technology opportunities designed for children, youth, families, and adults of all ages.

Both MACSD’s internal and external capabilities help to accomplish the organization’s goals and outcomes. MACSD staff and board expertise include multiple facets of media arts fields; technology innovation; community leadership; business and community-building, and together all cover more than 100 years of experience.

Founder and Executive Director, Ethan van Thillo, has been programming Latino film festivals and events since 1989. In 1994, Ethan transformed Cine Estudiantil into the San Diego Latino Film Festival (SDLFF); and in 1999 he broadened the festival’s scope by establishing MACSD. Ethan has served on various funding panels and the national nominating committee for Rockefeller Foundation’s 2004 Film and Video Fellowships and NEA’s funding panel for Media Arts. The staff at MACSD also shares the same passion for media arts, and brings education, outreach, and membership expertise; plus, media documentary, business, festival critiquing and programming skills to enrich strategies and programming.

MACSD has created relationships and partnerships with many organizations that have awarded grants to make this mission possible, including: the City of San Diego, James Irvine Foundation, Qualcomm, The Parker Foundation, San Diego Foundation, County of San Diego and the Lawrence Family Jewish Community to name a few. On a networking level, MACSD and AzraeLola Productions; Brazil Initiative; California Center for the Arts, Escondido; SDSU’s Center for Latin American Studies; Neighborhood House Association; Equality Alliance of San Diego; SD Workforce Partnership; and San Diego FUTURES Foundation to name a few, all collaborate. With Medicis Communication support, MACSD reaches more audiences across the Latino and Spanish-speaking communities in San Diego and Baja California. We will continue to build on our relationships and stronger connections with our current partners, as well as reach out to new organizations that can assist in growing our goals.

As MACSD focuses on our recent programming and organizational outcomes, our progress is informing and propelling us toward our long-term goals to better empower diverse community voices to be heard; to have multiple modes and venues to be listened to; and for those under-represented populations to more actively engage in their communities using the cutting-edge tools of digital and social media, for education, entertainment and enhanced, authentic communication.

The most important strategies that we are identifying include the limitless possibilities of synergizing community collaborations to maximize resources and community outreach. Over the last two decades, we’ve learned to creatively persevere; to be nimble and to provide programming flexibility that better meets target populations’ needs and interests. Former students are media artist professionals and now filmmakers screening at SDLFF. Our after-school tech camps for children and youth are particularly popular due to word-of-mouth/ social media interest and neighborhood convenience. The evolving Digital Gym – store, media lounge, 50-seat theater, work labs and garden space are a local phenomenon of neighborhood rejuvenation, bringing additional shops nearby, and garnering MACSD an El Cajon Business District honor.

What works is staff and programming flexibility. Obstacles to growth or outcomes include funding source variability. After the economic downturn, funding has been slower to rebound. Likewise, our part-time staff and interns are continuing their educational and career pursuits; so staff consistency has been challenging in the past.

The Digital Gym concept and programming allows for both staff and programming flexibility in numbers and types of workshops, screenings, store products, etc. Increasing funding, video production service contracts and Digital Gym directions, will further realize MACSD’s long-term goals.


Media Arts Center San Diego

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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.


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Media Arts Center San Diego

Board of directors
as of 6/4/2019
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board co-chair

Mr. Adolfo Ventura

MAAC Project, Chief Operating Officer

Board co-chair

Mr. Paul Espinosa

President, Espinosa Productions

Linda Caballero-Sotelo

President, COO Toltec Media Inc.

Daniel Cruz Gonzalez

Retired City of San Diego Director

Ethan van Thillo

Media Arts Center San Diego

Vanessa Barron

San Diego Blood Bank

Francisco Mata

San Ysidro School District

John Kiladis

San Diego Gas & Electric

Gustavo Perez

Ernst & Young LLP

Shelby Batchelor-Courtney

Pastoral & Hospice Adviser

Cindy Cesare

CBS News

Taina Berardi

Holistic Health Entrepreneur

Gustavo Rios


Maria Toscano

Coldwell Banker/Pacific Coast Commercial

Alberto Cruz

JAMR Properties, LLC

Mia Fiorella

La Jolla Playhouse

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes