College of Fine Arts, School of Art

When Tia Stephens needed a local issue to explore for her honors capstone documentary film project, the School of Art graduating senior picked a topic we sometimes take for granted in the desert.


“Every day I interact with water in the most intimate of ways and yet I had no idea where this water came from and how it was managed,” Stephens said. “This disconnect from our most precious resource is something that I’ve noticed all around me, and so I want this film to serve as a way to reconnect people with water.”

“Every Last Drop,” Stephens’ feature-length documentary, explores Southern Arizona’s water practices and policy. A free screening of the film will be held Tuesday, May 2, at 7 p.m. at The Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway.

Tia Stephens

Stephens blended her skills as a Studio Art student in Photography, Video and Imaging along with her multimedia journalistic skills gained as an editor at the Arizona Daily Wildcat.

For the past 18 months, Stephens collaborated with film students, obtained grants, consulted water and hydrology experts, and executed a data research project to bring “Tucson’s water story to life,” she said. In the film, experts include a faculty and student, and officials from Tucson Water, the Senora Project and the Apache Nation.

“Water must be priority number one for us in Arizona,” Stephens said, “and currently it’s clearly not. I think most people are aware of how important water conservation is, but … we need to bridge the separation that exists between us and the planet and stop seeing it as merely a resource to use.”

Stephens grew up in Flagstaff, speaking out on climate issues at the Arizona Capitol as a senior in high school.

It also helps that Stephens has a keen sense of how government works as a Political Science double-major in International Relations in the College of Social & Behavioral Sciences.

“With her high quality of work, a 4.0 GPA and her leadership across activities, Tia is doing exceptional community-engaged research on environmental issues,” said Marcos Serafim, her capstone project adviser and School of Art assistant professor.

“Tia’s exceptional creative practice is informed by her journalistic agency and her knowledge of world politics,” he said, “frequently employing investigative strategies to generate poetics and artwork about relevant social issues.”

Serafim “guided me every step of the way,” said Stephens, who will graduate Summa Cum Laude with honors with her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.

“He gave me the space to dream big and be ambitious and connected me with the resources I needed to get the project running,” she said. “I have learned so much under his mentorship and am forever changed as an artist because of it.”

After graduation, Stephens has a summer internship with AmeriCorps as a videographer.

“My immediate plans are to stay in town, take a much-needed rest, and do some self-discovery in order to figure out my next steps as an artist,” she said. “Eventually, I plan to pursue an MFA, but first want to gain some work and life experience.”