Cary McQueen Morrow: Arts and Technology Thought Leader

BlogHer Original Post

In two weeks, several hundred arts leaders from around the country will gather on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University to discuss the role of technology in the arts field at the Technology in the Arts Conference.   Cary McQueen Morrow, executive director of the Center for Arts Management and Technology, is the woman and visionary who organized this landmark event.

(Disclaimer:  I'm on the honorary committee because 13 years ago I worked on an online artist network with the New York Foundation for the Arts and CAMT was the partner.)

1.    Tell me a little bit about how you got into arts management?  Many of us started off as artists and then ended up managing arts organizations.  Was that your progression?

Actually, I’m one of those people who made a conscious decision to become an arts manager. In undergrad I earned a BFA in photography  as well as a BA in social thought and analysis. As I thought about my future, I knew I wanted to do something that would allow me to use my practical/analytical skills while still being involved in the arts and other creative pursuits. Arts management was the perfect combination, so I did my graduate work in arts management  and the rest is history!

2.    Right now you are the executive director of  CAMT.  Can you tell me a little bit about your work there?

CAMT lives at the intersection of the information technology and arts management fields. We work with arts organizations from around the country to help them find ways that technology can help them fulfill their missions, increase internal efficiencies, and facilitate communication with their constituents.

As an applied research center, we are also able to build software tools when there isn’t a viable option available from the commercial sector. For example, we’ve recently launched a new product, CueRate, which allows organizations to collect digital images and review them in a panel for fellowships, juried exhibitions, art school admissions, etc.

3.    Why are you organizing a technology and the arts conference?

The main reason is that we hear from arts managers all the time about their need for more information about how they can use technology to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively. There are such great tools available now, and the non-profit community has come such a long way in terms of our thinking about the role of technology in our organizations (thanks in large part to organizations like N-TEN), but the arts sector seems to lag behind. My experience shows that that most of our lagging is simply because we’re not aware of what’s out there. This conference is designed to fill in some of those knowledge gaps.

4.    I see that you have started a conference blog.   Why did you set up a blog?  Who is blogging on it?

We wanted an informal way to communicate with the folks who are interested in Technology in the Arts (the conference and the topic) on a day to day basis.

We have five main bloggers for the site: myself, CAMT’s director of projects and sales Brad Stephenson, and our three fabulously talented conference coordinator interns: Katie Guernsey, Annie Rosenthal and Laura Zamarripa.

5.    Is blogging a topic that is covered in any of the arts management courses? 

Blogging is definitely covered in one of the IT Management courses, and I believe it’s also addressed in a marketing class.

6.    You’ve worked in the arts and technology field for quite some time now.  What are you most excited about these days?

The rapidly expanding availability of Content Management Systems for Web sites. When we first started working with organizations to put up Web sites ten years ago, the only real option available for them was HTML content. Increased availability of WYSIWYG editors like Dreamweaver and FrontPage helped a lot, but managing content still typically fell to one person within the organization – there was no practical way to distribute content development and posting.

I am tremendously excited by the possibilities afforded by the growing number of commercial and open source content management systems out there, as well as the fact that the prices keep coming down and will soon be within range of any arts organization.

This also reminds me of your earlier question about our work at CAMT. One of the things I love most about my job is the ability we have at CAMT to respond to needs in a very dynamic way. When CAMT first opened our doors, we provided training and classes in HTML for arts managers. For several years we also built custom CMS for arts organizations because we could do so at a much lower cost than they could find elsewhere. Now, we work with organizations to help them identify their Web authoring needs and select one of the many CMS options available in the market.

7.    What worries you the most about the field?

The opinion that I come across from time to time among executive directors that they don’t need to learn about technology… that someone else can just handle this for them.

If arts organizations are going to remain relevant in this information age we simply must use technology strategically to connect with our audiences. We already compete with home entertainment, sports, movies and other leisure experiences… Handicapping ourselves further by not providing engaging, interactive content online and on site will eventually make us irrelevant.

8.    What advice would you offer someone who is interested in entering the arts management field – either as first career or changing careers?

I would start by identifying an organization in your community that does phenomenal work and go work with them on a volunteer basis. Get to know what’s involved in keeping the organization going from day to day and year to year, and discover what aspect of management resonates best with you… Is it education? Marketing? Development? Curating? Programming? Finance?

You might need additional training, depending on what you want to do. There are great resources out there to help. In addition to the wonderful degree programs available, most communities have arts councils that offer workshops and training.

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