Ann Markusen on Technology

Ann Markusen, the Director of the Arts Economy Initiative and the Project on Regional and Industrial Economics at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, has focused much of her research and policy making in recent years on the interplay between artists, arts organizations and economic development. One of the key areas of her research involves “creative placemaking,” the idea that accessible arts and creativity can act as the driving force behind transforming a community by improving its livability and strengthening its distinctive cultural character. In both small towns and large cities around the world, economies have been revitalized by small ecosystems of creative entrepreneurs that spark economic activity across the public and private sectors, generating new jobs, filling previously underused building space, and attracting new visitors.

Ann is a frequent public speaker in her area of expertise, and recently made a stop at Heinz College during her recent trip to Pittsburgh to meet with the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council. As a part of the MAM speaker series, she gave an insightful talk about areas of her research, including creative placemaking and audience engagement, which led to healthy discussion among attendees.

Arts Management and Technology contributor Katie Grennan caught up with Ann after her visit to ask her about how she uses technology and how she feels it fits into her research. 

KG: As a busy researcher, public speaker and advisor for many kinds of organizations, how has technology made an impact on your day-to-day work?

AM: I think cell phones are one of the biggest innovations that affect my work on a consistent basis. Almost every day I have some kind of conference call, and I can either do it from my computer or my cell phone. It’s still not the same as meeting people, but it’s very hard to pay for people to meet in person when you are a national organization. Although – sometimes it’s hard to hear who is actually speaking!

KG: How has technology made it easier or harder for social change to occur?

AM: It enables people who communicate. You can find out what people are doing in different places and respond in real time. I can read theLA Times, The Washington Post, and the New York Times first thing every morning - it just pops right up on my screen. I love the in-depth coverage you can get on public radio, accessible through online mediums. Social change movements like feminism, Black Lives Matter, and minimum wage campaigns can organize across states and cities and even international borders, enabled by an internet that permits many more people to communicate almost instantly.

To find out more about Ann Markusen and her fascinating research that has focused in recent years on artists, arts organizations and creative placemaking, visit