Digital Horizon 

Tucson Museum of Art receives technology grant

The Tucson Museum of Art will soon see an infusion of technology.

Jeff Gardner

The Tucson Museum of Art will soon see an infusion of technology.

Classic paintings needn't fear the touchscreen. With a new grant from the Flinn Foundation, the Tucson Museum of Art is combining their antique collection with the modern world. In December of last year, the TMA staff found out Flinn awarded them the grant. Since then, they've busily planned out a process of how to use it.

The $25,000 isn't to be immediately invested into the museum. It is to "conduct research and develop recommendations for integrating new technology into the museum's programs." That is to say, figure out how technology can improve the museum-going experience.

"An app isn't what we're after." Jeremy Mikolajczak, CEO of the Tucson Museum of Art, says. "If that's the end result, so be it. But we first want to know what tech is out there and how we can benefit the visitors."

Part of researching what tech is out there is by sending a group of participants on a trip to visit other institutes in the United States, including the Cleveland Museum of Art. They will also conduct studies in the local area.

"We're checking out institutes that use technology in interesting ways," Mikolajczak says.

After this six month research period, the Tucson Museum of Art will return to the Flinn Foundation with a report. The report will detail their findings of how exactly technology can best be used to benefit the museum. If all goes according to plan and the report is well received, the museum can receive an additional grant of up to $100,000 for implementation.

Zachary Witter, sales associate for TMA, visited many tech-savvy museums in the past, including the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.

"They had all these different screens for video art and exhibits," Witter says. "iPads took the place of plaques. They displayed the artists' history, full information on the piece -- you discover things about pieces you would never previously know."

This is not the first grant to recently benefit the TMA. Just last summer, the museum received a large expansion and increased their gallery space by almost 20 percent, thanks to grants.

According to Witter, technology in the museum best aids children's education, community programming, and distribution of information to users quickly and accurately.

"It's just a better way for us to interact with visitors," Witter says. "We find new ways to get people to learn about our art."

"It will also guide the museum through data collection to learn about effective technologies and research new models for the advancement of arts education in a digital age." Mikolajczak says.

This six-month "Deeper Planning Grant" is part of the Flinn Foundation's Initiative for Financial and Creative Health. The Initiative's goal, among other things, is to help Arizona's largest arts and culture organizations strengthen their 'Programmatic Core.'

With technological improvements such as these, any art can become interactive art.

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