MMIAM Graduate and Gallery Owner Showcases Quebec Artists to the World: In Conversation with Anne D’Amours McDonald

Anne D'Amours McDonald (Photo: Étienne L. Côté).

Anne D'Amours McDonald (Photo: Étienne L. Côté).Anne D’Amours McDonald graduated from the MMIAM programme’s third cohort in 2016. Prior to her studies, she completed Bachelor and Master degrees in Fine Art and worked as an arts manager for several art galleries in her hometown of Québec City. Following her MMIAM studies, Anne returned home and founded Galerie.a to develop an international network of artists and collectors for contemporary art from Quebec. Laura Adlers interviewed Anne recently to discuss her new business and becoming a cultural entrepreneur.


Why did you decide to pursue graduate studies in international arts management?

More and more museums are programming international projects, featuring international artists, or shared exhibitions between countries. In 2006, I was so impressed with the exhibition «Le Louvre à Québec» at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec. I was shocked to realize that a giant work of art in marble could travel across the ocean for this amazing show and wanted to gain the knowledge and tools needed to work on these kinds of projects. I liked that the MMIAM programme covered a broad range of skills and subjects needed to be a better arts manager.

At the time, I was also very aware that in Quebec, we are very regionalized and we have very few exchanges with cultural organizations outside of our region and I really wanted to gain new knowledge in the programme and return to Québec City to develop new projects.

Tell us about your business and your primary responsibilities?

I run a gallery, but for me, it’s more than an exhibition space, it’s a platform to promote artists through a broad range of projects. I work with local Quebec artists, many are people with whom I have studied. My goal is to tell the story of their art in order to sell it, because when potential buyers learn about an individual’s work of art, they see the value and enjoy it more. I want to help these artists make a living by promoting their artwork and allowing them to continue making their art. At the moment, I am working with four artists, but in a year, I plan to be engaged with twelve.

Through my MMIAM studies, I developed new strategies for showcasing Quebec artists to international markets. Another MMIAM graduate, Yan Gu, has partnered with me and is showing my artists’ work to potential clients in Shanghai. I am now trying to duplicate this model with someone in Montréal who works with galleries and potential buyers in Mexico City and South America.

At the moment, I am doing a lot of market research, visiting the art fairs in Montréal, Toronto, Seattle, New York City, learning about what sells and what doesn’t, how other galleries market their artists and what their success rates are. The art fairs are good events to be a part of, as you can reach a targetted critical mass over these weekends and you can receive market development grants from the government to attend and exhibit. Exhibiting at these fairs is a major part of my business strategy at the moment.

Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?

One of the reasons people become entrepreneurs is out of need, because when you graduate from such a unique programme as the MMIAM, you have very specialized knowledge and experience and, in my case, I was looking for a very specific role in a unique creative environment. I really needed to find my place here in Québec City, because I had no intention of moving elsewhere. I found that the easiest way for me to find my place and build the kind of project I had envisioned was to become an entrepreneur.

When and how did you start your business?

I actually wrote my first business plan for this gallery in 2012, which combined my two personalities and passions: my creative side of artist and curator, and my business side, the organizer, manager, salesperson. I had decided at that time that I wanted to run my own art gallery, but at the time the plan seemed too complicated and not feasible, so I paused it to gain experience and build confidence. I decided to complete my MFA and then completed the MMIAM programme.

In the spring of this year, I decided to revisit and rewrite my business plan, armed with new knowledge from my studies. The Montréal magazine Les Affaires organizes a pitch contest every year called “Launch a Start-up in Seven Days with $700”, and I entered and was a finalist. This exercise really motivated me to just go for it and launch my business.

Conference with Paolo Barata, President of the Venice Biennale (Photo: Alex Turrini)

Conference with Paolo Barata, President of the Venice Biennale (Photo: Alex Turrini).

Which MMIAM campus abroad was the most memorable for you and why?

I would have to say Milan, for the reason that it was the last campus. Milan was so different from Dallas. During my fine art studies and business planning, I always thought about what I could create, what new ideas I should be working on. I never stopped to think about heritage, preserving and restoring what we have. That was a big wake-up call for me in Milan, despite the fact that Québec City is also a UNESCO designated heritage city. I really enjoyed the site visits in Milan, many of which were related to heritage preservation. These were very unexpected and fascinating visits. I felt like I was discovering a new universe all over again after learning so much in Dallas, Montréal and, Bogotá.

In addition, I wrote my thesis about the Venice Biennale, and the SDA Bocconi faculty arranged for me to have a private meeting with the Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the Biennale as part of my research. We also had a site visit to the Biennale and met with the President. These connections would likely not have happened if I had not been in the MMIAM programme. The faculty helped me reach my thesis research goal in a very concrete way.

View of the Venice Biennale's Palazzo (photo: Anne D'Amours McDonald).

View of the Venice Biennale’s Palazzo (photo: Anne D’Amours McDonald).


Empowering Arts Leaders with High-Quality Data and Evidence-Based Resources: In Conversation with SMU DataArts Director Zannie Giraud Voss

Professor Zannie Voss presenting (Photo: Kim Leeson).

Professor Zannie Voss (Photo: Kim Leeson)Zannie Giraud Voss Ph.D. is Director of SMU DataArts as well as Chair and Professor of Arts Management and Arts Entrepreneurship in the Meadows School of the Arts and the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University. She is also one of the co-creators of the MMIAM programme. Laura Adlers interviewed Professor Voss recently to discuss the evolution of the MMIAM programme and her new role as Director of SMU DataArts.

You are one of the co-chairs and co-creators of the MMIAM programme, now in its sixth year. How has the programme evolved since it was first launched?

The biggest evolution since launching is now having a fabulous alumni base – a very welcome addition to the programme!

We have learned over time how to ease the transition to new countries and how to help students be mindful that the ability to adapt to new cultures is an essential part of what they learn in the programme.  The course content has also evolved.  We communicate with students and our international advisory board about whether students are getting out of the programme what they need in order to be successful in their chosen careers, and we have made adjustments to meet those needs.

What is the focus of study for the MMIAM programme at Southern Methodist University?

The students begin the programme at SMU.  Our intial thought in designing curriculum was for each of the universities to provide students course offerings that reflect the strengths of their faculty and strengths of the unique aspects of each country’s way of producing/presenting/ exhibiting arts and culture.  Towards these ends, the focus of study at SMU is on comparative international cultural policy, international law and the arts, arts budgeting and nonprofit financial management, cultural economics and the international art market, and fundraising in the arts.

Why do you think the specific study of international arts management is important for the profession and for the cultural sector?

First, the arts market is international, so it makes sense to prepare those going into the profession for that reality.  The arts are borderless.  There are international tours in the performing arts.  Dance, music, plays, and opera are interpreted and performed outside their country of origin.  There are global distribution systems for films, books, and recorded music.  Works of art are exchanged by museums around the globe, and exhibitions travel internationally.  Those who want to work in this arena need to understand that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all cultural lens on how work gets done.

Second, regardless of how well someone understands the ecosystem of arts and culture in their own country, there is always something to be learned by studying how the arts are produced, presented, valued, and consumed in other countries.  Diversity of perspectives helps us to assess the benefits of alternative models.  Good ideas can come from anywhere.

Professor Zannie Voss presenting (Photo: Kim Leeson).

Professor Zannie Voss presenting (Photo: Kim Leeson).


In August 2018, SMU announced a merger between the National Center for Arts Research and DataArts and the news that you are leading this exciting new organization. Can you tell us more about SMU DataArts and the work you and your team are doing?

SMU DataArts exists to empower arts and cultural leaders with high-quality data and evidence-based resources and insights that help them to overcome challenges and increase impact.  We collect data from arts and cultural organizations and link it to data on their communities.  Out of this, we generate insights and knowledge, and then personalize this knowledge to individual organizations through the creation of online tools. In essence, we are providing arts leaders more knowledge about their organizations out of their own data. We undertake this work to help the national field of arts and cultural organizations be increasingly essential, robust and sustainable contributors to their communities and to have more resources to direct to mission-related work.  Our intention is that by making the simple things simple, we can help a growing number of organizations make the hard things possible.

What are some of the notable trends you are seeing through your research of the U.S. cultural sector in recent years?

Arts and cultural organizations in the U.S. are facing headwinds. There is environmental uncertainty related to changes that affect tax-deductibility of contributions, regular threats to the elimination of federal arts funding, and changing consumer preferences that favor digital, on-demand consumption. Moreover, the organizations are largely cash-strapped and unprepared to weather another economic downturn, with working capital shrinking by 55% for the average organization between 2013 and 2016, and average attendance on the decline for more than half of the arts and cultural sectors. Arming those who lead these organizations with more facts, knowledge, and tools related to organizational health is essential for long-term sustainability.



Creating Brand Identity in Art Museums: A Case Study (Abridged)

KIASMA Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki

by Sofia Pusa and Liisa Uusitalo

Based on the experience of three modern and contemporary art museums in Helsinki, the authors discuss how to create brand identity in art museums. The combination of marketing and art has long been considered ill matched, according to the assumption that marketing will automatically degrade the inner value and distinctiveness of art and favour only the most popular and superficial. However, as shown by several studies on arts organizations, skillful marketing can contribute to cultural education and attract the interest of new audiences – in other words, upgrade the audience’s competence instead of downgrading art. Brand identity carries the museum’s purpose and can be evaluated on the following dimensions: product, person, symbolic and organization-related.

When the museum is perceived as a product, attention should be paid to both the core product (collections and exhibitions) and the augmented product (museum services, such as the museum shop or educational programs). When the museum wants to differentiate itself, it may create a brand personality through references to specific persons or user groups (artists, art enthusiasts, designers) with whom consumers may identify.  When the meanings associated with a brand become widely accepted, the brand can be said to represent something beyond itself: it becomes a symbol, something that embodies the visual imagery, a logo, a slogan, a metaphor or a meaningful heritage story. Finally, a museum brand may represent a whole organization, with its unique set of values, culture, behaviours, assets and skills, that delivers the museum experience to the customers.

KIASMA Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki.

KIASMA Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki.

According to the museum and marketing directors interviewed, the marketing role in museums consists often of promotion through traditional exhibition-based advertising. Museums use their websites and social media to expand their visibility due to their cost-effective and powerful nature. As well, the museums’ ability to advertise depends on their partnership arrangements, for example with television stations. Management of networks is perceived as an important part of a museum’s brand management by maintaining relationships with other cultural organizations, sponsors and financial partners.

By using new creative approaches, museums can strengthen their brand identity and gain visibility. Creative marketing can comprise cross-over events such as lectures, concerts, films, DJ evenings, and even skateboard design competitions. Creative marketing seems to be most efficient when it is built on the unique features of an ongoing exhibition and, at the same time, supports the museum’s brand identity.

In conclusion, the brand identity of a museum is based mainly on the scope and type of its collections and exhibitions. This suggests that museums act fairly autonomously in planning their core product. Exhibitions are meant to “surprise” visitors by providing art experiences thus far unknown to them. This proactive strategy is particularly true for museums of contemporary and modern art. The implications of this research are that museums could broaden their perspectives and, in their marketing activities, progress from exhibition-based promotion towards a more comprehensive brand-identity marketing.

Read the full article in the International Journal of Arts Management, Volume 17, Number 1, Fall 2014.