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Graphic by Regie Mauricio

A new Arts Initiative website is set to launch in the middle of the semester, according to Executive Director of the Arts Initiative and Miller Theatre Melissa Smey.

The current website "doesn't best reflect our current programs and services," Smey said.

Students had identified the outdated website among other concerns in the "Save the Arts Initiative" petition, which garnered about 1,300 signatures, since November.

"The website is no longer continually updated and has stopped being a central resource for Columbians interested in the arts, and often lists information years out of date as if it were current," the petition said.

Smey's primary concern is to create a more user-friendly experience.

Her team has been working with an outside consultant since last May to initiate the new website, but will not launch the new website until it has feedback from an advisory group consisting of students, faculty, and staff. The petition also called for the formation of such a group.

The advisory group will include 16 students, including one student representative from each of the 16 schools and colleges. Deans of each school will determine the nominating process.

"We're still working out the process by which faculty and staff appointments will be made and settling on the right number," Smey said. "My goal for the group is that it should be big enough to fairly represent the breadth of constituents that we serve, but small enough to be a reasonable working group."

Smey identified several drawbacks to the current website.

It "has a proprietary content management system, and the company that had developed it isn't working for us anymore," she said. "Not even CUIT is able to get in and help us make updates. So there are some parts of the site, some content on the site, that's more than three years old and there isn't anything we can do to update it, which is a drag."

"The number one mandate I gave to the consultant is to help us to improve the organization and navigation of the site to help us better organize our content, so that it would be an easier user experience ... to better promote our mission and our programs."

The new website will detail "what an Arts Initiative event is, when it is, and the ongoing events, and the day-off events," according to Lauren Pearson, the newly appointed associate director for program administration.

Users will also be able to search for options under $25—"or something along those lines, so students who are looking for a particular event, date, time, neighborhood, and price range can get that information easily," Pearson added.

"Right now, I think it's very difficult to find that," she said. "We're aware of the problems."

The new website will retain the visual look and feel—namely, the color scheme and logo icons—of the old website, which design studio Dresser Johnson developed for CUarts over the years.

"One of the things that we've gotten them to do for us—for example, ArtsLink and the TIC—those are core programs, and there's a really compelling and existing logo icon," Smey said.

But the current website doesn't have a logo icon for all of the Arts Initiative's core programs.

"Museum Meetups is new—I invented it last fall. We don't have a logo icon for that," Smey said. "And so we've asked them to develop a logo icon for all of our core programs, so the new site will incorporate that in a compelling way."

Smey's team is currently working with a consultant who has completed other projects at the University.

"She had a really thorough understanding of the University and how websites at the University work and how CUIT works ... She really understood our mission, also, and so was just really excited about helping to create an awesome website for our campus' Arts Initiative," Smey said.

lesley.thulin@columbiaspectator.com

Save the Arts Initiative Melissa Smey Lauren Pearson CUArts Arts Initiative
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