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What he supports:
The Andy Warhol Museum
Why it matters:
“How The Warhol is bringing in folks from the community to uplevel their digital skills, and in a marketable way, is super interesting to me.”
Cris Turner moved around a lot as a kid, but a constant in his life was a fascination with computers.
The digital revolution was only beginning to take off when he was coming of age in the 1980s and ‘90s. Still, he could already see the internet’s potential to skirt the gatekeepers and dissolve barriers.
“It represented a great equalizer. The ability to express oneself to gain knowledge and information and share is incredibly empowering,” says Turner, now the global head of knowledge & information products, government affairs and public policy at Google. “That’s why it’s always been at the center of my professional and personal life.”
Technology, and specifically its potential to empower people, has also been an important part of his connection with The Warhol, where he has been an advisory board member since March 2021. Turner has no prior connection to Pittsburgh and currently lives in Washington, D.C., but he nevertheless has been actively involved in shaping the museum’s vision for The Pop District, an initiative announced in May to transform six blocks in The Warhol’s North Shore neighborhood. The Pop District has a workforce development platform to help young people, particularly those from marginalized communities, develop digital media production skills and various other business skills via a suite of programs.
Turner has been a part of technology and entrepreneurship circles for his entire career. He spent 12 years working in government affairs for computer giant Dell Technologies and was a lobbyist for several other technology outfits. He’s also been a longtime advocate for building learning pathways for members of underserved communities, particularly those of color.
About five years ago, he visited Pittsburgh for a music and entrepreneurship festival known as Thrival. That’s where he met Dan Law, who helped organize the festival and is now The Warhol’s associate vice president of capital projects and major gifts.
They had a long conversation about the future of work and the skills necessary for people to thrive in a 21st-century economy. They also shared a love of music (Turner is a fan of ‘90s grunge, particularly Pearl Jam, and has an impressive guitar collection.) Law invited him to speak at the following year’s festival, and it was on these visits that Turner learned more about Pittsburgh’s economic transformation from factory town to technology hub.
Thus began a fascination with Pittsburgh. Turner had never lived here, not even moving around as much as he did growing up. But he was deeply interested in how its neighborhoods were evolving with the influx of tech companies like Google, Uber, and Duolingo, and the lessons it might hold for other communities.
“I realized there really were a lot of interesting community and economic drivers in Pittsburgh that made it an interesting place to study,” Turner says.
Eventually, Law left Thrival and joined The Warhol. But he stayed in touch with Turner. Then, as the museum was expanding its board, Law realized that Turner’s unique skill set, passion for workforce development, and love of art would make him a good fit.
“He has this really pronounced community and philanthropic side to him, where he sees everything as a collective whole in the world,” Law says. “He doesn’t just look at his job from a business lens. He looks at it from a community lens, he looks at it from a philanthropic lens, and, of course, his ability as a leader to move the needle where he can.”
Turner has not only donated financially to the museum—he’s been an engaged advisory board member, attending fundraising events outside Pittsburgh and providing helpful insight as The Pop District took shape.
Turner says he’s been impressed and inspired by The Warhol’s vision and engagement with the larger community, and he’s eager to be a part of that work.
“I like the idea that a museum is a living thing that creates a place and can help drive a place economically,” Turner says. n
To learn more about giving opportunities at Carnegie Museums, contact Beth Brown at email@example.com or 412.622.8859.
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