Artist Coding Switch Code Switch

A couple weeks ago there was an article in the L.A. Times about Artists Who Code, an organization created after the pandemic hit by two Broadway performers to help artists transition into careers in coding. The two were a married couple who were having difficulty seeing the possibility of creating a stable life.

“With every big Broadway credit that I earned and the higher the ladder I climbed, I actually did an analysis; I saw my net worth going down,” she says. “I felt less and less powerful with each year I spent in the industry continuing to audition, and feeling things like typecasting and constant unemployment, and many physical injuries — it just all became very frustrating.”

Catherine Ricafort McCreary and Scott McCreary had enrolled in a coding boot camp in 2018 and had started transitioning to coding jobs when the pandemic hit. Seeing their friends in the arts struggling during the pandemic, they created Artists Who Code as a way to provide direction and support to those seeking to transition to coding.

Ricafort McCreary and McCreary built a free mini-curriculum of resources for Artists Who Code. These include advising members on how to choose a coding boot camp, setting up a mentorship program to help artists in different phases of their coding journey and offering advice on the job search and nailing technical interviews.


“It’s like a code switch. As an artist, you don’t know what a Google Calendar invite is,” McCreary says. “Absorbing the etiquette of this new world and knowing what is appropriate and what’s not and how to reach out to people, and how to advocate for yourself and how to communicate the skills that you as an artist bring to the table.”

In the early days of Artists Who Code, the couple worked to find ways to walk through technical concepts and jargon for those who were unfamiliar.


For Ricafort McCreary and McCreary, one of the most crucial aspects of Artists Who Code is the formation of a community to help artists navigate the identity crisis that often comes with changing careers. Making a new résumé is particularly painful; much of the feedback they have received, and have given, is to minimize their achievements in the arts to make space for discussing their expertise in, say, engineering. “It feels like that’s your soul and you’re crushing it and making space for this other thing,” McCreary says.

As I was reading this, I was thinking that Drew McManus might find people in this group to be helpful. As an artist who codes himself, he founded Venture Industries which provides a lot of technical services for artists and arts organizations. He has used me as a guinea pig on a couple of his projects and the user experience elements seem to be among the earliest considerations he addresses in the creation of new products.

That may be one of the competitive advantages artists have in programming. Something might work well as designed, but if people are reluctant to use it because the navigation isn’t intuitive, then it will have a difficult time being successful. And if your organization has chosen to use that service for ticket sales, donations, website, etc., poor UX design can be detrimental to the relationship you are trying to develop.

We hired someone with an artistic background a few months back and were teaching him how to use one of our pieces of software. Within the first two hours he blurted out that the UX design was awful. UX is not a niche terminology only shared by designers and software engineers. People are becoming increasingly aware of it and its value.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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