Behind the Blanton: Cory Conner, Chief of Security

In order to avoid a dramatic art heist here at the Blanton, we have recently hired a new Chief of Security, Cory Conner. In our latest installment of Behind the Blanton, a series where we profile different Blanton staff members, we sat down with Cory to learn a little bit about what he does and how he protects the art in the Blanton’s collection on a day-to-day basis.

Prior to joining the Blanton, you worked at NBC Universal as the Director of Loss Prevention and Security Liaison. How is protecting art different than working for an entertainment company? Are there any similarities? 

Cory: This is a great question. I think the largest difference I’ve noticed with protecting art is the split second of time in which a visitor could damage or vandalize a specific piece of work even though a Gallery Assistant might be in the same room. With an entertainment company if you need to guard a specific piece of property, it’s typically locked down and out of sight until it’s needed. However, I think there a re a lot of similarities between the two  in terms of the way property protection is handled. For example, the amount of overall video surveillance is directly proportionate to the size and scope of the entity security is observing and recording, and the amount of staff is typically proportionate to the amount of area that security is responsible for patrolling and securing.

What does a typical day of work look like for you?

Luckily, no two days have been the same so far, or typical! Some of things I do go throughout the day are checking on and trying to resolve any alarm issues from the previous day, prepping for the amazing team of Gallery Assistants’ meetings in the morning, coordinating access into the galleries usually before hours, attending planning meetings for upcoming exhibitions, communicating with my awesome team of Security Supervisors about any ongoing issues or concerns, researching museum security trends and benchmarks, and tweaking current policies and procedures, and finally…trying to learn something new about art every day.

What is something people would be surprised to learn goes into protecting artworks? What’s been the most challenging aspect of your job?

Personally, I think people would be surprised to learn about the sheer amount of time and resources devoted to the movement, placement, staffing, and consideration that is all combined into how best to protect artworks and ensure they are preserved for future generations. The most challenging aspect of my job has been to learn the cultural property protection role and the realization that objects in the museum are all vulnerable to vandalism and theft at any given moment. I can’t remember where I read this quote, but it really puts things in perspective for me, “saving art means saving context”.

What’s the weirdest/most unique/interesting interaction you’ve had with a visitor in the galleries?

I laugh each time I remember this, and the interaction just happened at the most recent B scene. I was walking through the new Impressionist exhibition downstairs, when I was approached by a gentleman that questioningly asked me, “None of these paintings are for sale, right?” After a startled moment on my behalf, I assured him that they were not.

How has it been adjusting to life in Austin? What’s your favorite part about the city, and what are some things you enjoy doing while not at work?

I’m actually from the Austin area, but I’m glad to be back residing here after almost thirteen years in California. There are so many parts of the city that I enjoy, it’s hard to pick just one! Some of the things I enjoy while not at work are the outdoor activities Austin has to offer, following soccer globally since I’m a huge fan, trying to keep up with the multiple books I seem to read at the same time, and spending time with my family and friends here in town.

Philip Evergood
Philip Evergood, Dance Marathon, 1934, oil on canvas, Gift of Mari and James A. Michener, 1991.

If you had to pick a favorite artwork in the museum, what would it be?

By far, my favorite artwork here in the museum is Dance Marathon by Philip Evergood. I think since I grew up reading comics as a kid, the visual appeal for me is the way it’s structured with the small, almost hidden details you can look for, as well as the vibrant color scheme.

We appreciate Cory taking time out of his busy schedule to talk to us! If you see him around the museum or in the galleries, be sure to thank him for protecting the art entrusted to the Blanton’s care.

1 thought on “Behind the Blanton: Cory Conner, Chief of Security”

  1. laraine lasdon

    thanks to the amazing gallery assistants and all they do to make the museum both safe and welcoming for our visitors – especially when we are giving tours.
    Gallery Teacher/Docent

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