Hopping Across Town to the Getty Villa

When I say I’m working at the Getty, those in the know ask me, “which one?”, because the Getty Center is actually the newer side of the Getty coin. J. Paul Getty, the patriarch of the dramatic Getty family and founder of the J. Paul Getty Trust and Museum, never actually saw the Getty Center. It was opened in 1997, over twenty years after he passed away. The original museum was simply him opening his Malibu ranch house to the public in the 1950s, but as his collection grew, as well as his interest in the antiquities, Getty decided he needed a more permanent structure. This led to the opening of the Getty Villa, housed entirely in his recreation of the Vesuvius-buried, Italian Villa dei Papiri.

a shot of the Outer Peristyle and garden

a shot of the Outer Peristyle and garden

His Mediterranean-inspired villa is still part of the Getty Museum, but is now dedicated to Greek and Roman art and artifacts, while the slightly more modern pieces are found in the Getty Center (where I am also normally found). Although the Getty Villa has its own dedicated team of events staff, I had the wonderful opportunity last week to help them with an event and see how things work closer to the ocean. The weather was certainly more humid than on our hilltop, but this Williamsburg-dweller (and born & raised Virginian) was confused by the wails of the Californians— you would’ve believed the air was melting around them!

Despite the humidity, security was hosting their annual First Responders Appreciation Dinner, and there was a full house at the Villa. I arrived in the afternoon, checked out one of their radios (since ours don’t work across sites), and settled in to the jump station to get some work done before our security briefing. Just like at the Center, the Villa staff start each large event with a security briefing. Normally, this is where events staff let the security officers know how many people they’re expecting, through which gates, etc, to make sure everyone is on the same page, but it was slightly different since security was hosting this event and handling the RSVPs.

After security briefing, we headed to the outdoor kitchen area, where many of the catering staff I know from the Center were there setting up warming ovens and grabbing tablecloths. Many staff in departments like catering, set-up services, or AV, work events at both Getty locations, so it was nice to see some familiar faces. Ashley (the Villa events staff heading this event), Heather, and I set about making sure things were put in place before guests arrived. At both the Center and the Villa, there is a limited amount of stuff that can be set out while the museum is open to the public, so often, set-up services has to rush to put out furniture, or AV to put out speakers and lights, in the interim space between museum closing and guests arriving.

Part of the Outer Peristyle, waiting for more tables

Part of the Outer Peristyle, waiting for more tables

Once all the tables were linened (as I type that I realize it is not a real word, but it’s the past tense of the verb “linen”, or, “to put a tablecloth on”) and the uplights turned on, security opened the doors to the crowd of guests. The initial crush of people descended upon the first bar and buffet lines, but after we told people at the end of the lines that there were more buffets in the Outer Peristyle, the crowd thinned to a more manageable density.

The rest of the night was spent making sure everything was going alright, that people were enjoying themselves and not spilling too much wine, and that the food tasted good. (You didn’t think I would attend such a lovely event without doing a taste test, did you?) The chocolate lava cakes, in particular, were incredible.

After clean up and break down, I caught my bus home and dreamed of the floating orbs in the pool. IMG_4431

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