Woody Internship at the Getty: Week 1

Hello readers!

Friday marked the end of my first week at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles! Well, half week. I started on Wednesday the 3rd so that I would have a couple days to orient myself in Los Angeles (I moved into my apartment on the 1st of June). That being said, it was kind of a crazy and atypical week. My supervisor, Danielle, basically took those three days to introduce me to a LOT of people, show me around the Getty, and let me know what kinds of projects I will be working on over the course of the summer.

I should probably explain now what my actual internship situation is…I’m an intern in the events department, which basically works with a variety of other departments to put on various types of events. Danielle is one of the events specialists who works largely with museum education. So basically, someone in the education department will put in an order for an event (for example, next week they are hosting a three-day seminar for teachers about incorporating the arts into school curricula), and Danielle will then organize all the logistics and often attend the event as well to make sure everything goes smoothly. My first day consisted of shadowing her while she checked up on a couple of programs, meeting the other members of the events department, attending a service department meeting where the events people hand out all of their work orders for the upcoming week, as well as getting set up on the Getty computer system and getting oriented with the main galleries and administrative buildings. It was all a whirlwind but very exciting! Everyone I met was incredibly kind and welcoming – the events department even put together a little gift/welcome bag for me!

Day two started with a “field trip” to the Getty Villa (a Roman-style villa in Malibu that houses the Getty’s ancient art collection) with Danielle, Tony and Michelle (all from the events dept) to surprise a couple of their coworkers celebrating a birthday and a just-announced pregnancy. I didn’t get to see much of the Villa then, but I met some people I’ll be working with when I spend a whole day there later this week. After returning to the Getty Center, Danielle and I ate lunch at the fancy restaurant with one of the department managers named Michael, who was, unsurprisingly, very friendly and hospitable. Then I took a curator-led tour of the current photography exhibition, which features contemporary experimental photography – not a type of art I’m very familiar with, but super fascinating! The day ended with catching up on the many emails Danielle had sent to my Getty inbox and taking a short tour that explained the architectural history and design of the Getty. Apparently Richard Meyer, the architect, was extremely exacting in his designs; thus, nearly every line in the complex matches up with another one, even if it’s across a plaza. Also, Meyer is known as the “white architect” for his well-known preference for that color (any southerners may be familiar with him from his work on the High Museum in Atlanta) – well, the wealthy Brentwood neighbors weren’t too thrilled about a huge, reflective white building being built in their sightlines, so as a compromise, Meyer chose a slightly off-white stone called travertine as the main building material. The whole complex is still pretty much white. For reference, here is an aerial view:



Friday, day three, ended up being a big walking day. Between a “scavenger hunt”, another gallery tour, and another orientation tour with Danielle, I think I must have walked at least a mile or more! For explanation: the “scavenger hunt” was set up by Danielle and required me to locate and describe how to get to several event spaces and other rooms (like conference rooms or auditoriums). This, I found out afterwards, was for one of my assignments: creating a sort of “cheat sheet” for Getty employees with instructions on how to get to these types of places. This may sound silly, since they work at the Getty, but having gotten a good sense of how enormous and complicated this complex is, I am not at all surprised that even staff members get lost sometimes.

I think my favorite activity on Friday, though, was walking around with Danielle some more. Because it was an “off-Friday” (the Getty allows employees to take every other Friday off, though Danielle is one of the few who chooses to come in), most of the offices were pretty empty. Danielle used this as an opportunity to show me around the main museum offices, including the education suite and the curatorial suite. Honestly, this felt like a kind of “backstage tour”, and for a museum nerd like me, it was incredibly cool. Not only are the offices beautiful, but many of them feature huge works of art from the Getty’s permanent collection. Original, highly valuable paintings – just hanging in the office. I knew I liked this place.

Finally, Danielle introduced the assignments that I will be working on this summer. There are a variety, ranging from designing a reminder email for events, to filling out generic forms, to the aforementioned cheat sheet. My main projects, though, are more research-oriented. One of them is to research audience engagement tactics at other institutions and create an overview of ideas for the Getty. The other is to research museums and historic hotels in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Santa Barbara in order to identify potential participants and host venues for the 2016 conference for the International Association of Museum Facility Administrators (IAMFA). I am very interested to start both of these projects, as I think both of them will provide a great insight into museum operation as well as valuable research experience.

Whew…sorry for the super long post! There was a lot of activity this week and I was eager to share it all. This coming week, I’m looking forward to getting started on my assignments, shadowing events (especially Art@thecore, which is the program for teachers), spending Thursday at the Getty Villa, and hanging out with my awesome coworkers in the events department. It looks like it’s shaping up to be a great summer, and I can’t wait to share it with you all!