Behind the Scenes, Education, Getty Villa, J. Paul Getty Museum

Career Profile: Kristen Kido, Gallery Teacher

Gallery teacher Kristen Kido leading a tour in the Getty Villa galleries

What is your job at the Getty?

I work as a gallery teacher at the Getty Villa. Gallery teachers lead tours in the museum and get to talk with visitors about art all day long.

In the Museum we are surrounded by so much incredible art—and we get to share our enthusiasm about it with the public, so it’s a wonderful job!

What kinds of tours do you lead?
There are certain daily set tours that the museum offers, such as Collection Highlights tours, where we look at major pieces from the collection. But gallery teachers are also given quite a bit of freedom with other programs such as our Focus Tours, which are thematic tours that we design ourselves. The gallery teachers all have different backgrounds and interests, so we end up with quite a variety of tours.

We also teach all the lessons for school groups, professional development programs, and adult courses that we periodically offer.

How do you keep the tours interesting, since you present them so often?
We can change the objects we talk about during our tours—every day! In a week I might give five Collection Highlights tours, for example, and each one can focus on different objects.

We can also explore different subthemes within the collection. On any given tour we might explore the same four or five objects in the collection, but we focus on different aspects of the work, such as its style, subject, conservation, or its use in antiquity.

Also, our tours are discussion-based rather than lecture-based. I can give the exact same tour five times a week and have a totally different experience each time because of how the visitors engage with what I’m presenting. Every group is unique, so you never know what you’re going to get when you head out there and meet your group of visitors. It’s very exciting! (Laughs.)

How are tours at the Getty different from tours at other institutions?
I think one difference is that we have professional museum educators leading the tours. We’re very lucky to be able to hire people who are knowledgeable not only in art and art history, but also in education. It allows us to constantly reflect on and improve our practice.

What are some techniques you use to engage visitors?
Well firstly it is important to create a welcoming space for visitors so they feel comfortable engaging with you about the objects on the tour.

I also like to ask my visitors questions that guide them through the works of art and lead them to important observations. It’s key to allow visitors the time to really absorb a work of art before we begin to break it apart by asking questions or interpreting it. The experience is always much more fulfilling for both parties when it’s the visitors who come up with all the great ideas about a piece.

Gallery teacher Kristen Kido leading a tour in the Outer Peristyle at the Getty Villa

How do you approach tours for school groups?
Before we can plan a school group lesson, we need to be aware of what the students are learning in the classroom, and the relevant state content standards for their grade level. Gallery teachers make contact with classroom teachers to see how much the students know about the museum and the ancient world before their visit.

When working with school groups, you have to be able to think outside the box. A first-grade class learning about, say, the theme of friendship, might come to the Museum hoping to make connections with the art, so you have to prepare a lesson using the ancient collection that will speak to them.

What is your educational background?
I graduated from UCLA in 2008 with a B.A in art history. I wrote my undergraduate thesis on early Rome.

The gallery teachers at the Villa all come from different backgrounds. Some of us come from an art historical perspective, some from an archaeological angle, and others from an artist’s point of view. It adds to the multi-dimensionality of our tours here.

You did a Multicultural Undergraduate Internship with the Getty a few years ago. What was that like?
I did my MUI internship in summer 2007. But actually I started as a volunteer the year before that. I just knew I had to be here!

My internship was phenomenal. My supervisors knew what my interests were, and they asked me what I wanted to do. I worked on a database that catalogued all the plants in the Villa gardens and how they were used in antiquity. I then created an educational pamphlet about how to look at works in the galleries that featured these plants.

In my senior year at UCLA I had an extension of the internship, working for the Department of Sculpture and Decorative Arts at the Getty Center. And then I applied for the gallery teacher position.

If you weren’t a gallery teacher, what do you think you’d be doing now?
Believe it or not, I’m very interested in astronomy and marine biology. If I were doing college over again, without the art history option, I’d probably end up in one of those fields!

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One Comment

  1. Posted May 1, 2012 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    I had the pleasure to listen to Kristen recently on a visit to the Getty Villa in Malibu. She has an unbelievable talent to open the art experience up to her tour groups. It is obvious that her degree from UCLA in Art History has given Kristen the skills to unlock the mystery and beauty of art for her students. Teachers like Kristen are an invaluable resource. Only a shortsighted director would let such talent go! Please voice your concern and support for Kristen and the other members of the Getty Museum education staff. Join me in shouting, “Don’t let my teachers go!”

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      All Hail Tiberius, Least Media-Savvy of the Roman Emperors

      Tiberius was proclaimed Roman emperor on September 17 in AD 14, exactly 2,000 years ago.

      He was also a bit idiosyncratic. “He was the least media-savvy emperor you could imagine,” says curator David Saunders, who has been in charge of this bronze portrait of Tiberius which leaves us on September 22. He point to this description found in the writings of Cassius Dio:

      Tiberius was a patrician of good education, but he had a most peculiar nature. He never let what he desired appear in his conversation, and what he said he wanted he usually did not desire at all. On the contrary, his words indicated the exact opposite of his real purpose; he denied all interest in what he longed for, and urged the claims of what he hated. He would exhibit anger over matters that were far from arousing his wrath, and make a show of affability where he was most vexed…In short, he thought it bad policy for the sovereign to reveal his thoughts; this was often the cause, he said, of great failures, whereas by the opposite course, far more and greater successes were attained.

      Moreover, David tells us, “Tiberius’s accession itself was a farrago: Tiberius sort-of feigning reluctance, the Senate bullying him, he being all, ‘Well, if-I-have-to,’ and in the end—according to Suetonius—saying he’ll do it as long as he can retire.”

      Suetonius is full of great, albeit spurious, anecdotes about poor old Tiberius, David reports. “When someone addressed him as ‘My Lord,’ it is said, Tiberius gave warning that no such insult should ever again be thrown at him.”

      Happy accession, My Lord!

      Portrait Head of Tiberius (“The Lansdowne Tiberius”), early 1st century A.D., Roman. The J. Paul Getty Museum

      Statue of Tiberius (detail), Roman, A.D. 37, Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei – Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, Laboratorio di Conservazione e Restauro. Currently on view at the Getty Villa following conservation and study.

      09/17/14

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