Behind the Scenes, J. Paul Getty Museum, technology

College Night: Students Take Over the Getty

What if you were in college, and I told you that you could put on a party at the Getty? We didn’t go quite that far, but we explored that question by working with a class from Cal State Channel Islands (CSUCI) to plan and publicize the Getty Center’s annual College Night , which successfully took place across the travertine floors last night.

College Night—city and ocean view. Photo by Kyle Johnson, CSUCI photography student

College Night, city and ocean view. Photo by Kyle Johnson, CSUCI photography student

College Night is our chance to open the doors of the Getty Museum for local Los Angeles college students—an audience that many museums have trouble attracting. This year, working with Getty Museum education specialist Peter Tokofsky and professors Irina Costache and Andrew Morris at CSUCI, an interdisciplinary class was charged with reimagining College Night for the university student body of today.

Five groups from the class teamed with departments at the Getty to document, evaluate, plan, create, and publicize College Night 2010. The publicity group’s task was simple: get local college students to come to College Night.

This design by CSUCI student Parker Darland showcases the Getty Center

This design by CSUCI student Parker Darland showcases the Getty Center.

While our goal was simple, getting there was not.

For one, we were faced with the dilemma of how to reach out to a college crowd. Who are these people, anyway? How do they hear about events? Why aren’t they coming to museums? In the age of Facebook and other digital platforms, getting on the student radar via traditional methods, like advertising, just wouldn’t do.

Here’s where the college-savvy students came in. We found that the magic of word of mouth was key in getting College Night information and flyers to the masses. We thus took a grassroots approach, promoting College Night to key organizations and interest groups at local universities.

We also handed over the “College Night at the Getty Center” logo to two designers in the class who had their take on College Night. Check out their fresh looks. We used one of their designs as our promotional flyer (below).

Kellam Cunningham's design sparkles and dazzles

Kellam Cunningham's design sparkles and dazzles.

While the publicity group was off and running, going door-to-door, campus-to-campus, Facebook-page-to-Facebook-page spreading the word about College Night, the meat of the event was busily being planned by the rest of the groups. Among the activities that students proposed and that we incorporated into the evening include the Marc b band, DJ OldBoy, and Kinetic Theory human sculptures.

As the sun went down last night, and with the backdrop of the twinkling city lights, the ocean, and the echoes of the classic Beach-jams from DJ OldBoy, crowds of students packed the West Pavilion galleries and the Garden Terrace. It was by far our best-attended College Night to date thanks to the buzz and excitement around L.A. college campuses.

I now reflect and think that, while challenging, the intricate input of students into a Getty program has proved invaluable—and dare I hope, may launch a new frontier of student involvement at the Getty? At least, last night, the Getty went to the students.

Students mingle and enjoy the tunes of Marc b. Photo by CSUCI photography student Chelsea Archer

Students mingle and enjoy the tunes of Marc b. Photo by CSUCI photography student Chelsea Archer

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  1. Bruce White
    Posted April 10, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    I’m curious to know what the visitor numbers are for the event…after all that effort it would be nice to see how many bodies came through the doors. It sounds like a very successful evening! Wish I could have been there.

    • Posted April 12, 2010 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Bruce! Yes it was quite successful. Our numbers (rounded a bit) count that 1,400 people were present at College Night. By far our most successful College Night. Past numbers have been 700 and 500 more or less.

      Needless to say we are all thrilled at this success and can’t wait to do it again!

  2. Posted April 12, 2010 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    id go anywhere to see marc b play. hes so dreamy.

  3. Jorge Alvarado
    Posted March 7, 2012 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    I’m a current college student & I’d like to be a corresponding photographer please!

  4. Posted March 19, 2012 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Hi Jorge! Please leave a message at and put it to my attention “Antonio Campos.” Thank you!

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