This summer, I am working at the Getty Foundation as part of the Multicultural Undergraduate Internship program. The program provides paid internships to diverse students at arts organizations all across L.A., including the Getty. The highlight of my first week was assisting with our Arts Summit, a full day of professional development activities held at the Getty Center. From researching guest speakers to stuffing program folders full of art insight for the interns, I couldn’t wait to experience this day with the rest of my class. Last Monday, June 25, all of this summer’s 115 Getty interns gathered at the entrance of the Museum, eager and excited to experience Arts Summit.

After picking up our info packets and tickets for guided tours, we all shuffled into the lecture hall. In typical “first day” fashion, no one sat in front—though after some encouragement and the leadership of a few brave souls, the first three rows were finally filled in. Once a few brief introductions were done, our keynote speaker, Kip Fulbeck, took the stage. All keynote speeches are different, but none of us were prepared for the excitement of Kip’s presentation.

Artist Kip Fulbeck speaking at the Getty Art Summit

Artist Kip Fulbeck speaking at the Getty Art Summit on June 25, 2012

A pre-recorded voice came over the speakers and started a series of questions based on a job-interview experience of the artist. Kip—a photographer, videographer, writer, spoken word artist, UCSB professor, father, and so much more—played the part of a younger him, answering each “either-or” question nervously.  The choices were like an endless yet random and humorous interrogation:

“Pasta or pizza?”
“Country or city?”
“Miley Cyrus or Billy Rae Cyrus?”
“Vanilla Ice or Eminem?”

Then Kip reached the daunting moment of the “check one” ethnicity box. Understanding laughs spread throughout the auditorium as he wondered aloud about ways to draw a large check or “x” to span multiple boxes. He expressed that he never wanted to pick just one, because picking just one box was like choosing between mom and dad.

Kip then dug deeper into this topic by talking about the artwork he is best known for: The Hapa Project. Hapa is a Hawaiian term meaning “half,” and is used to describe people of mixed ethnicities.  Fulbeck photographed over 1,000 “hapa” volunteers and asked them to hand-write their answers to the question “What are you?” This was a chance for them to self-designate and self-assign an identity, instead of having one imposed on them or being forced to pick just one.

He spent much of his talk speaking of the various components that make up one’s identity—even above and beyond race—and how it is important to reclaim one’s ability to self-identify. Kip expressed that one of the reasons he did this project was because he did not see his image anywhere. This sentiment is truly reflective of the Getty internship program as a whole, and the reason he was perfect as the keynote speaker. The Getty Multicultural Internship program that I and others are participating in this summer aims to diversify museum staff and the museum field. I personally applied because I too, as an African American woman, do not see my image in too many museums. And now more than ever after Kip’s energizing talk, I’m determined to make it a more common appearance.

Throughout his talk, Kip was full of life and charisma, which definitely helped to create a fun and open atmosphere and boost our energy for the day ahead. He ended his talk with another spoken-word piece, which included a line that inspired me to get the most out of the day(s) that lie ahead: “We need to judge ourselves not on what we believe in, but on what we are willing to do with our lives to pursue that belief.”

Multicultural Undergraduate Interns at an Art Summit career session with Clement Hanami of the Japanese American Museum

Art Summit career session with Clement Hanami of the Japanese American Museum

Leaving the lecture hall, I was even more anxious to start our career sessions and ask myself what I was willing to do with my life. There were 15 amazing art professionals who came to provide insight into their careers. Session topics included: Artists in the Community, Museum Curation, Arts Education, Art Writing, Fundraising, and Academic Art History. If I had any idea what I wanted to do before these sessions, it was definitely expanded and altered after we finished. I didn’t realize all the opportunities available to us as artists, art historians, and art lovers. At the end of the day, all of us were exhausted, possibly overwhelmed, but definitely excited about what lies ahead.