Three o’clock is a good time to be at the Getty Villa. Depending on the time of year, the afternoon light might be streaming through the haze over the Inner Peristyle, a cool fog might be blowing in over the Herb Garden, or the sun might be high in the sky, reflecting off the ocean.

In every season, three o’clock marks the start of a Focus Tour departing from the Tour Meeting Place. In the nearly five years I’ve worked in the Villa’s Education Department, this program continues to be one of my favorites, offering a thoughtful and dynamic lineup of themes related to ancient art: Death and Burial in the Ancient World, Delighting in Violence, Learning to Look Closer, the Faces of Rome, Mr. Getty’s Favorites, the Unexplained and Mysterious, Artists of Antiquity…and many more themes developed by conservators, curators, and educators who continue to add new topics throughout the year.

Gallery teacher Amber Wells leads a discussion in the Athletes and Competition gallery at the Getty Villa.

Gallery teacher Amber Wells leads a discussion in the Athletes and Competition gallery at the Getty Villa.

Offering visitors the chance to explore the collection with a Villa educator, in-depth and focused, is one of the many advantages of employing a staff of five full-time gallery teachers who are well-versed in art history, studio practice, and learning theory. They spend a significant amount of time researching not only the Villa’s collection, but also the greater cultural histories of ancient Greece and Rome and subjects relevant to our changing exhibitions—as well as engaging in daily conversations with the visitors who take their tours. All of this preparation results in the broad range of topics presented in the Focus Tour program.

As the gallery teachers do their research, spending long hours in the presence of the works of art in the galleries, questions arise, emotional bonds are formed, and intellectual connections are made. While other tours, affectionately called the “bread and butter” of our programming (Collection Highlights Tours, Exhibition Tours, and Spotlight Talks) fulfill more traditional expectations, Focus Tours are a place for experimentation. Tours might include a hands-on activity, a trip to our Education Studio space to try assembling a section of a mosaic floor, or an extended length of time considering a single work of art as a group.

Whatever the topic, Focus Tours are an invitation to a personal and creative view of the ancient world and the Villa’s collection.