Education, Getty Villa

Museum Educators Get Creative with Focus Tours

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.

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One Comment

  1. Hank
    Posted June 23, 2010 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    Sounds good. Looking forward to joining one of these tours, very soon!

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      #ProvenancePeek: June 30

      Every art object has a story—not only of how it was made, but of how it changed hands over time until it found its current home. That story is provenance.

      This portrait of actress Antonia Zárate by Goya is now part of the collection of the National Gallery of Ireland. The records of famed art dealer M. Knoedler & Co. at the Getty Research Institute reveal its recent provenance: the painting was sold by Knoedler on June 30, 1910, to financier Otto Beit. Part of his collection, including this painting, was later donated to the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin. To this day the Gallery showcases some of its greatest masterpieces in the Beit Wing. This spread from a digitized Knoedler stock book records the transaction (second entry from top).

      M. Knoedler was one of the most influential dealers in the history of art. He sold European paintings to collectors (such as Henry Clay Frick, the Vanderbilts, and Andrew Mellon) whose collections formed the genesis of great museums such as the National Gallery of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Frick Collection, the Huntington, and more. Knoedler’s stock books have recently been digitized and transformed into a searchable database, which anyone can query for free.

      Portrait of Doña Antonia Zárate, ca. 1805–06, José de Goya y Lucientes. Beit Collection, National Gallery of Ireland. Image courtesy of the National Gallery of Ireland.


      #ProvenancePeek is a monthly series by research assistant Kelly Davis peeking into #onthisday provenance finds from the M. Knoedler & Co. archives at the Getty Research Institute.


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