Since its inception, Getty has recognized philanthropy in the arts as vital to its mission, with the Foundation as one of its four main programs, alongside the Museum, Research Institute, and Conservation Institute. From its early grants to other LA institutions to its robust, strategic, international grantmaking program today, the work of the Getty Foundation has grown and evolved since it began in 1985.
In this episode, Foundation director Joan Weinstein discusses how the philosophy behind the Foundation’s grants has shifted alongside changes in the field, how it impacts art and art history around the globe, and what she anticipates for its future.
More to explore:
JAMES CUNO: Hello, I’m Jim Cuno, president of the J. Paul Getty Trust. Welcome to Art and Ideas, a podcast in which I speak to artists, conservators, authors, and scholars about their work.
JOAN WEINSTEIN: We like to say that we punch above our weight, that we take what seem like not large grants, and we actually extend the impact. And I think when you work very strategically, that is one of the things you can do.
CUNO: In this episode, I speak with Getty Foundation director Joan Weinstein.
Joan Weinstein has worked at the Getty Foundation since 1994, becoming deputy director in 2007, and director in 2019. Among her many achievements at the Foundation is the initiation of Pacific Standard Time, a research and exhibition program for regional institutions from San Diego in the south to Santa Barbara in the North. In 2011 she co-directed Pacific Standard Time: Art in LA 1945–1980, an unprecedented Southern California-wide presentation of contemporary art. Six years later she co-directed a second, even larger “Pacific Standard Time,” this one looking at the relations between Los Angeles, Latinx, and Latin American Art. And today she is once again co-directing Pacific Standard Time, this one focusing on the rich and provocative topic of art and science.
Recently, Joan was appointed director of the Getty Foundation, which “promotes the interdisciplinary practice of conservation, increases access to museum and archival collections, and develops current and future leaders in the visual arts.” Many of its initiatives are undertaken in collaboration with the other Getty Programs, that is the Museum, Research Institute, and Conservation Institute, to achieve the greatest impact.
Catching a brief opening in her busy schedule, I sat down with her to discuss the purpose and future of the Getty Foundation.
Okay, Joan, thank you so much for joining me on this podcast. I think our listeners might be a bit confused by the terminology. I know most of us who first work at the Getty, come to work at the Getty, are confused by the terminology—Getty Trust and Getty Foundation. What’s the difference between the two entities?
JOAN WEINSTEIN: So the Trust is, of course, the overarching organization of the Getty, with four programs underneath it: the Museum, the Conservation Institute, the Research Institute, and the Foundation. So the Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the Getty. So that means we give grants in the areas in which the Getty is active: art history, conservation, and museum practice.
CUNO: And the Getty Foundation wasn’t always called the Getty Foundation. What was it called?
WEINSTEIN: It was originally called the Getty Grant Program. And it was founded in 1985. And the change to Getty Foundation came in 2005, our twentieth anniversary. And it was meant to signal the expanded activities of the Getty Foundation over the previous ten years, and to reassert the commitment to philanthropy on the part of the trustees.
And I also think that it was meant to clarify where it stood in the world of philanthropy. Most of our peer organizations had foundation in their name. And for those out in the world who are seeking grants, they tend to look for a place called foundation.
But we are unlike other funders. We are not a standalone foundation, such as the Ford Foundation or the Mellon Foundation or the Kress Foundation. We’re a foundation embedded in what’s called a private operating foundation itself, as a legal term. So when the Getty engages in a project where we’re directing it, we’re deciding what the outcomes should be, and we’re deciding how it should be done, that’s a contract. When we say, “What is the project that you want to do and how are you going to do it?,” and that we’re not directing that project, that’s a grant.
CUNO: Well, tell us then about the early history of the Foundation. You’ve already mentioned when it was founded, but why did the Getty decide to get into the grant-making business in the first place?
WEINSTEIN: I think it’s really interesting. I was not here in the beginning, but I do know the early history. The trustees made a commitment early on that they thought that a key ingredient of the Getty would actually be philanthropy, giving money to other institutions and organizations. And I think they did this for a number of reasons. First, they did it locally, as the Getty was becoming established in Southern California and they started making plans to build the Getty Center.
I think there was actually a lot of fear in the arts community that the Getty would overwhelm everyone else with its resources, both in its acquisitions in the museum world, but also in its activities. And the trustees wanted to signal that they were going to be a good partner. And they gave a series of what were called local grants, significant-size grants, to local museums and universities. And that was one of the first signals to the world that the Getty was going to be philanthropic and help others as well.
CUNO: How did the Getty decide the terms of the grants that they would give? Why would they give a grant for a particular project and not another one?
WEINSTEIN: So in the earliest days, before the grant program was formed, it was actually the trustees who were selecting the institutions that they wanted to give those early grants to.
CUNO: For particular purposes, or just generally a foundational gift to a—
WEINSTEIN: It was kind of a foundational gift to a number of these places. And they were grants that were in the range of a, you know, million dollars or so. And they also began a small publication program, to support the work of scholars internationally and to get their work published. And this was actually before the grant program itself was established.
And I went back recently and I looked at some of the names on an original review committee they had, because that was one of the other hallmarks of the Getty approach to grant making, even in the early years, was to have international peer review for projects.
CUNO: Describe the process for us.
WEINSTEIN: So this was assembling a group of scholars to judge the proposals submitted by others. And oftentimes, it was the entire manuscript. And Jim, you can actually comment on this because you eventually were on one of the publication committees.
CUNO: Yeah. It was amazing. It was a great experience, because you had people with different specialties all gathered around a table, charged with having to present their views about a proposed publication. And we all read everything, even if we didn’t have expertise in the particular field, we at least had an interest in that field.
And I learned more in that process probably than I learned in all of my graduate education, because it was so rich and compelling and so engaging, the conversations.
WEINSTEIN: And I think that’s one of the other things that the trustees realized early on, was that by having this peer review panel, you brought people into the Getty’s orbit who were leading scholars and intellectuals and thinkers, and you engaged them with the Getty, as well.
And when I look at the early categories that were established under the grant program, you can already see the ambitions that the Getty had.
CUNO: What were they?
WEINSTEIN: So one of them was actually the establishment of the postdoctoral fellowship program. And after they had those original publication grants, they did a lot of research, as they decided to establish the grant program. And they went out and they looked at what other funders were doing, where the gaps were, where the Getty could make a difference. And one of the areas that they identified was strengthening art history by looking at it in relationship to other humanistic disciplines. This was a really key signal to the field early on that the Getty was going to be someplace different.
Art history at the time—this was the 1980s—was only just beginning to go beyond its traditional boundaries of formalist analysis or iconography. It was the beginnings of social art history, in the early and mid-eighties. And by offering postdoctoral fellowships that said they were going to be judged on the basis of your ability to look beyond just art history to its relationship to other humanistic disciplines—
CUNO: Like history and social sciences.
WEINSTEIN: Exactly. And it was a signal that we want more expansive thinking in the field.
These were grants for recent PhDs, for those who had received their PhD in the previous six years. And it was also an unusual fellowship, in that it allowed you to get that money and to travel anywhere in the world you needed to do your research, or to stay at home and write. It was particularly important, I think, for many women art historians at the time, who didn’t have the flexibility to uproot families and do residential fellowships.
CUNO: So in those early days, were there set categories within which people could apply for grants?
WEINSTEIN: There were set categories, but there were a lot of them and they were broad. So we had archival grants, we had grants for conservation of objects in museums, we had grants for museum interpretation. At one time, there might’ve been two dozen categories that people could apply in.
CUNO: And why was it so broad? Was it because you had both the resources to dream big and deliver on the dreams that you had? Or was it because you couldn’t make up your mind?
WEINSTEIN: [she laughs] I think it’s neither of those. We didn’t have the resources to do something in every aspect of those fields and to have a huge impact. What we did do in the early days, which I think was actually very, very important at the Getty, was to build lots of relationships in all these various areas. And that’s what these grants allowed us to do. I think it was also the wisdom of the trustees to realize that the relationships we made through grant making would strengthen the Getty.
The Getty would become stronger if those that we wanted to eventually partner with in the fields we cared about were also stronger. So the idea was to spread that widely. And it was also the trend in philanthropy at the time, which was not focused on metrics, that was not focused on necessarily solving problems, but was just providing support.
CUNO: In 2008, we switched to strategic grant making, from the over-the-transom grant, as you described it. Was is that, and why did we make that change?
WEINSTEIN: The change in 2008, I think, was responding to two different things. The first was the recession, in which resources were cut. And the Getty Foundation’s budget was cut, by almost a third, from what it was at its height. And we looked around and we said, “You can’t just trim at the margins in that way.”
We took it as an opportunity to rethink the way we were approaching our grant making. And we looked at what we had done in the previous ten years that we thought had had the greatest impact. And in almost every case, they were special initiatives that we had created in response to a problem or an issue, where we had identified something and said, “If we put grant resources toward this, we can make a major change.”
This was also consonant with the trend in philanthropy toward more accountability, toward justifying the use of grant funds to make change.
CUNO: Accountable to whom?
WEINSTEIN: Accountable those who were providing the funds, but also, we are nonprofit. We’re not taxed. And that you have a responsibility to actually spend the money as wisely as you can.
WEINSTEIN: It was also a moment where I thought that it was a great time for the Foundation to make that change. We had spent more than twenty years building the really important relationships that we needed, and it was now a moment where we really could step back and say we’re going to tackle what we think are important issues in the fields that we care about.
CUNO: It this true with the other foundations with you work both in Los Angeles and across the country, that they made a similar change about the same time, provoked again by economic downturn?
WEINSTEIN: There were actually two different responses to the economic downturn in the world of philanthropy. And one was to actually go towards that more responsive philanthropy. There’re incredible individual needs out there and we have to try to meet them. This was particularly true in social service sector, in health, and a little bit in the arts, where people said that a lot of nonprofit organizations were at risk, and so we need to just prop them up.
But the other response was, we really need to think longer term and we need to be strategic in the use of our grant funds, and we also need to be accountable. And so this move to strategic philanthropy is where you identify a problem and then you think very carefully about how you’re going to approach it. What are the strategies you’re gonna use? Is it just grant making? Is it also convening your grantees, bringing them together for shared learning? Are there other strategies that you’re going to use? And then how will you know if you’re successful? What are the metrics, so that you can actually say to someone, we accomplished this or we didn’t accomplish this?
CUNO: Mm-hm. Have there been instances where despite the fact that you have a framework for making grants, where something comes up just out of the blue that you didn’t expect, that deserves some attention from the Getty, as from other institutions— And I’m thinking of the Hurricane Katrina, for example, in New Orleans.
WEINSTEIN: Yeah. That’s a really good question, and it’s something that I think most foundations struggle with, and that we have as well. The Foundation determined pretty early on that it couldn’t respond to every disaster because we just didn’t have the resources to be able to make a difference.
Katrina was a place where we actually thought we could make a difference. And it was with both expertise on the part of the Getty and also grant funding. And we sent a team down there. I was part of that team. And we arrived when the first hotel actually opened and people could come into the city. And we saw a devastated city. We traveled around to all the museums and cultural institutions. They weren’t even in touch with one another, because they were dealing with their own catastrophes and their own emergencies. And we could identify some of the needs and how the Getty might respond.
And we immediately did a workshop for them that sounds like it wouldn’t be terribly important, but it actually was. It was bringing together the leaders of all these cultural organizations and saying, “Think about these scenarios. What if all the people come back and all the money comes back and it returns to normal? What if neither of those happens? And the two scenarios in between: people come back, but you don’t have the resources; or you have the resources, and the people don’t come back.” And it was a chance for the leadership of organizations to sit down together and to step back from the catastrophe and to start that process of thinking how you move forward.
CUNO: And what’s the scale of grant that we’re talking about in a situation like that? How much do you have to give to make a difference?
WEINSTEIN: I believe our funding was in the range of $5 million. And it was done over a period of several years. And part of our original grant making, it was sort of two-pronged. One was conservation; we gave a significant grant to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, that with our support, came in very, very quickly and saved a lot of the red-tagged buildings from destruction.
I personally know what a red-tagged building is because I lived in one in the Northridge earthquake in Los Angeles. And it means that the local authorities come in and deem the building unsafe and literally put a red tag on it. And the National Trust managed to come in and save at least a hundred of those buildings and houses, and make the argument that they could be rescued and preserved.
We also gave grants to help organizations work together. And most of them lost members of their staff, who left the city, who were seeking other opportunities, or they just didn’t have the budget to pay them. And it was, how could you share your resources? You— three of you have publication programs, but only one of you has a publications manager still there. How do you share that? How do you do back of the house? How do you share an accountant? And it helped them get over that initial period, in the first year.
CUNO: You said the grant was, overall, about $5 million. It was over some many years. Are you surprised at how much can be accomplished with such little support?
WEINSTEIN: So we like to say that we punch above our weight, that we take what seem like not large grants, and we actually extend the impact. And I think when you work very strategically, that is one of the things you can do.
And when you’re also always aware of what other are doing. So when we went into New Orleans, we were immediately in contact with other funders to understand what they were doing so we weren’t duplicating efforts.
CUNO: I know in the same respect, how you can maximize the impact that the Getty Foundation can have in a certain situation. You work with other parts of the Getty, with the Getty Conservation Institute in particular, perhaps. How does that work and what are some examples of the way you’ve worked together, the two programs?
WEINSTEIN: So one of the things that I firmly believe from my own work in the Foundation is that when we partner with the other Getty programs, we can have an even greater impact.
Collaboration is really hard. I won’t lie about that. And as anyone who has done—
CUNO: You mean among colleagues.
WEINSTEIN: With colleagues, but even— Anyone who’s done any kind of collaboration. And when you bring a lot of really smart people together who all have ideas, to work that out and understand how you can complement one another is difficult. And we found that we can work really effectively with the other programs at the Getty when we’re all at the table to begin with, when we can identify a problem and we can then figure out what our respective roles are.
We’ve done this effectively, I think, on a number of our initiatives. One is called MOSAIKON. And it was trying to train mosaics conservators in North Africa and the Middle East, parts of the world that have the most important Roman Era mosaics, but have the fewest resources to care for them. And we sat down with the GCI and we realized—
CUNO: The Getty Conservation Institute.
WEINSTEIN: Getty Conservation Institute. And they have incredible expertise, particularly on archaeological sites. A lot of mosaics, though, have over the years been lifted from sites. It’s hard to protect them. A lot of people wanted—
CUNO: And by lifted, you mean just removed, put into museums, for example.
CUNO: Muse— local museums, as well as international museums, or only local museums?
WEINSTEIN: Local and international. And when mosaics were lifted, it was a practice to back them on concrete, which we now know is not a very sympathetic material for backing of mosaics. And for lifted mosaics, a lot of the training is, how do you safely remove them from that concrete backing and put on a different kind of backing that will not harm them in the long term?
CUNO: So in MOSAIKON, how many countries did you work with and work in, and how easy was it to work with these complicated countries?
WEINSTEIN: We worked with probably twelve countries fairly intensively. And we divided part of the work and we did some of it together. The Conservation Institute did training courses for archaeological site managers, how to manage their sites; and they also did training for technicians who cared for the mosaics on those sites.
The Foundation focused on lifted mosaics. And with our colleagues in the Conservation Institute, we identified the leading conservators and trainers who could work with technicians and conservators in these countries.
We don’t do the work ourselves. We began the project by bringing together the directors general of all the antiquities authorities in North Africa and the Middle East. We sat around the table. They all talked about the needs in their countries around mosaics. And so part of that was a fact-finding mission for us. But it was also an attempt to talk to them about the ways we might work with them and the kind of training we wanted to do.
Little did we realize at that moment that we were beginning this right before the Arab Spring. Courses had to be changed and moved because of outbreaks of violence or of protest movement in the various countries we were working in. The program, in the end, managed to bring together participants from multiple countries in training programs, so that they formed regional networks themselves.
CUNO: This idea that you’re bringing people together and building a certain capacity among them, reminds me of another program that the Getty kind of created by the means of funding it, called Connecting Art Histories. Tell us about that one.
WEINSTEIN: That’s one of my favorite programs, for what it accomplishes. Connecting Art Histories is about bringing together scholars from parts of the world who don’t have the opportunity to meet, don’t have the opportunity to network, because of political or economic realities in their countries. And we started with Latin America and with the Mediterranean Basin, because they were places that we had had connections with already.
The idea was to bring into the art historical conversation voices that hadn’t been heard before, and to give them the opportunity to meet with leading scholars from Europe and the United States.
The idea is not to expand Western art history to the rest of the world. This is not some imperial project to take over art history everywhere; but it’s really about bringing into the conversation different perspectives and talking about and across those different perspectives.
I think it’s particularly poignant and relevant in the contemporary historical situation we find ourselves in, with rising nationalism and populism. In many countries that don’t have huge resources, they study their own national traditions, and they don’t often have the opportunity to do that comparative work across borders. And we’ve funded a kind of model where a senior scholar will put together a project around a research topic and invite participants from a region—maybe Eastern Europe or into the Balkans or the broader Mediterranean region or Latin America—and bring together young scholars across borders.
And they often deal with issues of cultural exchange. But cultural exchange is not always where it’s a felicitous interaction where everyone gets along. It also results in conflict, in mistranslation, in misunderstandings. And they explore those, as well.
There’s a project that was organized by Alina Payne, a leading art historian who teaches at Harvard University and is now head of Villa I Tatti, Harvard’s research center in Florence. And she put together a project that she called From Riverbed to Seashore. And it brought together younger scholars from countries such as Serbia and Romania and Slovenia, Turkey, Poland, several other countries as well, and they looked at the waterways that connected Eastern Europe into parts of Asia, and with Western Europe, as well. And these waterways could be both borders separating people, but they were also the conduits for people, for products and for ideas.
They were looking at the early modern period, so 1400 to 1700, and they were looking at the interactions along these waterways. This is where Central Asia and Eastern Europe came together, but also the area in which Christianity and Islam came together. You had young scholars who could bring their knowledge of their own countries and the art created in those countries; but by traveling together, by looking at monuments together, they could start to see the influences across borders.
We think of globalization as something modern and contemporary; but that kind of globalization certainly existed in early modern Europe, and it existed in the ancient world, as well.
CUNO: You probably have, from your experience in this Connecting Art Histories, the broadest view of the state of art history generally, and the developments and directions it might be taking. What’s your sense of that? And how confident are you that there’s a future in art history?
WEINSTEIN: I’m very confident there’s a future in art history. Maybe I’m in the minority here. I think it’s an incredibly vibrant discipline across the world, and I think it’s reaching out continually to other disciplines. I think art history as a discipline is becoming more fully international. I think you see more and more people who are broadening their training, who realize it’s not enough to specialize in one period, one country, one artistic tradition, but they need to understand the interconnections that went on during those times. And it’s actually very interesting, even in the United States, to look at the postings for positions, where more and more programs are looking for scholars who can see those interconnections between and among cultures.
I also think that in a culture that is so dominated by visuality right now—we’re a completely visual culture, bombarded by images—that art history is the discipline that knows how to analyze and interpret imagery. And we have to find a way to show a broader community that we are the ones who can help interpret these images and understand their roots and origins, understand how they manipulate us, understand how they promote certain ideological positions. And I think it’s really incumbent on us as a field to try to take that on.
In a lot of art history, people have become consummate professionals, who know the latest theory and can speak in a lot of jargon. And I think that if we don’t get away from that, that will be the thing that dooms the discipline.
CUNO: Wow. Now, these are two projects of the Foundation. A third one, which has had extraordinary success is Pacific Standard Time. Tell us how it got started, what its history has been.
WEINSTEIN: Pacific Standard Time has now become a kind of signature program of the Getty, but it really started as a rather modest project. We became aware of the fact that the history of Los Angeles art in the postwar period, after the Second World War, was being lost; that a number of the artists and gallerists, critics of the period were sadly passing away, and that their archives were being destroyed.
We thought that we could do something about that. And this was actually a collaboration early on of the Foundation and the Research Institute. We started on the archival project around 2003. The Research Institute had just begun an oral history project on this era. And the Foundation had always supported archival projects, so we went out and we funded a survey of the archives to find out what was already in public institutions and what was in private hands and we could encourage to be given to public institution We provided some funding to the public institutions to process those archives and to make that material available to researchers.
As we began looking at that archival material, we realized that it told a really different story of the history of modern art. The story had always been told from the perspective of New York, which was really about French art fleeing Europe and coming to New York. Los Angeles told a very different story, really influenced by Dada and Surrealism. And it told us a lot about the state of contemporary art, because it was the first feminist art movement that started in Southern California. Chicano art that’s had its roots in Southern California, the Light and Space movement, Finish Fetish, a lot of performance art began here. So it really helped tell us what the roots of contemporary art were by looking at that period.
CUNO: At some point, it became obvious to everyone involved, I gather, that there was a public interest in these materials. How did that happen, and when did you decide to make it actually a series of exhibitions?
WEINSTEIN: It took us a while. It took a lot of conversation. And we started to think just supporting some research and books on this topic wasn’t enough. And we had some initial conversations with some of the key museums in Southern California—with LACMA, MoCA, the Hammer—and they all told us they had these passion projects they wanted to do for so long, but they didn’t have the kind of support they needed to do the really deep research that was necessary to go into these archives and do the work.
And we thought, well, we could do a few exhibitions. Wouldn’t that be fun? And that’s something that was very different. The Foundation had never funded exhibitions before. We had funded some exhibition research in the past in one of our old grant categories, but we had never done that really public-facing work. And we said, “Well, why not?”
And a few other museums started to hear about it, and they had great ideas and we were being besieged by requests. So we decided we’d have a competition. We’d open it up and everyone could apply. And—
CUNO: Everyone locally. I mean the region that can be defined by Santa Barbara, to the north; to San Diego to the south; to Los Angeles; to Palm Springs.
WEINSTEIN: Yes. We decided that the competition should be for Southern California institutions. And there were so many good projects that came in that we said, “Well, maybe we’ll bite the bullet.” And we initially funded, I think, twenty-four projects. In the end, it was closer to thirty-one or thirty-two projects.
CUNO: What did your grant giving make possible for these institutions?
WEINSTEIN: I think one of the keys to the success of Pacific Standard Time was that we really thought it should be based on new, original research. And so we gave grants for museums to assemble teams of scholars and curators and to spend time in the archives, to spend time with the artists, interviewing them, and to spend time really searching for the works of art that they wanted to include in their exhibitions. And as you know as a former museum director, that’s some of the hardest money to get, to really do that research and preparation for an exhibition. And then we funded the exhibitions themselves.
CUNO: How successful was Pacific Standard Time, and how did you measure its success?
WEINSTEIN: That’s a really good question, because when we started Pacific Standard Time was right at the moment we were starting our strategic grant making. So in a way, it was the perfect moment for us to break out of our traditional way of working. And we identified early on that one of the most important things to us was the new scholarship that was going to come out of this. And we thought that one of the ways long term would be the courses taught in universities on Los Angeles art, which were almost nonexistent at that time, the new dissertations that were created. And we know by all measures, that’s been incredibly successful.
We hoped that we would have a national and an international audience that would come to Los Angeles for this. And quite honestly, that was slow going. In the beginning, that didn’t happen. And as word of mouth got out, all of a sudden we had major museums in Europe calling and saying, “We wanna bring our trustees” or “We wanna bring our international committee to see Pacific Standard Time.” And the momentum built and we were very, very successful.
We also did a lot of surveys of visitors to museum exhibitions. And one of the most exciting things for us was that when they interviewed people at museums, they were oftentimes museum goers who went to one museum each year. And the overwhelming number of respondents were at a museum they had never been at before, and that they were adding to the places that they had gone. And part of this was a concerted campaign that we had that we called a push campaign, so that one museum would help push you to the next one. And we’d say, “If you’re interested in the subject matter here, if you really like photography, there’s a great exhibition that we can send you to.” Or “Just across the street, there’s another show. Why don’t you cross the street and go there?”
CUNO: So we’ve had two Pacific Standard Times already, the second Pacific Standard Time looking at the relationship between Los Angeles and Latin American art. And we’re now in the midst of planning the third. Tell us about the third Pacific Standard Time.
WEINSTEIN: The third one’s really exciting because we decided we weren’t going to stick a pin in a map, choose another geographic location, but mix it up a little bit this time. And we came up with the topic of the intersection of art and science. It seemed like a terrific topic, both for the breadth of the kinds of exhibitions that could be staged, but also the topic had terrific contemporary relevance.
There’re a lot of artists who are working around issues of climate change. There’re a lot of artists who actually dealt with issues of abuses of technology early on, and were some of the warning bells for how companies like Facebook take our information, our personal information, and put it out into the universe. And there’re also issues of artificial intelligence that I think will be relevant in the next Pacific Standard Time.
CUNO: And I think we’re about a year into the planning of the next Pacific Standard Time. And when will it be open to the public?
WEINSTEIN: It will open in 2024, so we have another four years. We’ve got—
CUNO: It always takes that long. The planning takes that long, the building of resources takes that long.
WEINSTEIN: And the time for the museums to put together teams of researchers and to go out and do the work. And we already know that we’re going to have a broad array of topics that will look at the connections between art and science in the Islamic world. We often think about a polymath such as Leonardo, and think that that’s the only time it happened; but actually, in the Muslim world in earlier centuries, you had a number of polymaths who were engineers, artists, and inventors.
So we know we’ll see the traditions in other cultures, in other historical time periods. We know that there are a number of institutions that are really interested in indigenous forms of scientific knowledge; so other ways of knowing about the cosmos or about the seasons or about agriculture. And there will be many that deal with modern and contemporary art and the ways that artists work with scientists on projects.
And we have terrific scientific institutions here in Southern California, and we want to work with those institutions to create a broad civic dialog around issues at the intersection of art and science. Science is coming under a lot of siege today, in a culture that doesn’t believe in facts, in our post-truth era, just as the humanities have come under attack for their lack of relevance. So it’s a wonderful opportunity to create a dialog across these two disciplines, to challenge one another, to engage with one another, and to talk about what it means to talk about science at the present moment.
CUNO: So Joan, tell us about the Getty Marrow Undergraduate Internship Program and how that’s developed over the years, and the name, Getty Marrow, what does that mean?
WEINSTEIN: So this was a program that was founded in 1992, in response to the civil unrest in Los Angeles after the Rodney King trial. And the Getty felt it needed to do something more about issues of diversity in the museum world. And the Foundation created a program called the Multicultural Undergraduate Internship Program. The word multicultural dates it; it’s a very nineties term. But this was an effort to provide paid internships to students of diverse backgrounds who had some connection to Southern California—either they grew up here or they went to college here—and to provide paid internships in museums and visual arts organizations.
Paid internships were very unusual at the time. And it’s recently become a major issue in the museum world, because there’s still a lot of unpaid internships. And we were really a leader in this because this is a program that’s twenty-seven years old now. Every summer, we support slightly more than 100 students to have internships in the Southern California area, including here at the Getty, where we have a large contingent.
This program was started under the extraordinary leadership of Deborah Marrow, who was director of the Getty Foundation for thirty-five years. And last year it was renamed the Getty Marrow Internship Program to honor her contributions and her commitment to this program.
I think one of the extraordinary things has been sticking with a program like this for this length of time. I can remember a number of different moments where people said, “Isn’t this an old-fashioned project? Shouldn’t you stop it?” Or “Should you create something else out of it?” We’ve just recently gone and looked at the extensive data we have on these interns. And we have tracked them over the years. And an extraordinary number, almost one-third of them, are actually now working in museums and visual arts organizations.
This was not a pipeline program; this was just meant to introduce students to the idea that there’re careers in museums. Not just curators, but also museum educators, people doing public programs, registrars, administration. We’re now, after twenty-seven years, seeing leaders emerge. A number of institutions in Southern California now have former interns leading them. We also know from our surveys that more than 90% of them attribute their decision to go into careers in museums to those original internships. So you can really see the extraordinary power that an internship can have.
CUNO: That’s extraordinary. You know, you’ve been working with us here at the Getty for quite some time, working in the Foundation for a couple of decades almost, so you’re in a best position, now that you are the director of the Getty Foundation, you’re in the best position to answer my final couple of questions.
Tell us where the Getty Foundation is headed today under your leadership. How do you see the Foundation ten years from now?
WEINSTEIN: I’ve learned not to project out ten years, but I’ll tell you where I see us a few years from now at least. I think that something that I referenced earlier, the Getty Foundation can have extraordinary impact when it works closely with partner organizations here at the Getty, and I think also with partners outside the Getty. And I think we should look for those means of collaboration so that we can have an even greater impact.
I think that we need to continue to be innovative. I think Pacific Standard Time was a real innovation in the way that we approach grant making. It’s much more public-facing, and it’s a willingness to cede some control sometimes in what we do with the wild and wooly array of our partners. I think, though, that even within some traditional categories, there’s really room for innovation.
And I think of something just like archival projects. We need to make those archives come alive. We need to make a broader public understand the relevance of that material and why we protect it, and to share it more broadly with others.
I’m very confident of the impact we’re making. I’ve seen in so many of our initiatives, how we’ve helped transform the fields we care about. And I know that the Getty as a whole is committed to continuing that work.
CUNO: Well, thank you, Joan, for giving us this time on this podcast. Thank you for taking over the leadership of the Getty Foundation. It’s been great talking with you, and it’s gonna be great fun working with you.
WEINSTEIN: It’s been my pleasure, Jim.
CUNO: This episode was produced by Zoe Goldman with audio production by Gideon Brower and mixing by Myke Dodge Weiskopf.
Our theme music comes from “The Dharma at Big Sur,” composed by John Adams for the opening of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles in 2003. It is licensed with permission from Hendon Music.
Look for new episodes of Art and Ideas every other Wednesday. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and other podcast platforms.
For photos, transcripts, and more resources, visit getty.edu/podcasts. Or if you have a question or idea for an upcoming episode, write to us at email@example.com.
Thanks for listening.
JAMES CUNO: Hello, I’m Jim Cuno, president of the J. Paul Getty Trust. Welcome to Art and Ideas, a podcast in which I speak to artists, conservators, authors, and scholars about their work.
JOAN WEINSTEIN: We like to say that we punch above our weight, that we take what seem like not la...