Getty Center, J. Paul Getty Trust

Why Give Time to the Arts? 6 Questions for Getty Volunteer Stephen Thorne

Because art inspires!

Stephen Thorne has been part of the arts since he started volunteering at the Getty 16 years ago—twice that long if you count the first of his many visits to the Getty Villa, back in 1980.

With no background in art history, yet an ever-blossoming interest in art and culture awakened by childhood visits to museums and historic sites, Stephen invests two weekends a month (his “Getty weekends”) to be a volunteer. Getty volunteers offer a welcoming face to visitors from around the world—handing out maps, explaining the multimedia players, or answering the perennial visitor question, “Where do I start?” Say Guten Tag, and you might even get ein bisschen German from him.

My favorite place to welcome visitors is the Tram Arrival Plaza at the Getty Center. You never know who will get off that tram. People who come here are always so wide-eyed and excited to be here.

I started volunteering because getting to come to a place where I could smile and be nice to people wasn’t work, it was a vacation!

After a long day of looking at art, visitors look like they’ve just eaten an incredibly satisfying meal.

Art can change lives because it motivates people to expand beyond their boundaries. You may work an average 9-to-5 job, but then come here and feel inspired—see something you’ve never seen before, something that helps you think outside the box.

If the world didn’t have art it would just be boring. Can you imagine? What would you look at? What would you aspire to? I don’t think we could appreciate anything if we didn’t have art.

Want to swap stories (or German) with Stephen? You can find him on Saturday mornings at the Getty Villa and on Sunday afternoons at the Getty Center every other week. His next shift is this weekend, November 16 and 17.  And to join Stephen as a Getty volunteer, you can also apply here by December 31, 2013. No special art knowledge required, just a way with people.

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      Color for Healing

      This sanitorium (tuberculosis hospital) in Paimio, Finland, was designed by architect Alvar Aalto in the 1920s. Unlike many hospitals, it was full of bright colors—including welcoming yellow on the main stairs and calming green for ceilings above bedridden patients. Aalto even created special chairs to open the chest and speed healing.

      The building’s colors were mostly whitewashed later in the 20th century, but now—due to a grant from the Getty Foundation as part of its Keeping It Modern initiative—its colors are being reconstructed and the building preserved for the future.

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