The Fact That Changed Everything: Deborah Marrow and the Getty Foundation

“We realized that audiences are changing, but what about the staffs of the cultural institutions? They weren’t very diverse."

This content is brought to you by GOOD, with support from IBM. Click here to read more stories from The Fact That Changed Everything series and here to read about other Figures of Progress.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

In 1992, the J. Paul Getty Trust was doing some soul searching. A renowned arts organization in Los Angeles, it was established by oil billionaire John Paul Getty in 1953. It includes a grants organization, arts research facilities, a conservation institute, and a museum housing Getty’s extensive collection of Greek and Roman art in the hills of Malibu.

“We were still building the Getty Center at the time, and we had been talking a lot about what our relationship to the city would be once we moved,” says Deborah Marrow, director of the Getty Foundation, which is the department that administers arts grants. (The Getty Center is now the Getty’s main museum perched on 110 acres in the Santa Monica mountains).

Then the L.A. riots happened. The acquittal of LAPD officers caught on video beating Rodney King lit a fuse in a community. The city was engulfed in chaos. At heart of it all was the highly-charged question of race and how diverse communities fit together.

“[The riots] really accelerated our thinking and our urgency about making a difference,” says Marrow. How would the institution be part of the communities around it? In the past decade alone, the county’s white population had slipped from 53 to 41 percent as the Hispanic and Asian population climbed to 38 and 10 percent respectively.

“We realized that audiences are changing, but what about the staffs of the cultural institutions? They weren’t very diverse with the exception of culturally-specific institutions,” says Marrow.

Like their counterparts in the UK, museum staff members in the U.S. were largely white. A report by London-based Museums Association found that in 1993, only about 2.5 percent of people working in UK museums were of minority origin.

“It’s not hard to realize [that fact] if you work in these institutions. It was more about deciding that we should do something about it,” says the director. Seeing this imbalance, Marrow and her three senior staff members team created the Getty Multicultural Undergraduate Internship program in 1992.

“The pipeline for art historians—the feeder field for visual arts organizations—wasn’t very diverse, so we thought we’d go back farther—into the undergraduate level—and try to offer an opportunity that would give students a chance to see what visual arts organizations were like,” says Marrow. “Then, if they wanted to go into these fields, they’d know with plenty of time what they’d need to do to form a career.”

The program targeted promising young undergraduates of color. Rather than only offering internships at the Getty, the program partnered with about forty of L.A.’s art institutions, enabling the program to offer a wide range of work. “We wanted to get into different communities all around LA county,” says Marrow. The internships were paid, which opened the opportunity to those who faced the barrier of financial difficulty.

The program was an immediate success. L.A. institutions got a few extra hands to help with their key projects and ethnic youth found their eyes opened to the possibility of arts as a viable career.

“It wasn’t until the Getty internship program that I realized I could have a career in the arts without being an artist,” says Leslie Ito, an intern during the Getty’s inaugural year. “That summer twenty years ago was where I really started to build the foundation for my career.”

After her internship, Ito eventually rose to become executive director at Visual Communication, an Asian-American media art organization. Even now, she continues to work with the Getty as program officer for the arts at California Community Foundation.

And Ito isn’t alone. A 2008 survey showed 32 percent of interns pursued a career in museums and visual arts after graduation. Over two decades, the internship has introduced 2,700 youths to 150 cultural institutions in L.A.

Leslie Ito as an intern in 1992, and now today

In 2000, the Los Angeles County Arts Commission partnered with the Getty to build a parallel program with a focus on literary and performing arts. Together, they form the largest art internship program in the country.

In light of its success, the Foundation isn’t stopping at one-time summer internships; it’s looking for a long-term relationship. In June 2011, the Foundation launched its Leadership in Arts Management program, which brings together 20 alumni for a series of professional development programs over a 12-month period.

“Good ideas grow,” says Marrow, who knows from experience how one project can build on one another. With any luck, they’re well on their way to helping museums reflect the increasing diversity of their audiences—and our cities.

Photo by Josh Couch on Unsplash

Christopher Columbus, Alexander Hamilton, William Shakespeare, and Sir Walter Scott are getting company. Statues of the famous men are scattered across Central Park in New York City, along with 19 others. But they'll finally be joined by a few women.

Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Sojourner Truth are the subjects of a new statue that will be on display along The Mall, a walkway that runs through the park from 66th to 72nd street. It will be dedicated in August of next year, which is fittingly the 100-year anniversary of the 19th Amendment that granted women the right to vote.

Currently, just 3% of statues in New York City are dedicated to women. Out of 150 statues of historical figures across the city, only five statues are of historical women, including Joan of Arc, Golda Meir, Gertrude Stein, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Harriet Tubman.

Keep Reading Show less

It's easy to become calloused to everyday headlines with messages like, "the world is ending" and "everything is going extinct." They're so prevalent, in fact, that the severity of these statements has completely diminished to the point that no one pays them any attention. This environmental negativity (coined "eco-phobia") has led us to believe that all hope is lost for wildlife. But luckily, that isn't the case.

Historically, we have waited until something is near the complete point of collapse, then fought and clawed to bring the species numbers back up. But oftentimes we wait so long that it's too late. Creatures vanish from the Earth altogether. They go extinct. And even though I don't think for a single second that we should downplay the severity of extinction, if we can flip this on its head and show that every once in a while a species we have given up on is actually still out there, hanging on by a thread against all odds, that is a story that deserves to be told. A tragic story of loss becomes one about an animal that deserves a shot at preservation and a message of hope the world deserves to hear.

As a wildlife biologist and tracker who has dedicated his life to the pursuit of animals I believe have been wrongfully deemed extinct, I spend most of my time in super remote corners of the Earth, hoping to find some shred of evidence that these incredible creatures are still out there. And to be frank, I'm pretty damn good at it!

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

For more than 20 years. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has served the citizens of Maine in the U.S. Senate. For most of that time, she has enjoyed a hard-fought reputation as a moderate Republican who methodically builds bridges and consensus in an era of political polarization. To millions of political observers, she exemplified the best of post-partisan leadership, finding a "third way" through the static of ideological tribalism.

However, all of that has changed since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Voters in Maine, particularly those who lean left, have run out of patience with Collins and her seeming refusal to stand up to Trump. That frustration peaked with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Keep Reading Show less
NHM Vienna/Hans Reschreiter

Wealth inequality has been a hot topic of discussion as of late, but it's something that's occurred all throughout history. Class structure is a complicated issue, especially when you consider that haves and have nots have been in existence for over 4,000 years.

A study published in Science took a look at over 100 late Neolithic and early Bronze Age skeletons found in a burial site in southern Germany. The study "shed light on the complexity of social status, inheritance rules, and mobility during the Bronze Age." Partly by looking at their teeth and the artifacts they were buried with, researchers were able to discover that wealth inequality existed almost 4,000 years ago. "Our results reveal that individual households lasting several generations consisted of a high-status core family and unrelated low-status individuals, a social organization accompanied by patrilocality and female exogamy, and the stability of this system over 700 years," the study said.

Keep Reading Show less
via / Flickr and Dimitri Rodriguez / Flickr

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign looks to be getting a huge big shot in the arm after it's faced some difficulties over the past few weeks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice in the Democratic parties progressive, Democratic Socialist wing, is expected to endorse Sanders' campaign at the "Bernie's Back" rally in Queens, New York this Saturday.

Fellow member of "the Squad," Ilhan Omar, endorsed him on Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less