UPDATE 2: An interesting post on the Getty cuts at Hyperallergic ends with this provocative question: “Are museums Universities of Vision or Churches of the Eye?”
UPDATE: The website Art Museum Teaching has posted a stinging critique of the Getty cuts by Robert Sabol, president of the National Art Education Association. Sabol calls the Cuno’s decision to cut gallery educators “a significant step backward” and “out of step” with the museum field. You can read Sabol’s full letter here.
In the comments to the post, Cuno has responded (via Getty PR chief Ron Hartwig) saying, “This new approach will not reduce our educational programs or the quality of teaching available at the Museum.” Two educators have also commented, questioning the accuracy of Cuno’s statements. One notes, “At the Getty Villa alone, four out of five Gallery Teachers, the Education Specialist for Gallery Teaching, the Education Specialist for School and Teacher Programs, and the Manager of Education were all laid off. Obviously, when one considers the volume of work these seven people accomplish on a daily basis, there is no question that the quality of programs is already severely affected, and will continue to diminish!”
This morning, Getty CEO James Cuno sent out a memo to Getty Museum staff announcing the elimination of 34 staff positions. Ten positions were eliminated today, and Cuno is looking for another 24 staffers to volunteer or face layoffs on May 7th.
Monday’s move is the latest in Cuno’s shakeup at the museum, which began in February with the dismissal of Thom Rhoads, assistant director of administration, and Guy Wheatley, a manager at the Getty Villa. At the time, Cuno said the cuts would “allow the Museum to focus more on collections and exhibitions and less on administrative matters and site-wide operations.” Some saw it as a move to concentrate power in the Getty Trust, which oversees the Museum.
Monday’s cuts target the museum’s education department, which has long been known for its use of staff gallery teachers rather than volunteer docents. That approach has been “rethought to be more cost-effective and to reach more children through a robust docent program,” Cuno told staff this morning. Volunteer docents will now be the norm it appears. Last year, the department served more than 860,000 visitors to the Getty Center and Getty Villa. Recent evaluations of the program’s activities can be found here. The Getty’s support for busing students from poor communities will not be affected.
UPDATE: I’m told of the 17 gallery teachers now employed, only five will keep their jobs. Managers positions at both the Getty Center and Villa were also cut.
UPDATE #2: The LA Times has details on the cuts here.
Here’s the full memo. We’d welcome your thoughts and comments below or anonymously via ChasingAphrodite@gmail.com.
Dear Getty colleagues,
Just a short while ago, I emailed Museum staff to let them know the outcome of the meetings I have held over the last two months with the Museum’s leadership team to ensure its resources are being deployed in the most effective manner. The objective throughout that process was to maintain the Museum’s very high standards of excellence in all areas, while at the same time determining where we can realize savings through more effective and efficient operations.
The discussions during the review process were open and candid, with many ideas developed and exchanged, and we always were guided by a commitment to preserving the museum’s core mission:
● Building the Museum’s collection by acquiring works of art of the greatest importance;
● Preserving its curatorial ambitions (research, exhibitions, and scholarly publications);
● Strengthening its conservation work; and
● Serving a large and diverse public through educational programs and online access to information about its collection, curatorial and conservation research, and curricular resources.
The actions being taken will not affect curatorial or conservation staffing. Programming for students, families and adults will remain in place, but the program has been rethought to be more cost-effective and to reach more children through a robust docent program. We will maintain the number and ambition of our excellent exhibitions. We will increase our efforts to fill priority gaps in collection documentation and improve our visitor experience by providing greater access to information. I have challenged all of our managers to leverage technology in our work to enhance the visitor experience.
Changes at the Museum will include the transition in September from the primary use of gallery teachers to docent-led gallery experiences so that more visitors, particularly students, will have a Getty-led tour. There will be no reduction in the number of school visits, including students from Title One schools.
In addition to the reduction in gallery teachers, some administrative and project-focused staffing positions in the Education Department will be reduced, along with staffing in Exhibitions and Imaging Services. We will also seek volunteers from among our Visitor Services staff to better align staffing requirements in that department.
The changes will result in 10 layoffs, and we will ask for volunteers for 24 additional positions that are being eliminated. Meetings were held this morning with affected staff.
The departure of valued members of the Getty Museum’s staff is difficult, but I want to assure you that each of those leaving will receive a very generous severance package identical to those offered by the Getty in the past. All of those laid off will receive their regular pay and benefits during a 60-day non-working notice period, and will be eligible to receive two additional weeks of pay for every year of credited service over four years. If an employee elects to take the coverage, the Getty will pay up to three months of COBRA payments to extend health benefits. The Getty will also provide a generous allowance for outplacement services, and of course, pay all accrued and unused vacation and personal hours.
The layoffs being announced today will be handled in two ways. Some staff will be notified today that their position has been eliminated and they will have the option of remaining at the Getty until Wednesday to transition their responsibilities and say farewell to colleagues. In other cases, we will ask for volunteers. On Monday, May 7th, volunteers will be notified if their offer has been accepted. Those individuals will have the option of remaining at the Getty until Wednesday, May 9th to transition responsibilities and say farewell to colleagues. If we do not receive sufficient volunteers, additional layoffs will occur on May 7th.
I will be meeting with Museum staff tomorrow to further explain the review process and answer their questions. These changes are difficult, but I am confident they will result in an institution that is more focused on its core priorities and better positioned for an uncertain economy and lower endowment returns.