Artists at The Coffee Gallery

Getty employees exhibit their artistic side at The Coffee Gallery, 2029 N. Lake Ave. in Altadenta through Dec. 31.
Getty employees exhibit their artistic side at The Coffee Gallery, 2029 N. Lake Ave. in Altadenta through Dec. 31.

Nine years ago, J. Paul Getty Center employees Elliott Kai-Kee and Ellen South discussed the fact that so many staff members at the hilltop campus are practicing artists. It made sense, they thought, to share their passion for art-making by starting an after-work drawing group. Since then, they’ve met with other staffers once a week for three hours at a time, to sketch from a nude model — a centuries-old tradition that many contemporary artists continue to practice.

For those involved, it’s a nice change of pace from the large institution’s exciting yet often hectic work atmosphere.

“It’s therapeutic at the end of the day to simply walk downstairs to the studio and shift from our professional capacities to making art,” South said.

She works by day as staff assistant in the Museum’s Department of Sculpture and Decorative Arts. Artists sit around a central stand, on which the model holds a single pose for two to twenty minutes at a time. Music and conversation enliven the atmosphere.

The life drawing group is open to all Getty staff, including docents, volunteers and interns. Although the institution generously provides studio space, the group is entirely self supported and administered. “There are times when we’ve been able to employ two models simultaneously,” says Melissa Piper, a staff assistant at the Getty Research Institute. “And other times we worry about whether we will have enough to pay one! But over the years we’ve had a core group of about eight of us.”

Piper, South and Kai-Kee — who oversees gallery teaching in the Museum’s Education Department — certainly count as that core group, as does Ron Schmidtling, a scientist for the Getty Conservation Institute and Anne Martens, a Museum media writer. Other artists include volunteers Nancy Pau and Lee Tirce, graduate intern Aude Degrassat, and Museum associate Dexter Cannon. Once a year, the group also generously donates to the Getty Community Service Team’s Annual Silent Auction to help raise funds for Los Angeles community charities.

Ron Schmidtling curated this exhibition, with the generous support of The Coffee Gallery.

The works on view were all made within the last year. The drawing group is neither sponsored nor supported by the J. Paul Getty Trust.

Contributed by Ron Schmidtling