December 02, 2013

Student Artwork on Display as Part of Getty's Community Photoworks Mentoring Program

Students from Mark Twain Middle School mentored by photographer Abelardo Morell, the Getty’s Education Department, and 826LA

The Awakening of the Ordinary
Thursday, December 5, 2013
12513 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90066


MEDIA CONTACT:                 
Alexandria Sivak
Getty Communications
(310) 440-6473

LOS ANGELES – The Getty Museum’s Education Department has teamed up with 826LA and photographer Abelardo Morell for Community Photoworks, a Getty program that since 2006 has introduced students to the art of photography. This year, photographs by 23 8th grade students from Mark Twain Middle School will be on view in the exhibition The Awakening of the Ordinary, with an opening reception Thursday, December 5 from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at Chalk design studio in Los Angeles.

“Mr. Morell was the perfect fit for this particular group of 8th graders. Abe was moved by this group of students because he was their age when he left Cuba and became an exile to this country,” explains Sandy Rodriguez, project specialist in the Getty Museum’s Education Department. “Some of this year’s students are transitioning out of the English as a Second Language program into the main stream College Prep AVID program this Fall. Our goal was to make the experience meaningful and relevant to them, and I think we did it!”

In October, Morell made a classroom visit  at the middle school and discussed his childhood in Cuba, his career in photography, as well as techniques he uses, including turning rooms into large-scale camera obscuras and using a tent camera. Following the presentation, teams of students audio interviewed the photographer with questions they generated prior to his arrival under the guidance of the Getty Museum’s media writer. The next day, Morell led students through his current exhibition at the Getty, and then turned an entire room on the Getty site into a camera obscura by cloaking the walls and windows in black and using a pinhole of light and a lens to project an image.

“I honestly thought that everything in pictures was so ordinary, but he taught me that nothing is ordinary,” says 8th grader Leslie Arenas. “I used to think [photography] was fun, but I never thought about photography in the way that he did – he has a whole different definition of it.”

Following the demonstration, students were given their own digital cameras and were asked to take a dozen photographs over the course of a few weeks, one of which would go on display in a student exhibition. Students also explored the Getty site as they took their first practice photographs. Staff and volunteers from 826LA worked with students in multiple sessions in order to author student artist statements, assist in the selection of photographs and prepare files for the final prints. At the exhibition, photographs will be curated and installed by the students themselves and accompanied by artist statements that further explain their intention and approach.

“My 8th grade AVID students are having an opportunity of a lifetime!” says Jill Usui, 8th grade teacher at Mark Twain Middle School. “Being inspired by the world renown artist Abelardo Morell has given these students “new eyes” from which grew an uninhibited and insightful vision of potentially interesting and photographable subjects in their world.”

For more information about the Getty’s photography-based resources used in this program for student and educators, visit:

Image: The Darkened Illusion by 8th-grader Corianna Johnson


The J. Paul Getty Museum collects in seven distinct areas, including Greek and Roman antiquities, European paintings, drawings, manuscripts, sculpture and decorative arts, and photographs gathered internationally. The Museum’s mission is to make the collection meaningful and attractive to a broad audience by presenting and interpreting the works of art through educational programs, special exhibitions, publications, conservation, and research.

Visiting the Getty Center

The Getty Center is open Tuesday through Friday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. It is closed Monday and major holidays. Admission to the Getty Center is always free. Parking is $15 per car, but reduced to $10 after 5 p.m. on Saturdays and for evening events throughout the week. No reservation is required for parking or general admission. Reservations are required for event seating and groups of 15 or more. Please call (310) 440-7300 (English or Spanish) for reservations and information. The TTY line for callers who are deaf or hearing impaired is (310) 440-7305. The Getty Center is at 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, California. Same day parking at both Museum locations (Getty Center and Getty Villa) is available for $15 through the Getty’s Pay Once, Park Twice program.



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