Getty Trust cuts 114 positions to boost budget

Times Staff Writer

James Wood, chief executive of the J. Paul Getty Trust, met with staff Tuesday to discuss the elimination of 114 jobs and some programs to yield a 25% budget increase in the Getty's core arts programs, a spokesman said.

"The whole goal here is to focus the Getty on the core mission of the visual arts," Wood said in an interview during a lull between meetings with staffers.

"This is to ensure that we have flexible funds to devote to both building our collections in the museum, the research institute and the library and undertake targeted strategic initiatives where we feel we can really make a difference," Wood said.

"The opportunity to buy a great piece of art is something we don't know until it comes along. The opportunity to undergo a major tomb restoration project in Egypt -- ways we can use our expertise to do things other people can't. This is something we would be able to undergo now."

Most of the personnel reductions were accomplished through attrition, by freezing positions and not filling vacancies when people quit or retired, and by offering voluntary buyout packages, spokesman Ron Hartwig said.

Fewer than 40 people were laid off Monday, he said, and they received "very good severance packages." Some may be considered for positions open in other Getty departments, Hartwig said.

He said 63% of the savings came from operational activities such as maintenance, security and information technology.

"Some of it revolves around washing the windows once a year instead of three times," he said. "I'm not kidding. That represents a huge savings."

Wood held a staff meeting at the Getty Villa on Tuesday morning to discuss the changes and presided over two more staff meetings at the Getty Center in Brentwood on Tuesday afternoon, Hartwig said.

Hartwig said he did not believe the staff cuts involved curators.

He described many of the affected positions as staff assistants, maintenance, communications and management.

"We are laser-focused on our core mission," Hartwig said. "This is about planning and making sure we have the resources to address our mission as strongly as possible moving forward."

The move, Hartwig said, was the culmination of planning and reassessment with the senior management team after Wood took the helm in early 2007 of the trust, which is one of America's most significant arts foundations.

According to the Foundation Center, which compiles information on nonprofit organizations, the Getty Trust is the largest U.S. arts philanthropy, with an endowment of $6.4 billion in 2007 and $5.6 billion in 2006 -- a sizable increase from $4.3 billion in 2003, a spokeswoman said. The staff reductions were foreshadowed by a March 6 staff memo, published on blogger Tyler Green's Modern Art Notes. In the letter to Getty staff, Wood said the board of trustees and the leadership team "have been working to develop a long-term strategic approach to budgeting that will ensure a successful future for the Getty Trust."



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