My Awesome Experience at the Skirball (It Didn’t End with Prom)

Before dancing the night away, I took my prom pictures with my track and field teammates inside the Skirball’s Magnin Auditorium (you can tell it’s there by the yellow bands on the wall behind us).

The Skirball and I have a long rich history together. First of all, I attended my high school prom here. I danced the night away with my best friends in the Taper Courtyard. Then, when I was at UCLA, I would see it off the 405 as my parents drove me back to campus after weekends back home in Palmdale. When I spotted the Skirball during those car rides, I knew that I only had fifteen minutes (or forty-five with traffic!) to finish the reading I should have completed before I went home for the weekend. And now, this past summer, I have interned in the Communications and Marketing department, an awesome opportunity thanks to the Getty Multicultural Undergraduate Internship program. I have done other marketing internships during my undergraduate years, but never have I felt so much joy in coming to work as I did while walking through the doors of the Skirball each morning. It’s because each day I helped the team get the word out about exhibitions and programs, I knew I was sharing with my Los Angeles community the amazing experiences that are possible here at the Skirball.

During my internship, the exhibition The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats was on view, and to me, it illustrated a lot about the mission of the Skirball. It showed how the Skirball stands as a place where people of all different backgrounds can meet and feel respected.

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I love Keats’s use of marbled paper in his artwork. This piece, from the book entitled Dreams, is my favorite from the exhibition. Ezra Jack Keats, “It was hot. After supper Roberto came to his window to talk with Amy.” Final illustration for Dreams, 1974. Marbled paper and paint on board. Ezra Jack Keats Papers, de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection, McCain Library and Archives, The University of Southern Mississippi. Copyright Ezra Jack Keats Foundation.

Keats is recognized for his picture book The Snowy Day (1962), which follows a young boy named Peter as he experiences his first snow day. Peter is African American, but his race is never mentioned in the book because Keats was trying to express the wonder of snowfall, a universal feeling for all children regardless of race. Keats also authored the story My Dog Is Lost (1960), which tells the tale of Juanito, an eight-year-old Puerto Rican immigrant looking for his dog. Juanito only speaks Spanish, but with help from kids he meets in Harlem, Chinatown, Little Italy, and Park Avenue, he finds his beloved pet. These stories of universal sentiments like joy and loss resonate among all people regardless of their background.

Keats’s timeless stories of friendship and multiculturalism resonate with me because in my own childhood, I never read a book in which there was a character of my Latino background. I was excited to be looking at the work of an artist who provided stories of multiculturalism at a time when the color of your skin was an extremely controversial and divisive topic in our nation. By presenting Keats’s work, the Skirball is celebrating his stories and his worldview to both current fans of his work and a whole new generation of readers. It keeps the discussion of multiculturalism alive.

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I enjoyed The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats exhibition so much that I brought my boyfriend, Gilbert, to see it as well. We even took this picture at the in-gallery photo booth to commemorate the visit.

As I was leaving the Keats exhibition (which, by the way, is closing on September 7!), a little girl with dark brown curly hair standing in front of me yelled out,“Mamí Mamí! Look! Mira!” She was pointing at the orange marbled paper in one of Keats’s works, excitedly telling her mom that it is just like the marbled paper she got to use at the Skirball’s Family Art Studio. It was at that moment I realized I was interning at a special place this summer because just like Keats, the Skirball offers audiences the universal delight of fun and learning.

And I’m excited to report that during my internship, I landed a job in the Education department of the Skirball! I am happy I get to create more memories with the Skirball. I look forward to continue working and learning here.

Posted in Exhibitions, Museum and tagged , .

About Helen Alonzo

Helen Alonzo was the 2014 Getty Multicultural Intern for the Communications and Marketing department, and is now the Administrative Assistant in Education. A recent UCLA graduate, Helen is excited to become a true Angeleno and explore L.A. after four years of living in Westwood. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, drinking coffee, and watching MASTERPIECE MYSTERY! Theater on PBS.

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