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Hearts for Hartwig: My Appreciation for Getty’s Soon-to-Retire Communications Head UPDATED

It’s not like me to sing the praises of museum communications officials, even though I constantly rely on them for help (and they often are extremely helpful). As a critic and investigative journalist intent on clarifying what’s been blurred by PR spin, my relationship with spokespersons is often more adversarial than collegial.

Not so with Ron Hartwig, who today announced his retirement this summer after 13 years as the Getty Trust’s vice president of communications.

Ron Hartwig

He has always patiently, promptly, cordially and (best of all) informatively fielded my pesky questions—a gentleman and consummate professional.

His previous professional experience (most recently with Hill & Knowlton, the public relations and consulting firm and, before that, at General Motors) had nothing to do with art museums, but he was a quick study and a master of crisis management—a skill much in evidence during the recent Southern California wildfires that came frighteningly close to the Getty.

This septuagenarian intrepidly made it to work on a smoke-filled, traffic-snarled day when most of the Getty’s employees had been instructed to stay home. Promptly answering all my questions about that threat in great detail, he also deployed the polished soundbite he had crafted for all inquiring journalists:

The Getty was really designed and built to protect against disasters like a major fire….So the best place for the collection is right here at the Getty [emphasis added].

Happily, that proved to be the case.

Here’s hoping that “the best place” for Ron is wherever he chooses to spend his retirement. And here’s hoping that his replacement, Lisa Lapin, currently vice president for communications at Stanford University (and previously a journalist), is able to fill his big shoes when she joins the Getty this fall.

Lisa Lapin
Photo courtesy of Stanford University

Lisa does have some art museum (and CultureGrrl) experience, having fielded my questions seven years ago regarding the university’s plans for the museum for the Anderson Collection, which opened in 2014 adjacent to the Cantor Arts Center.

Here’s hoping that she follows in Ron’s agile footsteps.

UPDATE: Ron has just reminded me of something I’d forgotten: I was “literally the first journalist I spoke with after I joined the Getty. I was on my cell phone and out of the office when you called about the antiquities situation.”

And it was uphill from there!

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