Exploring Getty while Exploring Your Feelings

Exploring Getty while Exploring Your Feelings

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Mood Journey tours invite you to tap into your emotions

Through a multi-year partnership, J. Paul Getty Museum and Art Processors have developed the GettyGuide, a location-aware mobile tool for exploring the Getty Center and Villa. Mood Journeys is the latest feature, allowing visitors to tailor their museum experience based on their current mood. A recent article by Getty's Associate Editor, Erin Migdol, delves into this innovative addition to the GettyGuide.

Article by Erin Migdol reposted from Getty.edu with permission from © J. Paul Getty Trust


Pause, lie down on the grass, and look up at the clouds. Take a moment to breathe.

These are just some of the things Getty’s new “Calm and Serene” tour encourages you to do—along with kicking off your shoes—once you reach the Central Garden.

“If you’d like, notice how your thoughts change over time, just like clouds,” suggests the tour, available on the GettyGuide® app. “And if you fall asleep, we won’t tell anyone.”

“Calm and Serene” is one of five Mood Journey tours now offered by GettyGuide (get it now in the App Store or on Google Play). The new collection of self-guided tours features the Center’s art, architecture, and gardens as springboards for reflection and activities based around a variety of feelings. Options also include “Connected and Loving,” “Melancholy and Wistful,” “Creative and Inspired,” and “Adventurous and Brave.”

Mood Journey arrives during a moment when museums and visitors are more interested than ever in poignant, mindful experiences. The five new tours encourage guests to reflect not only on the art but also on how it connects to their own experiences and emotions.

“We think of it as an invitation to explore the museum in a new way and to make it more your own,” said Molly Callender, senior IT project manager at Getty. “The question is not ‘How do you feel when you get here?’ but ‘How do you want to feel?’”

Tapping into Emotions

GettyGuide already offers audio tours that provide highlights of Getty’s artwork, gardens, and grounds. But Callender and the project team wanted to create more options for those who have already taken the highlights tours or want to have a more personal experience. They were inspired by research conducted in 2020 and 2021 that found that the qualities respondents are most looking for in a museum visit are “beautiful, challenging, and thought-provoking, or emotionally powerful.” Rather than listen to a lecture as they walk around the site, these visitors want to have an emotional, memorable experience while they’re perusing the art and taking in the grounds.

Mood Journey also complements mindfulness programming already launched at Getty, such as staff-led Mindfulness in the Museum tours, which use art to inspire awareness through techniques like breath work and meditation.

At Getty’s Mindfulness in the Museum Convening in 2022, enthusiasts could participate in a sound bath in the Central Garden.
At Getty’s Mindfulness in the Museum Convening in 2022, enthusiasts could participate in a sound bath in the Central Garden.

Mood Journey is also part of a broader trend of mindfulness in museums, as well as society at large. Ping Ho, founder and director of the Arts & Healing Initiative and an advisor on Mood Journey, wasn’t surprised when she first learned of Getty’s interest in incorporating emotion and mindfulness in its app. Since the pandemic, she’s seen the public begin to adopt the arts as a tool for self-expression, emotional introspection, and building connections with friends, family, and communities.

“I think society has woken up to some chronic issues involving disconnection, like trauma, loneliness, intolerance, social isolation, and chronic illness, and the fact is that we don’t have very many tools for helping people connect with themselves and each other in meaningful ways,” Ho said. “The arts actually provide a backdoor approach to mental health.”

Hooked on a Feeling

Getty teamed up with design and technology firm Art Processors to build Mood Journey in the app, while Getty’s interpretive content team, led by Laura Hubber and Anne Martens, spearheaded the content of each journey.

Hubber and Martens dug into the Getty collection, hunting for objects that fit in with the themes and represented a diverse selection of art and artists. Sprinkled among the artworks are picturesque spots around the Center, from gardens to fountains to scenic overlooks. The team also took suggestions from staff members for favorite artworks and locations around the Center—for example, the lawn activity was inspired by a security guard, who said one of the most common questions he gets is, “Are we allowed to eat on the grass?” (answer: yes!). Each tour takes participants around several areas and galleries at the Center.

In GettyGuide’s Mood Journey feature, spinning the wheel allows for mood selection, and the resulting tour offers information and prompts at each stop.
In GettyGuide’s Mood Journey feature, spinning the wheel allows for mood selection, and the resulting tour offers information and prompts at each stop.

For the text that accompanies each stop on the tours, Hubber and Martens pivoted away from art historical descriptions. Instead, they offered prompts to notice the artwork or location’s smaller details, reflect on bodily awareness, and consider times in one’s life related to the tour’s theme or the artwork.

“Typically when we write an audio tour, we’re giving people information about the art,” said Martens, “but the idea with Mood Journey is to give audiences more agency. They can interpret works of art, and their opinions are just as valid.”

Ho stepped in to offer her expertise on the social, emotional, and mindful elements of the tours. She pointed out prompts that could be more inclusive; for example, when participants are invited to reflect on a past experience, she recommended allowing for both positive and negative responses, so participants don’t ever think a particular prompt “isn’t for me.” She also suggested places in the tour to add little opportunities for further learning, like information about the benefits of positive affirmations and how sounds and smells can bring back memories.

The Future of Mood Journey

Mood Journey launched at the Center earlier this summer, and a set of Mood Journey tours for the Getty Villa Museum is in the works. The existing tours at the Center will be periodically updated with new artworks.

Surveys have begun to gather user feedback that will help improve the experience. One of the most surprising findings is that couples appear to be among the most enthusiastic Mood Journey users. “They found that it was this sort of bonded way of being together, which we did not anticipate at all. And it’s kind of an exciting idea,” Callender said.

Ho took two friends with her to try out Mood Journey after it launched, bouncing around between a few different tours. They found that the prompts encouraged them to talk more deeply about parts of their lives that don’t come up organically in their regular conversations.

“Everybody felt, hands down, that it was a deeply meaningful experience,” Ho said.

And what was Callender’s favorite response from a Mood Journey participant? “It was the right vibe for my mood,” one person said. “It made my strings hum.”

Acknowledgement of Country

In the spirit of reconciliation, we acknowledge the many Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and honour Elders past, present and emerging. We respect their deep, enduring connection to their lands, waterways and surrounding clan groups since time immemorial. We cherish the richness of First Nations Peoples’ artistic and cultural expressions.