Senior Project Coordinator, Administration

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Melena Gergen is a senior project coordinator in GCI Administration whose responsibilities include working on contracts and internal presentations, as well as assisting with accounting and Administration communications.

Melena grew up in the Los Angeles suburb of Chatsworth, the youngest of six children. Her father, who owned an auto repair shop, regularly took the family on road trips—trips that, at her mother's suggestion, included visits to cultural landmarks (to this day, Melena still enjoys visiting museums with her parents). In high school, she volunteered at a local hospital, and although queasy at the sight of needles and blood, she liked helping people through medicine and decided to become a pharmacist.

That thought, however, ended during her freshman year at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. After taking a course on modern art, she declared art history her major. She was particularly captivated by Italian Baroque art, but a college job as a research assistant to a professor of Asian art broadened her areas of interest.

Her interests were broadened further still by a college internship in the Science program at the GCI. Over a period of three years, as part of a major GCI project on artists' paint materials, Melena researched and catalogued pigments, dyes, and binding media. Following college graduation, she continued her internship while also taking a part-time position at Marymount High School, working in the admissions department and lecturing on art history once a week.

In 1994 she was hired full-time by the GCI to assist in planning and in implementing the Institute's move from its temporary headquarters in Marina del Rey to its permanent home at the Getty Center. Her tasks focused on working with GCI scientists to develop requirements for the new labs at the Center. After the move in 1996, she began taking on more general administrative responsibilities. She also went back part-time to Loyola Marymount University to get a master's degree in art education, with the thought of someday going into museum art education.

Melena recalls as an undergraduate hearing a lecture on the hieroglyphic staircase at the Maya site of Copán in Honduras. Afterward, she told the professor how wonderful she thought it would be to work on the staircase. Little did she imagine that one day she would be on staff at an institution that was doing exactly that.