Interview with Virginia Mokslaveskas, Class of '77

Tell us about the work you’re doing?

I’m a Reference Librarian at the Getty Research Institute which is dedicated to furthering knowledge and advancing understanding of the visual arts.  As a librarian, I work with researchers to help them find information and access the GRI’s vast collection of over a million books and rare archival materials.  My particular area of expertise is our 20th century collections which include the papers, letters, drawings, notes and photographs of artists, art historians, photographers and architects – covering a wide range of artistic movements, including Bauhaus, Dada, Russian Modernism, Fluxus, etc .  My job requires me to be somewhat of a detective in that I often have to help people figure out what they are looking for and where it might reside.

What are some of the perks of your job?

I interact with amazing people from all over the world… artists, curators, teachers, students working on their PhDs, museum directors, and I get to help them with their projects and publications. I really enjoy helping people and being of service. It’s also interesting to handle the actual objects, like for instance, handwritten letters of Man Ray, or a manuscript by Wassily Kandinsky – I’m always finding treasures. Another perk is that I get to attend wonderful lectures at the Getty and continue to learn new things.   Also, the sunsets at the Getty Center are incredible!

How did you get involved in this line of work?

After Highland Hall I was an art major at Otis Art Institute.  I had a daughter, and for years I worked in retail.  Then as a single parent I decided to go back and complete my degree, thinking that Art History would be more practical, but, of course, it wasn’t!  While I was studying for a master’s degree, I found a part-time job at the Getty Research Institute doing data entry for their photo archive catalog which at the time was still on paper.  For two years I created catalog records for the photo archive and I looked at tons of images and became familiar with the library’s collections.  Eventually  I was hired as a Research Librarian which was unusual because I didn’t have a degree in Library Science, but I did have art history subject expertise and research experience from working on a master’s degree – good people and communications skills are necessary to be a good reference librarian.  I did not set out to work at a library, however it was a good fit and I have really enjoyed my work at the GRI.

Why did your family chose Highland Hall?

We lived next to Odessa Ferris who was one of the original teachers at Highland Hall.  My mother became good friends with her and came to appreciate the Waldorf philosophy, and even though my mother was a public school teacher she wanted her children to have the experience of a Waldorf education.  So, I started at Highland Hall in the 5th grade and my sister Susanne started in 8th.

Do you recall anything unique about your education?

Absolutely.  I remember my first day at Highland Hall…I couldn’t believe this was school.  Even as a 5th grader, I knew that it was something special – and the environment resonated with my soul and I blossomed.  As for the lifelong learning—Yes!  I learned to look at the world and appreciate that all subjects are interconnected.  Even today, I am surrounded by art, but I am schooled in ideas about the world.

My class teacher, Paulette Oatley, was an amazing storyteller.  It’s the stories that make history come alive.  I loved learning about the world…the philosophy, politics, and the zeitgeist of a time and place. And because I am more of a visual learner, I loved learning through images.

What do you value most from your Waldforf education?

I feel that I have a more grounded and holistic view of things.   I see the interconnectedness of ideas and look at the deeper meaning as well as seeing the big picture of things. Plus I had a wonderful experience of community with my classmates and teachers – and I’m still very close with a few classmates.

If you had any message for this year’s graduating seniors what would it be?

I would say to keep an open mind.  I had no idea how I would fit into this world and I had a lot of anxiety coming from a different education system.   But if I could talk to my younger self, I would say, relax, be open and follow what you enjoy doing.