Celebrating Lifelong Learning

By: Catie Anderson, curator of education on December 5th, 2012

The Woodson Art Museum’s annual docent holiday gathering celebrates the hard work of a dedicated group of volunteers who lead guided experiences at the Museum for visitors of all ages – especially school children.  Sunday evening, beverages were sipped, gifts were given (gotta love Etsy!), and I even made an awkward toast. Thanks to Allister Deacon’s for the fantastic food and inspired atmosphere.

Museum docents come from all walks of life. By volunteering at the Woodson, they find and create a community – a community of fellow lifelong learners who recognize the importance of experiential learning, the arts, and storytelling. The diverse backgrounds of the Museum’s docent corps is a strength of the program. Varied perspectives and wide-ranging experience levels lead to distinct insights and multiple points of entry for visitors. The docent corps is a remarkable group of agile thinkers and interpreters who are hungry for knowledge.

The dynamic work environment of a museum is challenging and exciting. My first year at the Woodson Art Museum flew by, and I’m still settling into the fast-paced cycle of changing exhibitions and the balancing act that’s required. Learning curves are inevitable in every professional position and museums certainly know how to throw a curve ball. Time crunches and other duties aside, one of my favorite aspects of my work is the research that accompanies each exhibition.

The culture and craftsmanship of the Shakers captured my attention for weeks as I prepared to craft audio tour tracks, train docents, and entice educators – through pre-visit materials – to bring students to the two Shaker exhibitions.  Diving into new areas of research is a perk of my work as a museum educator and would feel self-indulgent if I didn’t aim to put my findings to good use.

Richard Sweeney, 03M (Partial Shell), 2010, watercolor paper, wet folded. Photo by Richard Sweeney.

Partnerships with area artists and experts help to enliven exhibitions and attract visitors. A dual-artist residency with master carpenter and author Mark Duginkse and artist Jim Rose offers opportunities for hands-on Shaker furniture making and contemporary interpretations of Shaker decorative arts designs. While there are many fantastic public programs in store during this period, the Woodson Art Museum team is “on to the next one” so to speak. The docents are now carrying the Shaker interpretive torch and I’m turning my attention to origami. Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilities of Origami and the paper sculpture of Calvin Nicholls will fill the Museum’s galleries beginning Saturday, January 26. I’m already looking forward to learning with and from our docents in the months ahead.

Calvin Nicholls, Tree Frog

Interested in learning more about the docent program? Email me at canderson@lywam.org.

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