Docent Debut

By: Catie Anderson, curator of education on March 8th, 2017

The Woodson Art Museum is really, truly BTYB – Brought To You By –  volunteers.

Dedicated, generous, curious, and enthusiastic volunteers make visitors feel welcomed, add beauty to our grounds, and engage thousands of school children each year.

I have the privilege of working with volunteer docents at the Art Museum, responding to their initial inquiries, ideas for gallery interpretation, and chatting with them on a daily basis as I see them in action. During the month of February, I had the pleasure of working with eight individuals on their journey to joining the Woodson Art Museum docent corps.

February was a hectic and demanding month as staff prepared for the opening of M.C. Escher: Reality and Illusion and Illustrating Illusions: Drawings by Robin Lauersdorf on March 4. Despite the daily demands, which kept me on my toes, I found my pace slowed down and my blood pressure likely dropped every Tuesday and Thursday morning, 9-11 am, when I met with the “docents-in-training.” During these sessions, we explored the elements of art and principles of design, visual analysis, learning styles, ages and stages of development, along with the logistics of docent-led experiences at the Woodson Art Museum. This new group of docent volunteers is impressive, even a bit intimidating to me; I thoroughly enjoyed each and every gathering.

Docent training classes are a team effort, involving multiple coworkers who lend their expertise and help acquaint new volunteers with Woodson staff and spaces. Museum director Kathy Kelsey Foley always makes time during our first class to discuss the history of the Woodson Art Museum, our founding families, and, of course, a few rounds of “stump the director.”

My PowerPoint presentations and dozens of handouts hardly compare with the thrill of touring behind-the-scenes vaults with curator of collections Jane Weinke and curator of exhibitions Andy McGivern, whose institutional knowledge and vast experience enchanted the group as they learned about the structure, mission, and due diligence of an American Alliance of Museums-accredited institution. Fellow curator of education Lisa Hoffman met with the docents-to-be to demonstrate strategies for engaging young audiences, while Tina Meverden walked the group through the various ways she communicates and coordinates with area groups and educators scheduling Museum visits.

Yesterday morning marked our last meeting; the newly minted docents presented their final projects, designs for interpretive experiences based on artworks in the Woodson’s collection. While I’m glad I can turn my attention to Monday’s full docent-corps training for the Escher and Lauersdorf exhibitions, I’ll miss the regular gatherings with our newest recruits.

Thank you Rosemary, Joyce, Lynn, Kate, Marggie, Aletha, Sasha, and Bill and welcome to the Woodson Art Museum docent family.

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