Typically, the prospect of the holiday season isn’t one I’m enchanted by. Gift giving? Not my strong suit. Christmas music? Pass. Snow? Please. Side effects of the holiday season include five extra pounds, mandatory cheer, and sometimes hairy travel across state lines. I’m not a total Grinch, though; one seasonal symptom I can appreciate is a renewed sense of gratitude and connectedness.
The holiday spirit encourages millions of Americans to volunteer in their communities and donate millions to nonprofit organizations. A 2014 federal study found that “one in four Americans volunteer through an organization and two-thirds helped their neighbors in the past year,” and the National Philanthropic Trust reported that “Americans gave $373.25 billion in 2015. This reflects a 4.1% increase from 2014.”
For the past five years, I’ve been coaxed into the holiday spirit with the help of the extended family of the Woodson Art Museum’s docent corps who join Museum staff on the first Sunday in December each year for a dinner honoring their volunteer efforts.
These dedicated volunteers are the real deal. This group of forty men and women is committed to connecting directly with their community by sharing their enthusiasm for the arts, education, and cultural engagement through the Woodson Art Museum. This past year, they spent hundreds of volunteer hours with students in the galleries telling stories, chatting about artwork on view, and creating art.
Earlier this week, docents gathered in the galleries to learn more about the Tiffany Glass exhibition as we discussed the history of Tiffany Studios, the production of opalescent glass, and examined stained-glass windows and lampshades in the galleries with the help of flashlights and tactile aids.
As always during the training, the docents were a patient, generous, and curious audience, which always reinforces my confidence in their abilities to engage visitors of all ages.
For me the holidays have served as an antidote of sorts to the coming of the new year when many of us reexamine ourselves and make promises of betterment.
If you’re debating ways to improve your life, serve your community, or invest energies in new pursuits in 2017, I encourage you to consider volunteering at the Woodson Art Museum.
With the help of Museum staff, I will lead a series of docent training classes this February. Beginning February 2, we’ll meet Tuesday and Thursday mornings, 9-11 am, at the Museum where we’ll explore the galleries, behind-the-scenes, and dive into topics like learning styles and visual-thinking strategies. If you’re interested in learning more about the docent program, call the Museum at 715-845-7010 or email Catie Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New friendships, lifelong learning, and unexpected experiences await you at the Woodson Art Museum in 2017; I hope to see you here.