Volunteerism and Cultural Engagement

By: Catie Anderson, curator of education on November 6th, 2013

Ask any Woodson Art Museum staff member and they will sing the praises of volunteers – their dedication, knowledge, and kindness make them ideal ambassadors for the Museum in our community.

Greeters, gardeners, docents, and SPARK! friends engage visitors, beautify grounds, brighten our entrance, and support the Museum’s mission to enhance lives through art. In addition to facilitating art appreciation, volunteers are vital in assisting the Museum’s lean staff during busy days.

Museum volunteers are committed lifelong learners and cultural advocates. Docents and greeters know the true value of a positive museum experience and they witness the excitement that grows in visitors who’ve discovered a new favorite artist, artwork, or place in their community. As much as volunteers nourish moments of discovery in visitors, they too benefit from the educational and aesthetic atmosphere of their surroundings here. Docents and greeters receive training from staff about each new exhibition and gain exposure to the bounty of lectures, artist residencies, and travel opportunities the Woodson offers. Call these perks or, as I do, consider them the advantages of being a culturally engaged community member.

OK. Stepping off the soapbox…

Today, the Woodson Art Museum welcomed thirty-four United Way RSVP members for a meeting, guided tour of Birds in Art, and to learn more about ways to engage with the Museum. The group was filled with questions about the benefits of volunteering at the Woodson and the logistics of their potential service. Here’s a breakdown of some basic information:

* What are some benefits to serving as a Woodson Art Museum volunteer?

  • Connecting socially with a group of like-minded individuals in the docent or greeter corps
  • Reaping the benefits of exposure to new artists, artworks, and art forms through exhibition-specific trainings
  • Meeting and learning from artists in residence
  • Sharing your enthusiasm for arts and culture with the next generation of engaged community members

* How many hours do I need to commit to be an active volunteer?

  • Docents and greeters are responsible for their own levels of volunteer commitment at the Woodson. Greeters should aim to serve four hours per month or two shifts. Docents have a “goal” number of tours for each exhibition to ensure all groups are appropriately covered. Docents on average may offer 1 to 5 tours per month, depending on an exhibition’s popularity and docent availability.

* Do I need an art background to be a volunteer?

  • A formal art background is not necessary. Volunteer training provides all of the information you need to be successful in your role as a greeter or docent. All we require is enthusiasm and a willingness to learn.

I’ll be offering a new docent training class for interested participants this winter. If you’d like to learn more, connect with me at canderson@lywam.org or call the Museum and ask for Catie at 715.845.7010.

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