The University Record, July 10, 1995

'Docents's Choice' among summer fare at Museum

By Leslie Stainton
Museum of Art

Twenty years ago, 40 women and men began dedicating themselves to a mission to extend and educate the Museum of Art's community of visitors. The docents started with fifth grade school children, visiting schools all over the area to prepare students for what they would see, returning to the Museum with groups of 10-year-olds in tow.

The visits so successfully excited a new community about the visual world of ideas inside the Museum that the docents' mission spread to other populations, including the visually and hearing impaired and the elderly.

More than 100,000 volunteer hours after the first group of docents was trained, the Museum of Art celebrates its 20th anniversary by hosting an exhibition curated by the docents.

"Docents' Choice: Celebrating Twenty Years of Museum Teaching," on view through Oct. 1 in the Apse Gallery, presents works from the permanent collection.

The docents' selections include paintings, works on paper and sculpture from both the Asian and Western traditions by artists as diverse as Helen Frankenthaler, Il Guercinco, Monet, Beckmann and Matsumura Goshen. Comprised of 20 works, the exhibition is the tabulated result of an open ballot, with current and past docents voting for the three pieces they believe visitors most enjoyed.

About the docents

Who are the docents?

They are a benevolent group of women and men who are passionate about both art and education.

How are they trained?

Before guiding tours with the public they spend one diligent year absorbing the knowledge of curators, art historians, artists and other appropriate experts.

Where do they come from?

They come from diverse backgrounds and professions. This year's docent class includes a psychiatric nurse, communications professor, pharmacology professor, tax preparer, two ministers and two librarians.

How active are the docents?

Week after week, 61 touring docents bring art to life for children and adults. Between July 1, 1993 and June 1, 1994, Museum of Art docents gave 873 hours to 9,645 visitors.

How many volunteer hours does it take to research, prepare and give this many tours?

A staggering 15,542!

Does anyone thank them for the work they do?

They receive countless letters from school children and the viewing public like the following:

Dear Friends,

I had never ben to a museum that good in my life and I lickte the armor and the spear the best in the hole museum and thanks to the pickter I know I have an anntecke in my home and I remember how a pickter and a stachyou are difrint becus a stachyou is 3D and a pickter is 2D and that is wut I lurnd from the museum.

Your friend,