Docent. do·cent /do’sent/ 1 : a person who leads guided tours, especially through a museum or art gallery.
At the Sid Richardson Art Museum, prospective docents attend an intensive training process through which the volunteers learn about the museum, our collection, and good communication and interpretation skills by which to engage with our visitors, both children and adults.
Continuing our blog series dedicated to our docents, today I’d like to introduce you to Fay.
SRM: What drew you to the Sid Richardson Art Museum?
Fay: Having grown up with the Western genre, I was naturally drawn to the SRM after moving here January 2004. Since I was very young, I have loved the old West and stories of the pioneers – I grew up watching all of the Western television shows, which I still enjoy. I’m particularly fond of the Native American way of life. I would love to travel back in time to experience a period somewhere between the Revolutionary era to the mid-1850s, if only for a few weeks.
SRM: What do you want visitors to get out of the tour?
Fay: For both adult visitors and children on a school tour, I want them to learn about the museum and the stories behind the paintings in the collection as well as the artists’ lives, and develop an appreciation for Remington and Russell as recorders of history. And, hopefully for the students, to leave with an impression of the fun they had learning about the paintings, which might foster a continued interest in art and want to return to art museums when they are older. I always tell them I hope they will return with their parents and tell their parents about the stories of the paintings.
SRM: What are some of your most memorable tour moments?
Fay: While on a tour with a group of kindergartners, I was sharing a book titled Home on the Range. During the story, a little boy looks out the window and sees stars in the shape of a cowboy hat. When I pointed to this image and asked the kids what the hat in the sky was made of, all said stars, with one exception. One boy said “A constellation.” He was in kindergarten!!!
During another school tour with first graders, my docent partner Mark and I had the kids join in singing Home on the Range. Mark displayed his hands in the position of the musical conductor to end the music and asked what that hand signal meant. Most of the students said “stop,” but one girl said, “Zip it!” We thought that was so funny.
SRM: How has being a docent changed you?
Fay: Being a docent has increased my knowledge of art. I have no formal background in art, but I have a great appreciation for it.
I now have a new admiration for all museum docents and the studies required to become a docent. Likewise, I appreciate the time and effort docents volunteer to remain informed through continuing education, in which docents learn new information about the permanent collection or upcoming special exhibitions at the museum.
SRM: What’s your favorite part of the job?
Fay: Working with the children is my favorite part of the job. I enjoy the children’s curiosity, enthusiasm, and their general excitement about being at the museum. The younger ones always seem to have that “ah, wow, look at this” moment when first entering our museum galleries. It is simply wonderful listening to these young minds and what they have to offer.