For teachers and students, it’s nearing the end of another school year, and graduation is in the air! It’s no different for our MMFA docent corps, who will this Thursday evening, May 12, see their newest members graduate from the New Docent Program into the ranks of our talented active, senior docents. The docents of the 2015-16 class have already participated in Outreach, Studio, Artworks, and gallery tours, and have made their year-end presentations to the Museum staff and active docents. Those presentations were innovative, enlightening, and entertaining, and we are looking forward to incorporating this diverse and talented group into the active docent corps.
My conversations with the members of the 2015-16 docent class are summarized below:
Maria came to Montgomery in 1995, by way of Germany and Illinois. She was an art teacher for 40 years, and, during that time, taught a weekend workshop for children at the MMFA and participated annually in the Flimp Festival. She retired in May 2015, and is looking forward to having more time to work on her own art, but, she says, she still needs structure in her day, so in addition to being a new docent, she assists with the Respite Program at First United Methodist Church and is a member of the Selma Art Guild.
A graduate of the University of Louisville, where he was a second string All-American football player, Frank spent 34 years working for the Alabama Legislative Fiscal Office before retiring in 2012. Alice Novak and Jill Barry, whom he met at a dinner party, recruited him into the docent program. A firm believer in the maxim that “a picture is worth a 1,000 words,” he loves leading gallery talks, but is scared (he claims) of leading a studio lesson.
Before moving to Montgomery in 1996, Meg, who has a master’s degree in social work, lived in Wisconsin and in Auburn, working with children, disabled persons, and the elderly. She also earned a second-degree black belt in karate. In Montgomery, she worked in the Golf Shop at Wynlakes Country Club. Just as she was leaving her employment there, she heard about the docent program from Alice Novak’s friend Foad, a massage therapist at Mind and Body Holistic Spa in Cloverdale. Meg’s favorite part of the docent program is the people. She loves working with children, and helping with Artworks and studio activities.
Evelyn has operated several small businesses centered on flowers and plants. Now she is a Spanish language interpreter and translator. She says that she needed – and found – a new direction in her life when a friend recommended the docent program to her. Not surprisingly for someone with a degree in English literature, she believes that art is evocative of the range of human experience, and she finds herself looking at art in verbal terms.
With a master’s degree in business administration, Nam spent 20 years in marketing. When she and her family moved to Montgomery, she visited the Museum and found it to be a “peaceful and comfortable” place. She called Alice, offering to do marketing work for the Museum and was persuaded to become a docent, which, she said, has turned out to be a wonderful way of getting to know Americans and being part of a community.
After living in San Francisco during her working life (which included being a model), Wanica moved to Montgomery to be near family and to be in a place where the cost of living was reasonable. She reinvented herself by starting an etiquette consulting firm and, along with active docent Phyllis Hall, formed a women’s social club – “Fit and Fun and Fifty Plus.” When Phyllis suggested that she become a docent, Wanica responded, “Free art history class every week? Count me in!” Like Nam, she has found a sense of community in the docent program.
Before coming to Alabama, Nicki spent most of her years in California, where she served as the executive secretary to CEOs of biotech companies and to Senator Dianne Feinstein. Here in Montgomery, she has re-launched a business, begun in California, as a professional organizer and home stager. She has always considered playing a role in an art museum, perhaps because she understands that she, like an artist with a blank canvas, “has a passion to create something beautiful from what seems like mayhem.” She believes that the docent program has given her a more discerning eye to appreciate the masterpieces that grace walls of the Museum and she is grateful that the MMFA reaches out to the community to share its treasures.
Marilyn spent 42 years in higher education in California, Virginia, and Alabama. When she left the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service in 2001, she resolved to start on her bucket list, part of which was to become a museum docent. During her travels, she had visited many museums and had found them to be lovely, well-maintained places filled with beautiful things. She decided that her retirement years were going to be surrounded by beauty and the docent program has helped her accomplish that goal. She says, “What could be better than a year filled with a free education in art and beauty?
Alice’s friend Foad at Mind and Body Holistic Spa recruited Gretchen’s husband to be a docent, and, when her husband indicated that he was not interested, Gretchen jumped at the chance. (Sounds like Foad should be an honorary docent!). Despite having an undergraduate degree in art, she was not inspired, she says, by her own work and decided to pursue other careers – in management, construction, and higher education. Now, however, she has come full circle and is inspired by the art she is learning about here at the MMFA.
Carroll was born and raised in Memphis and is a graduate of Rhodes College (formerly Southwestern at Memphis), where she majored in fiber arts. Her three lifelong interests have been theater, dance, and art. She has taught ballet and loves doing art projects with children. She came to the docent program through her friend, active docent Carol Tew. Carroll loves “art history Mondays” and enjoys being part of the docent community at the MMFA .
Congratulations to all the members of the MMFA’s 2015-16 docent class and we warmly welcome them to our active membership.
Mary Lil Owens
New Docent Representative