At the MMFA, docents are volunteer guides who attend in-depth training sessions in order to provide tour services for visitors the Museum. They also participate in guest lectures, supplemental programs, and support the Museum by maintaining current Museum membership. They come from diverse backgrounds and careers, have different levels of experience with art, and exhibit a variety of fine talents. The positive and professional group of incoming docents for 2014–2015 has already started leading tours and integrating themselves into the fabric of the Museum. Conversations with these volunteers reveal their passion for learning about art, their enthusiasm for engaging with young people, and their enjoyment of interaction with other docents and Museum staff. They are people who are willing to go above and beyond to serve their community. My conversations with the new docent class are summarized below.
Julie was motivated to become a docent when she noticed her third grade students’ responses to the paintings at the MMFA. She was impressed by their excitement at visiting the museum as well as their insightful interpretations of the artwork. Julie enjoys learning about different artists, talking about paintings, and meeting new friends. She loves children and is obviously very excited about participating in the docent program.
Although Phyllis has no formal background in art, she has always loved and appreciated the beauty of art, whether traditional or unorthodox. Jeannette Siegers, a volunteer at MMFA, recognized Phyllis’ love of literature and encouraged her to come on board at the Museum. After taking an online look at the program, Phyllis contacted Alice Novak, who encouraged her to visit the Museum and to sit in on a discussion session. Phyllis enjoys the docent training, in particular hearing the stories behind the compositions, learning how different time periods of art history are reflected in the artists’ works, and mostly just learning in depth about art from a more technical standpoint.
It was at MMFA’s annual FLIMP Festival in May 2014 that Andy and her mother found out about the docent program from Pam Moulton, a long-serving docent. Interested, they decided to come and sit in on a training session. They liked what they heard and saw. Andy has been drawing most of her life and started painting in the 8th grade, or for about ten years now. As a painter, she enjoys learning about art and gaining inspiration for new styles and new subject matter with which to experiment. Moreover, she enjoys interacting with her fellow trainees as well as with children and adults. Andy considers her style of painting realistic; however, she is becoming drawn to the impressionist style.
Dorothy worked as an auditor with the Federal Government while traveling with her husband Dennis, who spent 22 years as a Commander in the U.S. Navy. When they returned to Montgomery in 1992, she began working at the Alabama State Bar, retiring from that position in August of 2014. Her friend Margaret Lynne Ausfeld, MMFA’s Curator of Art, suggested that Dorothy consider becoming a docent. She enjoys the training, especially the historical lessons behind the art, and now finds herself reading a lot more about history.
As a child, Rosemary traveled with her parents a lot, and they always visited museums. In college, she took art history courses and went to Europe where she was exposed to the art there. Previously, she was a docent in Laurel, Mississippi and loved the experience. When she moved here, her next door neighbor suggested that, because Rosemary loved art, she should consider becoming a docent at MMFA. She loves learning and talking about art, taking it apart piece by piece and examining the details. Rosemary was impressed by how many people came to the Museum for the recent Holiday Open House.
Nancy had never thought about being a docent before she came to the Museum’s book club, Ekphrasis, and listened as docents were talking about their experiences. There definitely was an air of excitement and sincerity, so she decided to give it a try. Nancy enjoys learning about art, for she knew very little before. Having retired, she has more time to think about art. She believes the MMFA is truly a public place, reaching out to all people of different age groups.
Mary Lil took two art history courses during her senior year of college—as an afterthought. She has always loved art and that is one reason she was interested in becoming a docent. She enjoys the art history lectures and discussions, and seeing the artwork “up close and personal” is wonderful. The MMFA, she notes, offers many opportunities for people to get involved. Clearly, the Museum is here for the community. Formerly, Mary Lil was a high school English teacher, track coach, (she was on the track team in high school), and lawyer.
At the MMFA’s Ekphrasis book club meetings and a couple of short courses, Laura met some docents who encouraged her to become involved in the program. Her two sisters love art, and she has visited several well-known museums. Participating in the docent program, Laura loves learning the history of the paintings and finds the stories interesting. For twenty-five years, she was a teacher of third and fourth graders.
A former school librarian, Penny has much experience working with students. Thus far in her training, she has presented some Outreach sessions and is amazed at what students have to say about the art. Penny considers it a pleasure to visit the public school classrooms because the children are excited about coming to the MMFA. She loves listening to Alice Novak’s lectures, and enjoys learning in such a beautiful environment.
New Docent Liaison