Docents visit Troy

Published 9:42 pm Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Docents are volunteer guides at museums or other educational institutions.

Locally applied, docents are volunteer guides at the Johnson Center for the Arts.

On Monday, docents from the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts and the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Arts at Auburn University visited the Troy arts center and met with docents there in an effort to “communicate.”

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“We are here to communicate with each other and to learn from each other,” said Alice Novak, assistant curator of education for adult programs at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts.

“We learn different ways to lead tour groups and how we can best prepare ourselves to lead groups. Leading a school group is different from leading a group of adults who have a background in the arts. And, not all docents have a background in art history so we have to read and do research to be able to make the tour interesting and informative.”

Novak said docents are key and vital to the understanding of an exhibition.

“As we visit with each other, we discuss how to effectively recruit docents,” she said. “We talk about outreach programs that involve docents and about teacher preparations that should be made prior to and following students visiting an exhibit.”

Novak said a docent has an opportunity to open a dialogue between visitors to an art museum and the world of art.

“It is most important that, as docents, we open this world of art to those who come wanting to learn more about an exhibit and the artist or artists,” she said.

Wiley White, Troy-Pike Cultural Arts Center development director, said the docents for the Johnson Center for the Arts went to the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts last summer in an effort to learn more about docent training from other arts centers and museums.

“Then Alice Novak called and suggested a meeting here at the Johnson Center that would include docents from the Montgomery and Auburn museums of fine arts,” White said.

“The Jule Collins Smith Museum has a new group of docents and we have new docents in addition to those who have been training about a year. We realized that the knowledge and experiences that would be shared would be very beneficial to all of us.”

The Keiji Shinohara exhibit, which is now at the Johnson Center for the Arts, came to Troy from the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts.

“The docents from Montgomery provided us with some really good ideas and valuable information about the Keiji Shinohara exhibit,” White said.

“We also used their handbook as a template for our handbook. Of course, ours is much smaller but theirs was very helpful to us in getting started.”

White said that docents are the key to any successful museum exhibition.

“Docents are the voice of the building,” she said.

“We appreciate their dedication to the arts and their willingness to work together for the benefit of the arts and the community.”