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‘Specialized’ volunteers: JCA looking for more volunteers and docents

Docents are more than just tour guides. They make the experience at JCA one to remember.

Docents are more than just tour guides. They make the experience at JCA one to remember.

Definitions historically found in the “dictionary” don’t always tell the full story. Docent is defined as a person who acts as a guide, typically on a voluntary basis, in a museum, art gallery, or zoo.

Judy Dye would say that the docents at the Johnson Center for the Arts in Troy are friends who have a deep appreciation of art and want to share their passion with others.

“To be a docent, you don’t have to be an artist,” said Dye, who is president of the docent group at the Johnson Center. “You don’t have to have a background in art. You just need to have an appreciation of art and a desire to learn more about art and those who create it.”

The Johnson Center for the Arts always has a place for those who want to become volunteers and docents are specialized volunteers.

“We have all kinds of volunteer opportunities at the Johnson Center but the focus of our docents’ group is on the artwork and the artists,” said Vicki Pritchett, Johnson Center executive director.

Dye said the Johnson Center docents are dedicated to their responsibilities.

“They diligently prepared for the tours which they guide,” she said. “They learn about the artists and their artwork. People like to know something personal about the artists as well as their professional background.”

Ballpoint pen artist Don Stewart exhibited at the Johnson Center and was featured in an art talk. He also conducted a summer teachers’ workshop.

Stewart had completed an internship at the Mayo Clinic but found the lifestyle of a surgical resident clashed with his creative side.

“Don Stewart chose a career in art rather than in medicine,” Dye said. “Knowing that, added interest to the exhibit.”

Dye said docents prepare differently depending on the group.

“Our docents will provide different information to a group of university students than what they will prepare for elementary students,” she said. “Usually, when young students visit the Johnson Center, one docent will be what some call a ‘wrangler.’ That docent will help keep the group together and direct the students through the exhibit.”

Some docents enjoy working the desk and answering the phone, while others prefer going into the classrooms and working with the students to help prepare them for their visit to the Johnson Center or as a follow-up to their visit.

Docents are also available to present programs at civic clubs and organizations or anywhere they are invited, Dye said.

The Johnson Center has other volunteer opportunities for both women and men.

“We have ‘meet the artist’ events and we often get together with the artists in a very informal setting,” Pritchett said. “Many artists are men so, it seems natural to have men talk about their exhibits. So, we encourage men to join our docent group. We have something for everyone who wants to donate time and talents to the Johnson Center.

“As our community becomes increasing aware of the value of the arts for people of all ages, we anticipate that we will need even more docents and other volunteers at the Johnson Center.”

Anyone who is interested in being a Johnson Center volunteer is encouraged to call the art center at 334-670-2287.