Friday, April 19, 2013

Hail Docent Volunteers

Docents at Laumeier Sculpture Park are dedicated volunteers who add value to the visitor experience. The term Docent is derived from the Latin word docēns, which is the present active participle of docēre (to teach, to lecture). But you don’t have to understand Latin to benefit from a docent lead tour or to recognize the impact of this mighty group.

“You are on the front line for us.” Museum Director Marilu Knode said at a recent docent meeting in the gallery space. She is right. Consider the mission statement: Laumeier Sculpture Park is a living laboratory where artists and audiences explore the relationship between contemporary art and the natural environment.  The staff at Laumeier manages a complex range of activity from development, education, interpretation to curatorial decisions, the park gets 300,000 visitors a year. They range from art scholars to residents just walking the family dog. Chances are they will encounter a tourist group, a group on regularly scheduled free tour or courtesy “Got Questions?” golf cart. In each case, docents are involved.
There are more than two dozen Docents affiliated with Laumeier Sculpture Park. They come from a variety of backgrounds but all share a love of art. Each has participated in an eight-week training series lead by Clara Coleman, Director of Interpretation. The learning continues well beyond that initial eight weeks, however. Clara inspires the group in monthly meetings and periodic correspondence that might include information about artists, events and trends in contemporary art. Clara also schedules docent lead tours for students and groups which are organized year round. It could be a group of 30 third graders who unfortunately had their tour cut short by thunderstorms (April showers!) or college students looking to complete an assignment involving the current exhibition The River Between Us. Docents are often leading the discovery process. Ask a docent a question and you will find a wealth of information. Sometimes, you will stump a docent. (And that’s okay too, because it adds to the journey and challenge. Curiosity fuels us all to learn more about the art around us each day.)
ST. LOUIS - Third graders from Mason Elementary take a photo break at the park last November. This is just part of a group that included 50 students and five adults. Docents Wes Morgan, Maureen Jennings and Jahn Epstein were on hand for the scheduled tour that day. The kids had a blast. Photo by Wes Morgan.

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