Friday, June 21, 2013

Art Adventures!

This summer, the Georgia Museum of Art holds host to groups of bite size detectives—art detectives that is. The theme of this summer’s Art Adventures, a program for larger groups such as day camps or day-care centers, is Museum Mysteries. In the interactive, educational program designed by previous intern Caroline Warner, local elementary-school-aged children learn how to answer questions about art and even create some of their own.

The young investigators begin their adventure with an interactive tour of objects in the museum’s permanent collection, where they will answer questions such as “who,” “what,” “when” and “where.” Docents, members of the education department and education interns lead the tours with an interrogative theme in attempts to engage the kids; props, signs and duplications of the art also help maintain interest. While collaborating on what seems like simple questions, the kids are essentially learning how to interpret and evaluate art.

After the tour, the group walks together to the classroom, where the education department has set up pieces of fabric and supplies for kids to create their own individual works of art based on the questions asked during the tour. After everyone completes their fabric art, the pieces are put together to create a collaborative object for the group’s classroom or community center.          

Watching the young sleuths apply what they learned—how to ask and answer questions about art—to their own crafts is evidence of their education. The program will run through June and July.  

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

GMOA Docents

Every Wednesday at 2 p.m., one of the museum’s 24 active docents leads a tour of the permanent and temporary exhibition galleries. Volunteers range from students to retirees but share a love of art and people. Although no formal experience is required, volunteers are required to go through an application and interview process, and typically maintain a personal interest in art. They then make a minimum two-year commitment to represent the museum by giving tours, among other activities. The first year consists solely of a training program that continues throughout their relationship with the docent program. During this first year, volunteers learn tour techniques, shadow experienced docents and eventually practice their own tours. Because tours bring in a variety of visitors, this time and practice allow docents to be flexible enough to alter and adjust tours to suit the visitors’ needs.
Julia Sanks, a veteran docent at the museum, quickly realized that a small group of two young boys and their mother would appreciate a different approach to the typical “Tour at Two” than a larger, adult audience. Sanks smoothly set her more in-depth notes aside and engaged the young visitors by asking them to verbalize their responses and observations. After close to 11 years of affiliation with the museum, Sanks is comfortable molding herself to the needs of her audience.

“I’ve been here for around 11 years, but all docents, including myself, have to commit to training every week; there is always more to learn,” said Sanks.

Kitty Donnan utilized this same flexibility when she gave a tour of the permanent and temporary galleries to around 15 visitors from Hong Kong, China. Donnan gave an eloquent synopsis of art composition and history; because the visitors were interested in local history, she also drew attention to local artists and subjects like George Cooke’s “Tallulah Falls” and a self-portrait of Lamar Dodd. As an avid traveler, Donnan easily connected with the group not only as an art enthusiast, but also as a visitor to Hong Kong. She has traveled to places like the Louvre in Paris and the Vatican, although her favorite visit was to the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. Donnan looks forward to the exhibition “Exuberance of Meaning: The Art Patronage of Catherine the Great,” and its display of Russian art.

Docents don’t always wait for visitors to come to the museum. Docents participate in “suitcase tours,” an outreach program that caters to grades K-3 in the Athens-Clarke County area. These programs consist of volunteers literally packing up a suitcase of art reproductions, games and interactive activities to evoke students’ interest in art. On a more social level, some docents also choose to participate in the docent book club, which meets once a month to discuss books relating to art and art history. Both activities reflect the heart of the program, which consists of a love of art and a desire to share it.

For students interested in becoming docents, Carissa DiCindio, curator of education, will be teaching the special topics course ARED 5230/7230: Engaging Art Museum Audiences as Student Docents in the fall. The course will not only focus on the museum’s collections, but also on the complexities of art interpretation and how to facilitate interaction and dialogue within tours. The one-year commitment for students includes a semester of training within the course and a semester of participation at the museum. The special topics course will frequently be held in the galleries to encourage comfort and familiarity with the collection. 

Those interested in becoming a student or community docent should visit the GMOA website for more information: