The Daum Museum of Contemporary Art at State Fair Community College relies upon its docent program to spread art education and critical thinking skills to hundreds of school children who tour the art galleries during the school year.
Daum Curator of Education Victoria Weaver said the museum program always welcomes new docent volunteers.
“I want this program to work, it’s vital for our kids, and for State Fair’s service area,” she said. “Daum Escape is just beginning and that is our busy time for docents.”
Daum Escape allows area school children the opportunity to tour the art collections led by docent volunteers. Weaver added that the Daum will see about 125 children a day Nov. 3-5.
“Right now we have 12 (docents) which is wonderful,” she said. “We have 12 people we can count on to keep our program going.”
Requirements for being a docent are simple. There are no age limitations, the Daum welcomes anyone; responsible teens and college students all the way up to those of retirement age and older.
“They are introduced to the VTS, or Visual Thinking Strategies, discussion,” she said of the program. “We go over the collection and major pieces, (and) we hit highlights of the collection and pieces that are out. Some docents become interested in taking Modern Art History class. That just helps them round out their (knowledge).”
VTS uses art to foster critical thinking skills in communication and visual literacy.
When a new exhibit goes up, Daum Museum Director and Curator Tom Piché gives the docents a walk-through and explains the work to them. In return, they are able to take the knowledge and share it during tours of the galleries.
“He interviews the artists, he curates the shows and works with the artists,” Weaver added. “Then he disseminates the information to us and we spread it to the students. So, it works beautifully.”
Weaver said she believes the docents love to hear what the students have to say and what they think during the tours. Because of the program, docents are able to foster in the students an art voice.
“There are surprises, these little kids are thinkers,” Weaver said. “This gives them an opportunity to offer their own opinion. It’s not judged, it’s a discussion about what their experiences are, and how they can relate that to artwork, and how that manifests itself into conversation.”
After the docent-led tour, students can take their art knowledge, linked to critical thinking skills, back to their classrooms and to their families.
“Potentially it will effect their problem solving, when they go out in life,” Weaver added.
Sallee Purcell, of Columbia, has been driving to Sedalia since 2008 to participate in the docent program.
“I’ve been a longtime admirer of the museum,” Purcell said. “When I retired, I was a licensed clinical social worker, and I decided I wanted to do arts volunteering. I decided it was worth the drive here.”
Sedalia artist Marlis Wise said being a docent for the last two years has expanded her art knowledge.
“It’s helped me a lot in my own exploration of art,” Wise said. “It’s made me more aware of what’s going on in the paintings, to look deeper, and bring that forth to the students. I think it’s very helpful, it helps both of us.”
Scarlett Pirtle, of Sedalia, has been a docent less than a year.
“I’m a former teacher, and I like it because it’s related to teaching,” Pirtle said. “I love it, I’ve tried many things and it’s the best thing. I think part of it, Vicki makes it so fun, and there’s lots of nice people to work with.”
“I think what’s really cool about the Daum is it presents art in a non-stereotypical way,” Debi Langdon, a longtime Daum docent, said. “That’s what’s also very cool about VTS.”
Docent Linda Intelmann, of Sedalia, loves working with the children and also thinks VTS is beneficial.
“I also hope it helps reach out to the community, to make them aware of what they have here within the museum,” Intelmann said. “I asked Vicki what kind of qualifications do we have to have, and she said ‘just an interest in the public and in reaching the children.’”
October through November, the museum has nine student tours scheduled. Weaver expects that additional teachers will call, and by December and the museum will see a total of 15 tours the first semester. Having extra docents on hand always make the tours easier.
“We are also doing admissions tours, to introduce State Fair to anyone that visits from the 14-county service area,” she added.
The Daum will offer a VTS training day for teachers and docents from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 8. Weaver added that anyone is welcome to participate. For those interested in VTS training or in becoming a Daum Museum Docent, call Weaver at 596-7331 or email her at [email protected]
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 826-1000 ext. 1481 or @flbemiss.