As a volunteer docent at the Toledo Museum of Art, Pamela Davis has devoted 34 years to bringing the arts to life for visitors on her gallery tours.
But according to Davis, those three decades weren’t given for free—they came with a different kind of “salary.”
“The payment I get is enrichment, socially and intellectually,” Davis said. “At the same time, I’m able to give back to my community.”
The Toledo Museum of Art is recruiting a new class of volunteer educators, known as docents, to join the ranks of more than 100 others. Docents enroll part-time in 18 months of training in art history, visual literacy and public speaking, with summers off. Upon graduation, they become an integral part of the Museum, leading nearly 50,000 people annually on tours of its collection and teaching visitors how to see better using the principles of visual literacy.
Those interested are invited to attend free informational sessions on becoming a docent on Thursday, Jan. 16 at 1:30 p.m. or Friday, Jan. 17 at 6 p.m. in the Museum’s Little Theater.
While docents often serve community visitors to the Museum, they also participate in some of its most-recognized public programming, like baby tours. Their role in art education initiatives makes them an essential part of fulfilling the Museum’s mission, according to Kathy Danko-McGhee, Ph.D., the Emma Leah Bippus director of education.
“Docents are really the face of the Museum and through them, the collection comes alive,” Danko-McGhee said. “Their commitment is truly remarkable. They create those ‘aha!’ moments for visitors that allow them to engage with the art.”
The docent program is nearly as old as the 113-year-old Museum. Its origins are in a less formal assistant volunteer group, identified by their blue badges, which began in 1914. Starting in 1947, then-assistant director Otto Wittmann began the official program, with nine community members conducting tours for more than 13,000 visitors during its initial two years.
Annual social events and day trips to museums in the region began in the 1970s, providing an added layer of enrichment for participants. And in 1989, the Museum welcomed docents from across the United States and Canada when it hosted the National Docent Symposium.
For docents like Davis, that historical significance combined with the social and educational elements make it a rewarding volunteer experience. “This is a nationally known institution,” she said. “It’s fun to be part of one of the shining stars in our city.”
For more information, contact Docent Coordinator Paula Brown-Gray by phone at 419-255-8000 ext. 7514 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.