Written by Eva Lisle
Docent applications are now open! Click here to apply. Applications close August 1.
I have always loved art museums. They are a place in this world where I am able to take a moment to simply breathe and be quiet long enough to notice what I’m thinking and feeling. A single work of art can take an artist hours, days, or even years to create, and it isn’t going anywhere. It has time for me, so I have time for me, too. And the beauty of art speaks a language I want to speak; and when I listen, I can hear my own heart.
If you love and have an enthusiasm for art, and if you are excited to learn new things and meet new people, then I encourage you to apply to become a docent at the Crocker Art Museum. Stop by the Museum on the first or third Thursday of the month between 2 and 4 PM. That’s when I’m giving tours, and I promise to show you what the fun is all about!
Seriously. Becoming a docent might just be the best bit of self-care you can do for yourself!
How Being a Docent Fills My Cup
When I applied to the docent program in 2010, I was in the middle of a season of crisis.The week I applied, my mother (who lived with us along with my dad) was taken to the ER via ambulance and ended up in surgery; we had a pipe burst under our house which required a move to a hotel to even begin repair; and my daughter crashed my dad’s car on the way to her first day of her senior year of high school. We had six people living in our house, five vehicles (including a wheelchair van), three businesses rocketing along, two adorable corgis, and one exhausted, stressed-out mother (me). The idea of quietly hanging out at the Crocker with the luscious art collection for a few hours each month sounded like heaven to me.
I applied a mere 59 minutes before applications closed and did not have one single logical idea of how I was going to make this work. But the art and the quiet of the museum called to me, and the idea of choosing something to do solely for myself brought me to tears. I realized this is how joy sneaks into your life.
There were many things I loved about my docent class, including the training. We were given a framework and language to learn, see, and understand the art we would eventually share on tours.There was a lot of information (I mean a LOT), but instead of dizzying, it was incredibly grounding. It created a certain spaciousness in my mind that I desperately needed, and I began to recognize my own self again — my own interests, desires, and delights.
The greatest surprise was discovering that my fellow docent trainees were my people. We already had a deep connection because of our interest and love for art, but the fun part was how we all approached it from different directions. This made for many rich and wonderful friendships right from the beginning.
In business, I was used to networking with hundreds of people, and we had tons of friends and colleagues. But my docent friends were different; we shared something at the soul level. We opened up to one another through the art and our shared time in the gorgeous quiet of the Museum.
My mother died between the first and the second class. I felt that giving myself the gift of becoming a docent was the signal I gave her that I would be ok after she was gone. She had been the one to point out that I was running myself ragged, and that I best do something solely for myself before I melted into a puddle. As always, she was right.
Today, being a docent is still something I do for myself. It is my self-care, my way to recharge my battery and keep a steady supply of beauty in my life. Over the years of touring, connecting with visitors, and sharing art with my loved ones, my appreciation for the Crocker and my docent colleagues has only increased.
What I Love Most About Being a Docent
One thing I have deeply loved is connecting with the Crocker staff. It’s a treat to collaborate with Stacey and Mallorie, the Director and Associate Director of Education at the Crocker, whose dedication to the Museum and our visitors creates the perfect atmosphere for docents to thrive. Getting to know the incredible curators at the Crocker is like having a backstage pass at the concert everyone is trying to get into!
The guards and front desk staff will always have a special place in my heart, too. Like us docents, they are on the frontline; they are the first and last people you see when you visit the Crocker, and you won’t find them without a kind smile or keen observation to share about the art on view.
You also develop an unexpected relationship with the Museum itself. Knowing where every bathroom, drinking fountain, work of art, and bullet hole is creates an intimate familiarity like you have with a long-time friend. This means you always have an easy, effortless, WOWING place to take visitors from around the world! I especially I love organizing little private “events” for our friends, family, and colleagues, from Wine, Dine, and Tour nights for my clients to date night with my husband.
And then, there is the work itself. Our docent colloquiums — ongoing training for the traveling exhibitions — are a huge treat. You discover more about the artists and their work than you would ever expect! Then, you get to turn around and share that knowledge with others. Giving a tour lights me up like nothing else; or, as my friend Dana says, it “fills my tank and fuels my fire!”
I could go on and on about how life changing it was for me to become a docent. Many of us find our community, make new friendships that last a lifetime, and develop skills that we can apply to so many areas of our life.
Art. People. Conversations.
Does it get any better than that?