When I joined the Wexner Center for the Arts' Student Docent program, I did not have a full comprehension of what being a docent meant. I simply wanted to express my ideas about contemporary art. As an active docent, I find encouraging tour group members to express their own ideas even more rewarding.
The Student Docent program began with a course on methods of engaging others in conversations about contemporary art. I always thought that docents were to give a walking lecture, but the instructors quickly clarified that the role of the docent was to create an environment conducive to a discussion with tour members. Following in the Wexner Center's traditions, the classes were often unconventional. During a session about connecting with third graders, the class sat around Jeff Koons's balloon dog in the Shiny exhibit. One of the instructors asked, â€œIf you could make this dog, what material would you use?â€ After a long pause someone hesitantly responded, â€œCake?â€ Pretending to be a third grader is not so easy.
After completing the course, each student docent was paired with an active docent. Students were to lead several discussions on the docent's tour. The task of partnering on a tour was challenging, since each person has a different speaking style. It was a worth-while, hands-on experience, however, and allowed me to get a better grasp on the job. After three partnered tours, students were observed leading a solo tour by a member of the education department. I received three tips before my solo tour: 1. Know your information 2. Don't script the tour 3. Be yourself. The tips made my first tour go more smoothly than I ever expected.
Although I have done many tours since my first solo, the excitement has never ceased, just as my groups never cease surprising me. During a fourth grade tour through Sadie Benning's Suspended Animation, one boy pointed out a French horn. Not remembering a French horn in any of the portraits, I turned to follow his gaze and sure enough, there in a wave of hair was his French horn. â€” Alina Sumajin, Senior, History of Art