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Melissa Starker, Creative Content & PR Manager
Tue, May 09, 2017
If you've ever done a group tour through the galleries, you've likely had first-hand experience with our top-notch docents. A crucial part of how art is shared at the Wex, our docents provide information about exhibitions, artworks, and the center's architecture, and work to inspire personal connections between visitors and what's on view. One of the newest members of the docent team is Britta Krell, a lifelong educator and the proud mother of Sylke Krell, the Wex's Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications. Fresh off her very first solo tour with a group of high schoolers, shortly before the closing of the Wex's winter exhibitions, Britta offered to talk about how she got involved in the docent program, the process of getting tour-ready, and how she's liking the experience. If you're interested in joining Britta on the docent team, applications for the fall are being accepted through July 24. Click here for all the details, including the nice perks that come with the gig.
Britta with her first group. Photo: Brandon Ballog
"I’m German – all the way [laughs]. I moved to Columbus in 1969 after marrying Sylke’s dad, Vic... I owned a child care center until 1998 in downtown Columbus, and then I went into the classroom at Creative Play Center in Worthington and taught 18 months all the way to 5 years, over 12 years. Then I retired seven years ago, and with retirement came some new challenges. What does Britta do next? Being a docent was a really logical space for me because it relates to art, which I’ve always loved and if you grow up in Europe you’re surrounded by it, and also education, especially young people’s education."
"[Docent training] is actually a course that you can access as a student at OSU for credit, and those who become a docent at the Wexner Center must take it. We have meetings with Tracie McCambridge (the Wex’s Educator for Docent and Teacher Programs). She did a wonderful job introducing us to the galleries and to the architecture, to some skills for interacting with the public and things that we might encounter that might be difficult for us like verbiage on art that’s maybe not politically correct, so that was really very helpful. Along the way we wrote reflections on our experiences shadowing trained docents; that made us realize we have a variety of approaches to being a docent at the Wexner Center. The next step was to do a seven-minute tour stop, in which I had to pick out a piece of art to relate to people. In my case, I think it was the whole education department of the Wexner Center because I needed to do it outside the semester. It was a little intimidating. I even had Finn there, Tracie’s seven-year-old son—actually, that worked pretty well. Then we get feedback, which is very helpful. After that, we co-tour: pick three docents to do three co-tours and write about our experience. After that, we’re invited to our solo tour, and that makes us a docent.
"I really like the whole docent team. They’ve been very welcoming to me. You get to know them. You see them again and again and establish a relationship. And they’re another great resource—to just walk through and hear how they approach it. They’ve been a really integral part of my learning here."
First time solo
"I thought it went really well. There wasn’t a lot of conversation, which is not unusual in teenagers... It challenged me to come up with some strategies to keep them engaged."
"Here’s what I think is really fabulous about the Wexner Center: we have direct access to curators and artists. They tell the story and give us a lot of information. As a docent you sort out what might be important to entice various visitors, from adults to children, and sort of keep that in your head. I also need to establish a vocabulary, so that’s my reason to [search] the internet. I don’t know if other docents go through that but for me it's Google—for English as well as art. Then I look at my audience and I try to bring the audience to maybe four pieces of art during my tour, to have them really look for an extended time and see if there’s anything anyone’s wondering about. If that doesn’t work so well, I try to use some of the information to see if that can engage them or get them thinking more. Those are my goals, but those are lofty goals, so I have to practice."