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home : features : arts & entertainment December 17, 2014

8/14/2008 4:19:00 PM
Docents dine, talk and share fine art with local students
Prescott Art Docents sign up new members during the annual membership coffee Monday at PFAA.
Trib Photo/Sue Tone
Prescott Art Docents sign up new members during the annual membership coffee Monday at PFAA.
Trib Photo/Sue Tone

Sue Tone

It is not just the love of art that attracts volunteers, but food and camaraderie proved to be a recurring theme during the Prescott Art Docents annual membership coffee Monday morning.

Potential PAD volunteers should realize two things before joining, said PAD President Linda Wheeler.

"You should know we like to eat and talk," Wheeler told an audience of about 70 members and potential PAD volunteers at the Prescott Fines Arts Association building after nearly an hour of socializing over strawberry refreshments, coffee and iced tea.

PAD members provide arts enrichment experiences to more than 10,000 students and adults every year in the Quad-Communities. They do this during the school year through programs in school districts, in the juvenile detention facility, the Art in June art lessons, and both Youth and Adult Speakers Bureau.

This year's membership coffee, "Strawberry Fields Forever," attracted about 25 people expressing an interest in joining. Current membership is 110 docents and 35 auditors. Auditors can sit in on the Monday morning programs, take part in field trips, and serve on some committees, Wheeler said.

Training Coordinator, and artist, Gary Melvin said he became an art docent after he retired.

"I didn't see my first art teacher until the seventh grade. I think it's a shame that art is considered an elective in some places," Melvin said.

He started as an art major, but got "sidetracked" into the medical profession. He said he still considers art his first love.

"The kids (in the classroom) keep us young. And when you join the docents, you'll find friends you'll have for the rest of your life," he said.

Joining the PAD organization is a serious commitment, Wheeler said. The docents, however, tend to stick around for years.

Ruth Ann Norris said she lives locally about three-quarters of the year, with the rest of her time spent in Mesa, and she's ready to finally join up. This past year she shadowed docents during two presentations in the elementary school.

"I got hooked," Norris said, and vowed she would make the training schedule work. She is interested in the Youth Speakers Bureau, where she can give digital and slide presentations on a variety of topics in classrooms.

The training to become a docent takes nine months, although Melvin said some of the volunteers travel and have other commitments that make it difficult to complete the learning in that amount of time. So the docents also make it possible to complete the work in two years.

"Do what you can do now, and take the second year to fill in the classes you missed," Wheeler said.

A volunteer does not need a prior knowledge of art. The classes and workshops are equivalent to completing Art History 101, Melvin said. Trainees learn how to look at all kinds of art; how to appreciate, evaluate, and analyze the elements; and then practice how to teach the elements of art and the principles of design.

In addition, all docents have an assigned mentor to help them learn how to work with students in a classroom, and how to present to adults.

"There is textbook learning, workshops, and observation time with others in the classroom," Melvin said, adding that he watched four presentations and all were unique.

"There are no tests and nobody fails. You work with an advisor, or mentor, who helps you every step along the way."

At the conclusion of the training, the new docents give a 30-minute talk to other docents that Melvin calls "a graduation badge of courage."

He encouraged those interested to attend the upcoming orientation meeting and sit in on one or two Monday art lessons.

"If you don't think it's for you, don't join," Melvin said.

Membership costs run $30 to join, $30 for the training manual, and the textbook, which costs about $30. The PAD resource room is available for docent use, and houses 800 masterpiece prints, a library with art and education books, and a digital and slide collection.

Partnerships with local museums and organizations, such as the Phippen Museum and the Prescott and Prescott Valley Public libraries, contribute to sharing the art experience. The docents also work with at-risk youth in the Yavapai County Art for Teens program.

"Our goal in YCAT is to provide hands-on art experiences for teens, and give them a voice through their creativity to experience something different in life," said Dee Isham, one of the founders of what used to be called the Juvenile Probation Project.

Wheeler said there are more schools requesting art docents than there are volunteers.

An added bonus with membership is the opportunity every other year to travel out of state and visit museums, often receiving docent tours that are not available to the general public. Docents have taken Art Adventure trips to Washington, D.C., New York and Boston.

Those interested in learning more can call Linda Wheeler at 776-7784. The Docent in Training Orientation meeting takes place at Wheeler's home at 10 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 25, in Prescott - and includes refreshments.

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