KANSAS CITY.- Thirty-four volunteers at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art this summer completed the first nine-week training course to become Museum guides and are now well experienced in giving the Nelson-Atkins NOW! Tour.
The guides augment services long provided by the docents at the Museum, who, along with teen guides in the summer, give Museum programmers several options in meeting tour needs.
Persons interested in becoming docents or Museum guides are encouraged to attend information sessions in Atkins Auditorium at 6:30 p.m., Oct. 30; 6:30 p.m., Nov. 20; and 2 p.m., Dec. 6. Register at 816.751.1278.
No reservation is needed for the NOW! Tour. Visitors can drop by the Visitor Services Desk in the lobby of the Bloch Building to join the tours, which begin at 1:30 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. In addition, an evening time of 7 p.m. on Thursday and Friday is available.
These tours are an up-to-date look at the entire Museum. Included is an introduction to the new Bloch Building and its collections. Visitors will also see selected parts of the original 1933 building where they will view various collections, said Susan Spencer, Supervisor, Tour Programs, at the Nelson-Atkins. Training Museum guides includes learning eight pieces on the tour as well as an overview of spaces within the building. Guide knowledge is augmented with continuing education segments.
The Museum guides backgrounds are wonderfully diverse. Among them are a human relations manager, a cardiologist, teachers, artists and retired professors, nurses, marketing and public relation professionals, graphic designers, attorneys and scientists, Spencer said.
Docents have long filled the Museums need for volunteer guides. That training program is two years long and occurs during the day. The Museum guide program provides an opportunity for volunteers whose schedules arent compatible with docent-training requirements.
Bill Ritter, MD, became interested in becoming a Museum guide when a docent friend took him and his wife on a tour. I thought that looked like a lot of fun. But it takes too much time. And doing training during the day just wouldnt fit my schedule, said the practicing cardiologist at Shawnee Mission Medical Center. When the guide program came up it was a perfect fit for what I could do. Ritter and other Museum guides say the training program itself was worth entering the program.
I found the training to be some of the best adult education I have ever experienced, said Craig Anderson, director of human resources for Black and Veatch Energy.
Merry Quackenbush, who moved to Kansas City from New York City to care for aging parents and retired from a marketing career that included 20 years with IBM, felt she needed something in her life that made her
think, innovate and accomplish. I liked that we were graded during the education program on our written and oral exams.
First tours are nervous times for new guides. Merrys first tour was for a group of retired African-American ladies from the Bannister Baptist Church. The seven ladies could not have been more fun and charming! They were interested in art, and they were amazingly open-minded and wanted to learn everything they could.
Amy Hu, a marketing manager at H&R Block, confesses she cheated and brought her husband along for the tour to help answer questions. However, he didnt say a word during my tour. Luckily, I had willing participants. I was amazed at how much I knew.
Tours are not lectures. Jaymie Bonavia, chair of the docents, explains that learning to be a docent is learning interactive strategies. We have a conversation about art. I ask you questions to engage you in the art. That in itself is an art form.
Such an attitude is taught to the guides.
Lauren Erickson, an account executive at the public relations firm Morningstar Communications, Overland Park, remembers on her first tour it was hard to get her group talking, something she hadnt expected. But as we continued to walk together and talk, they slowly came out of their shells; as I did mine.
Lauren, who is just two years out after being graduated from The University of Kansas and new to the area, found another benefit of being a guide. Its the most diverse group Ive ever been involved with in terms of interests, ages, expertise. We are looking for more ways to be involved with each other. Were hoping to get our book club off the ground in a few weeks.
Bonavia welcomes her Museum guide colleagues. Guides are reserved for adult visitors, freeing up more docent time to work with children. The docents are a semi-autonomous body with its own elected governing and advisory structure, which works closely with the Museum administration.
Average length of service among the 101 docents is 20 years and some current docents have 45 years of experience.
A teen guide program allows freshmen, sophomore and junior high school students at least 15 years old to apply for a paid position to work up to 20-hours a week in the summer months to guide tours for youngsters six to 12 years of age. That program requires two training sessions.
Persons interested in more information about tour guide programs should contact Susan Spencer at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tabitha Schmidt, manager, tour programs at email@example.com. Descriptions of the various tour guide programs can be found at www.nelson-atkins.org/Support/Volunteer.cfm.