The Memphis Brooks Museum of Art is fortunate to have a fantastic team of docent volunteers who lead the museum’s school tours, guiding students in grades pre-Kindergarten through twelve through the museum’s galleries to engage with art and build 21st century skills. These dedicated volunteers participate in seven months of in-depth training to get started as a docent, meeting twice a week for two-and-a-half hours a day to learn about the history and processes of art, tour techniques, and the museum’s permanent collection. After the docents have completed their initial training program, they attend monthly docent training sessions to continue learning about collections and exhibitions. Additionally, they enjoy docent enrichment trips to other museums in the region and convene a monthly book club. They are an amazing group of people who help the Brooks Museum achieve our mission of enriching the lives of our diverse community, and we are grateful for each and every one of them.
In March, before the coronavirus pandemic closed the museum, a group of five dynamic women completed the docent training course and were scheduled to graduate on March 18, 2020. After cancelling their graduation, we also had to cancel the end-of-the-year docent luncheon that celebrates the accomplishments of all the docents, and recognizes three outstanding volunteers for their extraordinary work. Instead, the education department hosted a virtual graduation and docent awards event to recognize the recent graduates and the docents who went above and beyond this year.
Please allow us to introduce our docents to you:
Dorothy Bracy-Alston – Docent Graduate
Dorothy Bracy-Alston is from Charleston, Missouri. She earned a degree in business from Wilberforce University and enjoyed a career in Social Services in Yonkers, NY; Columbus, OH; and Memphis, TN. During her working years, Dorothy was very involved in a variety of volunteer roles, so she brings a wealth of life experiences, along with a love of art and learning, to the Brooks. Dorothy is eager to help visitors learn and enjoy the artwork in the museum’s permanent collection and special exhibitions.
Ruth Brucker – Docent Graduate
Ruth Brucker lives in Midtown and loves to take long walks around Overton Park with her dog Isabella. Serving on the museum’s collections committee, Ruth came to be a docent at the Brooks because of her deep appreciation of art and her desire to keep learning. She enjoys traveling and visiting art openings and is looking forward to the time when she can resume those regular activities.
Katie Harris – Docent Graduate
Katie Harris’ daughter describes her mother this way: “I’ve never known a more genuine, open-minded, sensitive or kind person than my mother, Katie Harris. The more you get to know her, the more her calming presence and ability to listen attentively reveal a perceptive intelligence and refreshingly witty sense of humor. She is a natural student and lifelong learner, and I’m excited that she’ll be able to continue to share her knowledge of and passion for the arts with others for years to come.”
Carolyn Matthews – Docent Graduate
Carolyn Matthews has a depth of knowledge and experience that will serve her well as a Brook’s docent. She loves traveling in search of interesting landscapes, people, and folklore. But possibly the most revealing thing about Carolyn is her two grandsons call her Nandi, which means “woman of high esteem.” The Brooks, she says, embodies the art, culture and history that bring her joy.
Marcia Weiss – Docent Graduate
From Brazil to Utah, to Ohio, to Texas, to the Mid-South, Marcia Weiss recently moved to the Memphis area to be near one of her three sons. Marcia is a multilingual volunteer who has traveled all over the world, and has volunteered in museums, as well as managed an art gallery. As is true with all of our wonderful new docent graduates, our visitors will benefit from Marcia’s experience and her love of art.
Each spring, the education department hosts an annual luncheon to celebrate the docents’ accomplishments and recognize a few docents who have gone above and beyond. Here are our three docent awardees from 2020:
Barbara Lapides – Docent-of-the-Month-of-the-Year
The docent-of-the-month is the volunteer who lines up docents to give tours for the month. They are also a presence in the galleries to help keep the tours flowing smoothly.
Barbara Lapides is this year’s Docent-of-the-Month-of-the-Year. She is very responsive and organized, handling last minute changes smoothly and with grace. She is careful to arrange plenty of docents for each group, and does an excellent job of communicating with her docent team. As fellow docent, Elaine Fox explains “I was supposed to sub for Barbara for two weeks of her January stint as docent-of-the-month. Before I could get an e-mail out to the others each week, there was her e-mail, from wherever she was supposed to be, telling the rest where they belonged and what they should be doing.”
Barbara Buchanan – Guide on the Side
As part of the docents’ training we encourage them to be a “Guide on the Side” not a “Sage on the Stage.” Groups are much more engaged if they are in conversation with each other and discussing what they see rather than listening to the docent spout off facts and figures about each work of art.
Barbara Buchanan is this year’s Guide on the Side. One of her fellow docents, Brenda Burgess had this to say about Barbara in her nomination: “Barbara did a magnificent job with the high school students we had with our first tour of the new African art exhibit. She really knew her stuff and she was able to relate so well with the students. I also observed her with the kindergarten groups, where she was completely at ease. The children were clearly enjoying themselves. I can’t think of anyone better who deserves this title. Barbara is truly not a sage on the stage; she’s always a consummate guide on the side.”
Alicia Vizenor – Docent of the Year
The Docent of the Year is the docent who has gone above and beyond to give great tours, work well with their fellow docents and the education staff, and is clearly dedicated to the work of the museum.
Alicia Vizenor volunteers at the museum almost every week throughout the school year guiding tours for students and visitors of all ages. She frequently goes above and beyond by volunteering to assist with other education events such as Community Days, Homeschool Days, and Tea & Tour for Seniors. When she’s not volunteering her time at Brooks, she remains an active participant in the local art community, frequently attending events at other museums and galleries. Alicia is well-known for being generous with both her time and kind words. She shows up rain or shine with a bubbly, sincere personality that communicates how much she genuinely cares for people. This personality is reflected on the outside by an incomparable sense of style and a curated collection of bags/shoes/eyeglasses that you wouldn’t believe. Alicia is such an asset to the education department and the Brooks as a whole.
We are grateful for all of our wonderful docents! Congratulations to our graduates and this year’s award winners!
Director of Education