San Jose Museum of Art Docent Council
The role of the SJMA docent goes far beyond relaying information about a particular exhibition. SJMA gallery docents walk visitors through the galleries and lead lively, participatory discussions about selected works on view. With their open, inquiring minds, and a desire to learn from others, SJMA docents engage the public imagination by encouraging new ways of seeing and thinking about art. They stimulate visitors to learn for themselves—to find at the Museum something they may not have discovered alone. The primary link between the San Jose Museum of Art and the public, docents help the Museum fulfill its mission of fostering awareness, appreciation, and understanding of contemporary art.
The Docent Council was formed in 1970, but since 1994, with the formation of the Gallery Teacher program serving school audiences, the audiences served by docents are adults and family groups. Annually, about 40 docents engage approximately 7,500 visitors a year. Docent Apprentices undergo a five-month training course before they begin giving tours. Docents at SJMA are trained to facilitate an authentic viewing experience for all adult visitors. Specifically, they participate in inquiry-based teaching, which includes visual literacy and art history. Active docents participate in monthly exhibition briefing sessions in preparation for their tours.
No art experience is required, and docents enjoy opportunities for personal enrichment through informative lectures and day trips to other museums.