SJMA's Docents

  • A docent or interpreter stands in a museum gallery in front of a very colorful painting. She holds her hands aloft, addressing a group of women. Colorful paintings hang on the walls and a large bronze sculpture hangs in the background, out of focus.
  • A docent stands in a museum gallery, speaking to a group of high school or college students. The students and professor are looking at a large woven work made of paper or cloth in shades of brown and gold that stands nearly the height of the gallery.

    The primary link between the San José Museum of Art (SJMA) and the public, docents help the Museum fulfill its mission of fostering awareness, appreciation, and understanding of contemporary art. With their open, inquiring minds, and a desire to learn from others, SJMA’s 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.

    Docents engage approximately 7,500 visitors each year. They walk visitors through the galleries and lead lively, participatory discussions about selected works on view.

    As a docent apprentice, you will undergo a five-month training course before you begin giving tours. You will learn to facilitate an authentic viewing experience for all adult and family visitors. The program includes seminars on the history of contemporary art, learning theories, art interpretation strategies, and touring techniques; selected readings, in-gallery training; and tour observations. Active docents participate in SJMA curator-led exhibition briefing sessions in preparation for their tours and enjoy opportunities for personal enrichment through informative lectures and day trips to other museums.

    The next docent training course begins in January 2025.

    Please fill out an application form to be added to the contact list for the next docent training program. Prospective volunteer docents should want to learn about contemporary art and to provide positive museum experiences for visitors. A background in art is not required; a passion for lifelong learning is.

    If you need more information about volunteering as an SJMA docent prior to submitting an application, please send an e-mail to or call 408.291.5393.

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    Share your passion for art by volunteering at SJMA. Whether you wish to be trained to give gallery tours, can't wait to go into Bay Area classrooms to inspire kids with art, or love the atmosphere in the SJMA Store, we have a volunteer job for you.

    Current Opportunities