Volunteering is a great way to balance giving and receiving in your life. After a long day at one’s regular job, altruism, for its own sake, can be daunting. Try giving your time and energy to something that feeds your soul. For me, that is art—not making it, but sharing it with others and helping them to see it more deeply.
My path began with the nearly year-long docent training program at the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA). The training consisted of weekly meetings in which we learned about the works in the permanent collection, as well as the traveling exhibitions. Curators from the various museum departments provided us historical, cultural, and anecdotal information. We were expected to prepare a qualifying tour in order to be official docents. Once initial training is completed, docents are expected to attend monthly meetings in which they are apprised of new exhibits, re-acquainted with familiar pieces, and learn new techniques for sharing the art with the public.
The BMA recently completed its renovation of the American Wing. Docents were privileged to get a preview of the redesigned spaces that honor the museum’s historic heritage. We were awed by the contrast between the evidence of behind-the-scenes construction and mess and the freshly painted, bright walls holding an eclectic array of paintings. Old friends clothed in new frames, furniture, and other decorative art objects, and sculptures were all arranged as if specially chosen dinner guests at a banquet. They spoke to each other and embraced me in the conversation.