MAM Docent Program
Montclair Art Museum is recruiting a new class of volunteer docents.
Montclair Art Museum’s volunteer docent program is ideal for people who want to deepen their relationship with their community, get a deep dive into American art including the art of Native North America, and get the inside scoop about Museum exhibitions from curators and artists. If you are a people-person who is passionate about art and wants to share that passion with others, we welcome your participation!
Who are we looking for?
- Warm and welcoming individuals who will be community ambassadors to the museum
- Individuals with strong communication skills to help facilitate discussions about artwork and help visitors discover connections between artworks, exhibitions, and their lived experiences
- Lifelong learners who are ready to take on a challenge and are curious about how other people think about art
- Individuals who are sensitive to different types of learners, abilities, and neurodiversity
- If you are a people-person, we want to meet you!
“Viewing MAM’s collection with very young children makes my heart sing and my creative imagination whirl. I believe the joy we experience together will make ‘art lovers’ out of them!”
– Ellen, Current MAM Docent
“Becoming a docent was the perfect opportunity for me to combine my love of art with facilitation. To think that I could engage groups and hold conversations about art had me so excited!”
– Casey, Current MAM Docent
Docent benefits at a glance:
- An opportunity to provide valuable community service at the Museum
- Affiliation with a professional organization
- Camaraderie that comes with volunteering with like-minded people
- Ongoing professional development training in museum education and art education, including training sessions with curators, exhibiting artists, and guest speakers such as arts professionals and university professors
- Free admission to most MAM events, lectures, and public programs (excludes fundraising events and rentals)
- Opportunity to bring two guests per visit to view the MAM galleries for free (excludes public programs and events)
- Early registration for adult classes and workshops at the Yard School of Art
- 20% discount on Museum merchandise at the store and 10% on consignment merchandise
- Free or discounted admission to other museums with MAM Docent ID badge
- Borrowing privileges at Montclair State University library
- Retired docents will be honored as Docent Emeriti
About the Docent Program
MAM docents love spending time with art and want to share that love with visitors who come through our doors for any and every reason. Our visitors include school groups from preschool through college, elders and their caregivers, homeschoolers, scout groups, senior center residents, and all kinds of adult visitors.
Docents gain valuable training on cutting-edge museum education pedagogy to facilitate art-viewing experiences, including Visual Thinking Strategies. We ask questions that bring our visitors, and us, into new conversations about what we see, what we think, and how the art makes us feel—a process that allows everyone, including docents, to see artworks and the art-making process in a new way. Every opinion and perspective is valued!
Of course, we also provide our docents with foundational information about art-making practices like painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, and new media, and background information about artists represented in the collection and in our exhibitions. But our docents are not required to be art history experts or lecturers as much as facilitators, guides, and lovers of learning!
What do we expect from you?
Docents volunteer about 80 service hours per year in trainings, doing independent research and outreach, going on field trips to other museums, and at social gatherings with other member of the docent corps. Here is a breakdown of those service hours:
The Museum provides about 40 hours of valuable trainings each year on alternating weeks from September through June. Trainings include conversations with curators about upcoming exhibitions, artist talks with exhibiting artists, best practices in tour facilitation, and trainings on the topics of diversity, equity, inclusion and access as related to tours.
*New docents will be required to attend 24 additional hours of training, including museum pedagogy, and VTS practice sessions with other new docents.
We hope docents can make it to every training session, but we know that many people are busy and have other commitments. If a docent is unable to attend a training, we will provide a video recording of the training for them to view at their convenience.
We require each docent to give 2-3 tours per month from September through June (about 30 hours for tours per year). Tours take place primarily during weekday mornings, with periodic afternoons and weekends.
*New docents will shadow experienced docents for 2 to 3 tours per month until they are ready to lead tours independently.
Docents are required to join the membership program at MAM. Docents can join at the artist/student level or above.
About the Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS)
Who knows more about art than you, the viewer? No one! Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS), developed by researchers and educators at MoMA, presumes that art is open for interpretation. When using Visual Thinking Strategies, participants, including docents, use critical thinking skills that stimulate thinking and learning in a fun and interactive process. Our job as docents isn’t to lecture visitors about what we think they should know. Our work is to help facilitate a dialogue between the art and the art viewer. Every VTS experience begins by looking together at a work of art. The docent then offers some guiding questions, and acknowledges or affirms what the viewers are seeing, thinking, and feeling. Our docents are equipped with basic facts – because visitors have questions, too – but our goal is to have our visitors spend more time looking, reflecting, and making meaning as a group.
What are visitors saying about MAM docents?
“The group enjoyed the participatory nature of the program, in which the docent asked questions and really made the group think about the art they were seeing.” – Adult visitor
“The docents interacted with the children and allowed the children to express their impressions of the artwork they saw.” – Preschool teacher
About MAM’s Collection
The Montclair Art Museum is proud to house a collection of over 12,000 works of American art that reflect the racial, ethnic, gender, sexual orientation, and philosophical diversity of our community. Among the artists represented in our collection are Romare Bearden, Mickalene Thomas, Jaune Quick-to-See-Smith, Ben Jones, Willie Cole, Dawoud Bey, Kay WalkingStick, Kehinde Wiley, Siona Benjamin, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Lorna Simpson, Philemona Williamson, Carrie Mae Weems, Jody Folwell, Nick Cave, Whitfield Lovell, Cara Romero, Federico Uribe, Virgil Ortiz, George Inness, Morgan Russell, and many more!
Our collection of 4,000 artworks from Native North America, spans from about 1200 C.E. to present day, including 2,000 artworks collected by one of the Museum’s founders, Florence Lang. We are committed to working with Indigenous communities on fostering open dialogue about our collection, its history and context, the cultures represented, and how it may be appropriately interpreted.
MAM’s Vision, Values and Diversity Statement
After 100 years of service, MAM is recognized as the leading American art museum and community art school in Northern New Jersey. As an organization, we value: artistic inspiration, diversity of voices, individual and group creativity, and the importance of all arts to a civil, inclusive, and forward-thinking society.
We respect and welcome individual differences and strive to maintain an environment that fosters productivity, creativity, and individual satisfaction by celebrating the diversity of race, gender, nationality, age, religion, sexual orientation, and physical abilities.
About Docent Diversity, Equity, Accessibility & Inclusion
We are committed to establishing a docent group that is as representative as our collection and the communities we serve. MAM seeks docents who represent historically marginalized groups in order to re-shape the conversations we facilitate in our galleries. We welcome your inquiries and participation. Reach out to Noaa Stoler, Assistant Director of K-12 Learning & Gallery Interpretation at [email protected] to learn more!
Safety is our priority! This fall, docent trainings will be conducted virtually via Zoom. We will reassess coming back for in-person trainings in the winter of 2022, if COVID safety allows.
Our tours take place both in-person and virtually at this time. Docents that choose to conduct in-person tours or to interact with the public on-site will be required to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19.
How to get involved:
Reach out to Noaa Stoler, Assistant Director of K-12 Learning & Gallery Interpretation at [email protected] to apply or to ask questions. Please send your resume with your application.
We will be conducting interviews this summer with the goal of starting a new docent class in September of 2021.