Education, Events, Outreach, Public Programs

Become A Museum Docent


1 Comment 30 April 2014


Museum Docent Geri Servi leads a group tour for a local high school.

For visitors to SBMA, docents are the institution’s welcoming face and informed voice. As a volunteer corps comprised of approximately 65 men and women from all backgrounds, docents support the arts by giving gallery tours to both adults and students. The Museum is currently looking for volunteers to participate in a training program that begins in September. Those interested in becoming a docent are encouraged to attend a Recruitment Reception on Tuesday, May 6 at 3 p.m. at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.

Read about Geri Servi’s experience as an SBMA docent:

In looking back on my first year as an active docent at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, my enthusiasm is boundless. The neurons are crackling with seemingly inexhaustible information. I have made friends and daily interact with associates whose generosity and capabilities astonish me. I feel distinctly alive, and credit the docent program for contributing greatly to this state.

I decided to join the SBMA docent program for two reasons. The first was that I have always had a yearning to learn and, the older I get, the more acute this need becomes. The second—a bit awkward to admit, but no less pressing—was that my husband had become a soccer fanatic. Those familiar with this breed will understand my urgent need to escape.

At first, I considered going back to school. No doubt I would enjoy the study, but at my age, what would be the practical outcome? So, I chose the SBMA docent program, which seemed to offer a curriculum every bit as challenging as a graduate program in art, and promised to put the knowledge obtained into immediate hands-on use.

The nine-month provisional training proved as rigorous as advertised. Most of my classmates and I had never studied art, so the amount and depth of information was both daunting and invigorating. Nor were most of us accustomed to public speaking, so the sheer terror and challenge of giving our fledgling tours was agonizing. But we persevered, and as the days progressed, so did those neural pathways, making room for more information than we ever imagined our brains could hold, and so did our confidence in standing before an expectant audience, and so did our network of supporters—teachers, fellow docents and Museum staff.

The real revelation, though, came this year. The transition from provisional to active docent was surprisingly brisk and painless. Yes, they just throw you in and tell you to swim! In short order, I hardly recognized that quivering, art-challenged and insecure provisional I was. There was no time for anxiety or doubt. The students began marching in and tour requests mounted. Little students, big students, at-risk students. Highlights tours, Focus tours, Special Request tours. There was no place for hesitation, and your usefulness becomes instantly apparent, whether real or imagined. Oh, and, the learning gets much easier. Don’t ask me why.

There is never a day when I leave these galleries without having been enriched in some way. It might be the simple kindness of a Museum guard, or that lesson in Buddhism a sheepish 6th-grader suddenly shared at the foot of Guanyin, or those rapt faces at The Pardon, when, as a group, we pause to consider a quest for forgiveness.

Now, when I come home on an art high, after listening to or giving a tour, I tell my husband about how painters’ stretched canvas originated in Venice or that Alice Aycock has a peculiar sense of humor, and he tells me (while icing an ankle after his latest match), how Cristiano Ronaldo won the Ballon d’ Or over Leo Messi, or that Manchester United sure sucks this year, and all is well with the world.


Docent Recruitment Reception 

Tuesday, May 6, 3 – 5 pm

For more information or to attend the Docent Recruitment Reception, contact Rachael Krieps, Manager of School and Docent Programs at 884.6441 or

Your Comments

1 comment

  1. albert says:

    Congratulations, this is an excellent piece of writing.


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