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What Does a Docent Do?

What Does a Docent Do?

If you've ever visited a museum or taken a tour while on vacation – and most of us have – then you've most likely been guided by a docent, who was probably a volunteer who served without pay.

You no doubt have wonderful memories of docent guided tours that enriched your experience and possibly other tours that you'd rather forget. Mark Ormond, who advises Arts Advocates and recommends additions to our collection, is also an experienced docent.

In a recent presentation for potential docents to guide tours of Arts Advocates Florida artists' collection, he explained what docents do and how they can help viewers have a more emotional and intellectual experience when viewing a painting or sculpture. He cited works from our collection as examples to illustrate how light, color, form, architecture, and media can influence how we see a work of art. Does the painting or sculpture draw you in by stirring a memory, making you feel happy or sad, or just plain bored?

Audience Engagement

Mark pointed out, "A docent shouldn't be a talking head. He or she must engage the audience, scan their faces and read their body language to gauge their interest and involvement in the work. Ask questions to learn what they're seeing and experiencing. Every time you view a painting or sculpture you see something new that changes your previous perspective and enriches your experience."

A docent should also have a broad understanding of the works and historical significance in order to be prepared to answer questions. Docents need to make a significant commitment of time for training and continuing education. These are the requirements, for example, for docents at The Ringling Museum of Art.

Here are a number of works of art from Arts Advocates collection. Let a painting or sculpture speak to you. What are you seeing? What moves you? What makes you happy? What makes you sad?

Experience These Paintings

To create appealing and seductive paintings artists must understand color theory and be able to mix colors that attract our attention. This is particularly true in an abstract painting. Guided by this color wheel can you find all the colors that Syd Solomon uses in his abstract painting titled Stravinsky. 

Humberto Calzada is an artist who understands not only color theory and composition, but also mathematics and physics. He had to create an architectural plan in his head for his composition using geometry and understanding perspective so that we might have the joy of discovering the puzzle of this illusion of space he presents for us on his two-dimensional canvas.

Can you find the perspectival lines and vanishing points in the Calzada painting?

Jerry Farnsworth who created the painting on the right called Night Wind continues a long tradition of painting women looking out of a window in a composition that challenges the artist to balance the light and atmosphere of an interior space with that of an outdoor space. Can you think of what you experience when you are inside looking out a window?

The Arts Advocates Collection includes the watercolor Wilford Loran painted in 1965, called Land's End. It was his impression of the natural site on the bay front that the Van Wezel now occupies. Loran's approach to painting was similar to Monet in that he was not interested in an exact realistic depiction of Nature. Are your memories of nature exact or more like impressions and sensations?

Bruce Marsh who is represented in the collection by his oil painting Amalfi IV uses his own photographs as a reference point for his construction of a painting. He often grids his canvas and chooses to focus on what he observes in small areas of an image to form a large composite image of a place. Do you think you do the same in your mind when you try to remember some place you have visited in the past?

If you enjoyed this brief tour of Arts Advocates collection, then explore our other artists by clicking here. Enjoy!

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Glass Sculptures Dazzle at Ringling

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Glass sculptures designed by famed artists including Dale Chihuly, Giampaolo Amoruso and Martin Blank are gracing a gallery at the Ringling College of Art and Design. These dazzling creations are in an exhibit called "A Few of Our Favorite Things."

The sculptures are from the Richard and Barbara Basch Collection and feature some of the most exceptional examples of art glass and brilliant one-of-a-kind commissions by the greatest masters of the medium from around the world. Barbara Basch narrates a short film describing the provenance and intent of the pieces. Photos of several of the sculptures are shown below this post.

The exhibit closes on March 27th.It is necessary to make an appointment to visit these colorful and unique sculptures as the Ringling is limiting attendance during the pandemic.

To schedule an appointment for your viewing, email galleries@ringling.edu.

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Pioneering Women Artists

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Women's History Month is celebrated each March to honor and tell the stories of women who transformed our nation.

Arts Advocates celebrates 11 women artists whose works are included in our unparalleled collection of paintings and sculpture from the movement now known as the Sarasota Art Colony. Starting in the 1930s through the 1970s, Sarasota was a thriving art colony, recognized nationally for the celebrated painters and sculptors who had homes and studios in the area.

Hundreds of painters and sculptors moved here and drew inspiration from the orange groves, celery farms, cattle ranches, beaches, and tropical splendor. John Ringling brought the circus to Sarasota, also influencing these artists. Ringling is often credited with planting the seeds for the flourishing arts community that we now enjoy in Sarasota.

You can enjoy and celebrate these pioneering women artists by clicking here to see their works along with all the paintings and sculptures in our collection.

Women artists represented in Arts Advocates collection include:

Beth Arthur "Beach Garden Cities"

Carol Baumgartner "Sea Drift"

Lynn Davison "Pressing Leaves"

Shirley Clement "White Dress"

Glenna Finch untitled abstract

Edna Hibel "Oriental Figures"

Dorothy Gillespie "Song of the Raindance"

Sophie Johnstone "The Secret"

Helen Sawyer "Summer"

Lois Bartlett Tracy "The Portal"

Mary Sarg Murphy "Center Ring"

Click on the social media links below if you'd like to share this post with your followers so they, too, can enjoy the 53 outstanding paintings and sculptures in our collection. 

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Q&A – Teresa Carson

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How does poetry complement and influence other art forms?

Every great work of art, in any form, attempts to give viewers/readers/listeners access to the eternal truths that exist underneath the world of appearances; therefore, all art forms complement each other. Furthermore, I believe that multi-disciplinary collaborations, live or not, have the power to influence, even expand, one's work in unexpected ways … and that's always a good thing!

Why is poetry important to our lives?

Sometimes I jokingly call poetry the "cod liver oil" of the arts because people are always insisting, "it's good for you," which, in my opinion, carries an unspoken, "you won't like it because poetry tastes terrible." But, as William Carlos Williams wrote, "It is difficult/to get the news from poems/yet men die miserably every day/for lack/of what is found there." So what IS found there? Awe. Wonder. Eternity. Connection. Soul. The trick is finding the poems with which you can have a deep conversation.

You describe poems as "conversations." What do you mean by that?

For most of us the way in which we were taught to approach a poem was with one question: What does this poem mean? As if the reader's sole role is to break poem's code. This approach not only disregards the complexity and depth of a poem, but also ends up making us feel stupid when we can't crack it. So I'm a mission to teach those who have been shying away from poetry, and to expand the tool-kits of existing readers, a far more accessible approach which consists of entering into a deep conversation with a poem. In this approach the reader doesn't interrogate the prisoner-poem until it gives up its secret; instead the reader deep listens and pays attention to every aspect of the poem (including punctuation and spaces). In time the reader will discover the multiple and varied layers of meaning inherent in the poem.

Serendipity on a visit to Ostia Antica, an extinct city near Rome, inspired you to write a series of books about that experience. What was so inspiring about that singular event?

It's difficult for me to talk about what happened at Ostia Antica on that day in 2014 because I don't actually know what happened. The outing was planned as a perfunctory visit in order to check "extinct city" off of my sightseeing list. But the place had other plans. Here's the best way to explain my experience: as soon as I walked into the Porta Romana entrance, everything in the place started talking to me. Does that sound somewhat wackadoodle? Trust me, going through the experience felt even more wackadoodle! We ended up spending hours roaming in and around the extensive ruins.

By the time we arrived back in New Jersey, where we were living at the time, the titles of a five-book series based on Ostia Antica had already appeared in my head. I also knew that each book would be bi-lingual (English & Italian). Deerbrook Editions published Visit to an Extinct City, the first book in the series, in January. Lucky for me I have a publisher who is willing to commit to such an unusual poetry project!

You lived in the northeast most of your life before moving to Sarasota three years ago. Has that life change also influenced your poetry?

Oh, yes. Before moving to Sarasota I had lived exclusively in densely populated urban areas where nature was at a premium. Noisy, dirty cities were my natural habitat … and I loved them. Since my daily experiences become the source material for my poems, that urban environment is very much evident in my first three books.

But Sarasota opened my eyes to the beauty of sky and clouds, birds and flowers, water and sand. I almost fell to my knees in astonishment the first time I saw a fox on my morning walk! I'm currently collaborating with fellow Arts Advocates member Leslie Butterfield, a visual artist, on Seven Sacred Pauses, which is a series of 8 paintings and poems based on the beauty of the natural world in this area.

What are your plans for Arts Advocates to encourage more people to read and enjoy poetry?

As mentioned earlier, I'm on a mission to engage people in the conversation of poetry because "what you find there" can change your life. For Arts Advocate members, I'm open to suggestions—possibilities include a talk, a workshop, or a reading. Additionally, members may receive my weekly "poetry blast," la poesia della settimana, by providing their email addresses to teresa@teresacarson.com. To find out more about me, my work, or my ideas about engaging in a conversation with poetry go to www.teresacarson.com or CavanKerry Press Teresa Carson on Poetry

Part X (From Visit to an Extinct City)

O Ostia of uneven surfaces, where Romans walked; we walk; others will walk.
Sea, sun, the soul, and desire linger in your temples.
What votive offerings may new ghosts bring to old?

Fresco fragments, which never again will be a whole, cling to your walls.
The "day's work" of its artist decayed.
He lived, his name lived, his memory lived for years but not beyond.

Ostia of erasure, letters on a torso sink into stone.
What words did they make? What sentences? Who was meant to read them?
Were they meant to be funny? Angry? Sad? Profound?

Tell us. We'll understand.
Landscape of incomplete, of unswept, of cut open, of gone.
O Ostia, how can you bring us back to before when there's so much after?


Teresa Carson's work centers on the themes of time, memory, and the stories we humans tell. She is the author of four collections of poetry: Elegy for a Floater (CavanKerry Press, 2008); My Crooked House (CavanKerry Press, 2014), which was a finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize; The Congress of Human Oddities (Deerbrook Editions, 2015); and Visit to an Extinct City (Deerbrook Editions, 2021).

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