The National Gallery of Canada Celebrates its Volunteer Guides on Sunday, 25 November
Ottawa, Canada - November 19, 2001
« Journée spéciale des guides bénévoles du Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, le dimanche 25 novembre »
On Sunday, 25 November, the National Gallery of Canada will honor some of its greatest treasures - its volunteer guides. Through their informed tours and their enlightening mini-talks, the volunteer guides, called docents, play a dynamic and essential role in promoting the National Gallery's collections and special exhibitions. To celebrate their many years of devoted service - and those to come, a special activity-filled day will be held in the docents' honor on 25 November. Art lovers and media are invited to come and discover who the docents are and what they do.
"This year, as the United Nations International Year of the Volunteer, provides us with a perfect opportunity to honor the enormous and rich contribution of volunteers at the National Gallery. We want to celebrate the key role these guides play in furthering the understanding and enjoyment of art to students and visitors of all ages", says Pierre Théberge, Director of the National Gallery of Canada.
Program of activities
The docent day program offers a wide range of interesting activities, all free of charge. From 10:15 am to 4:30 pm, music, dance, and demonstrations accompany mini-talks on selection of works from the permanent collection by such artists as Guido Reny, Paul-Émile Borduas and George Reid. These mini-talks are scheduled hourly throughout the day by the docents and program guides are available at the information desks. To tantalize the ear, the harmonious Seventeen Voyces perform chorale music by William Byrd at 10:15 am, Maurice Duruflé at 11 :00 am, John Farmer, Claudio Monteverdi and Thomas Weelkes at 12:00 pm, and Francis Poulenc, Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy at 1:00 pm. Enjoy dance programs by choreographer/dancer Lana Morton and by Ottawa School of Dance choreographer Sylvie Desrosiers, presented at 3:00 pm and 4:00 pm respectively. Also of note, Claude Dupuis hosts a gold leaf demonstration at 11:00 am, and Loretta Flegel offers an academic painting demonstration at 2:00 pm.
Who are the Docents?
The docent program was founded in 1974 when former Gallery Director Jean Sutherland Boggs approved a new educational program, proposed by members of the National Gallery Association, to have trained volunteer guides introduce visitors to our nation's art treasures. The program has been managed by the Education Division since 1977, and a full-time coordinator was appointed in 1991 to oversee training for new recruits, as well as continuing education for experienced docents, in both official languages.
Formal training is enhanced by weekly courses covering the history of art, seminars, as well as conferences discussing special exhibitions, and on occasion, field trips to other galleries. In exchange for this solid training, docents commit to volunteering a fixed number of hours at the National Gallery according to an established schedule.
Docents offer a number of Themed Tours for school-aged children. For visitors to the Gallery, free daily hour-long Guided Tours of the Canadian collection are offered in the morning, and of the European collection in the afternoon. These tours are offered free of charge year-round during regular Gallery hours. Around 1980, the popular lunch-time Mini-talks were launched, presenting recent acquisitions and masterpieces to art lovers. Once a week, docents introduce visitors to a specific work from the collection, right in the galleries, providing attendees with an increased appreciation of an artist and their body of work, as well as a greater understanding of its socio-cultural context and meaning.
Docents also offer guided tours as part of major exhibitions. Initiated in 1995, a quarterly series titled Blue Moon Talks presents an in-depth program exploring a group of works with a seasonal or topical theme, allowing for increased discussion and exchange on a more personal level.
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