A Docent Corps Story of Diversity, Inclusion & Retention @ the High Museum of Art

A Docent Corps Story of Diversity, Inclusion & Retention @ the High Museum of Art Photo courtesy of Bryan Brooks

By Bryan Brooks, Docent Board Chair, The High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia (March, 2018)

Over the past few years, the Education team at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta has been committed to providing docent training focused on diversity and inclusion, including bringing in experts to speak with the docent corps about topics such as:

● Working with English Language Learners

● Differentiated Learning and Inclusivity

● Stepping Into a New Era: Surviving and Thriving with Mixed Abilities

● Working with Students on the Autism Spectrum

About a year and half ago, key leaders on the Docent Board decided they would like to support the efforts of the High's staff by creating a docent-led committee dedicated to diversity and inclusion. What started out as an ad-hoc committee quickly found its voice and became the Docent Diversity, Inclusion, and Retention Committee. The Committee now functions as a vital and permanent part of the board that meets bimonthly with education staff and is comprised of a cross section of current and past Docent Board leadership and an intergenerational group of active docents.

The primary focus of the committee is to assist the Docent Board and Education Staff in developing and promoting strategies and behaviors that achieve diversity, inclusion and retention within the docent corps. One of the guiding principles of the group is to ensure the inclusion and welcoming of all persons to the museum regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity and socio-economic or educational status. Inclusion and retention of docents is also promoted by creating ways to obtain input and feedback in order to effectively value ideas and meet the ongoing needs of the docent corps in supporting the goals of the High Museum of Art.

The committee surveys the docent corps and gathers feedback on trainings to offer suggestions to the education staff for future sessions. The committee has also been reaching out to a broad array of organizations within and beyond the Atlanta metro area to build a thriving and diverse corps of docents. The goal is for the docent corps to reflect and support the diverse communities that the Museum serves. The last docent class, which graduated in June 2017, has been the High's most diverse class yet, and the Museum is excited to continue to deepen and broaden its incredibly rich docent corps.

Our ongoing mantra as a part of our story is "We need to continue diversifying who we are!" This new heightened level of consciousness has deepened our level of empathy for others and provided a cornerstone for fulfilling our mission of diversity and inclusion.

The docent corps' mission aligns with efforts across the High Museum of Art to support diversity and inclusion, and the Museum's audience is now more reflective of the community it serves. Over the past two years, the museum's nonwhite audience has grown from 15 percent to 45 percent.

To learn more, read a recent Artnet article by Julia Halperin about the High's efforts and more details on the High's exhibitions, programming and initiatives that reflect the city and region in "Ways That Work"

 

We welcome your docent ideas and experiences. Share them by:
-- submitting an article to info@nationaldocents.org 
-- joining the National Docents Forum Facebook Group, an interactive forum for docents and guides

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