At the Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City: Many Ways to Welcome All

nelson atkins museum

The original 1933 Nelson-Atkins Museum Building and the new Bloch Building of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri.

The Bloch Building was designed by Steven Holl and reflected in the water of Walter De Maria's One Sun/34 Moons


Pati Chasnoff, Carol Cowden, and Denise Saper, Docents, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art; Co-chairs of the 2021 National Docent Symposium to be hosted by the Nelson- Atkins Museum in Kansas City (March 2019)

Docents play an important role in welcoming new audiences to the museum setting.  These are just a few “happenings” at the Nelson:

Free community festivals recognizing the Chinese New Year, Juneteenth, the Day of the Dead and the American Indians have become a part of the Nelson-Atkins museum space. At these events, museum guides provide family activities or information at “stations” of art relevant to the event.

Several new tours were added marking accessibility as an important aspect of welcoming all to the Nelson:
• In 2018 the Art beyond Sight tour was developed for those with low vision. Docents and museum staff created eight tours after being trained by Alpha Point and Whole Person, two agencies serving those with low vision. Early tours were evaluated by the patrons with low vision. These participants gave feedback on improving the tours.
• Regular tours for people with hearing difficulty are being signed. The 2018 docent training class has two individuals, museum staff, with limited hearing. An interpreter is always in the training class with them.
Minds in Motion, a tour for those with Alzheimer’s and other memory loss issues, started slowly a few years ago. Beginning in 2018, unique tours are provided monthly and these tours are listed on the museum’s calendar of events. In addition, nursing homes and other facilities can sign up on our website to bring groups at any time they request.

Denise Saper Pati Chasnoff Carol Cowden Co chairs NDS 2021

Denise Saper, Pati Chasnoff and Carol Cowden, Docents, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Outside experts have provided lectures for the entire docent body on sensitivity, bias, and diversity. Next month docents will be in the galleries practicing using this information to help docents become more effective with diverse audiences and challenging issues.

All these changes represent an important part of the Nelson’s commitment to create a welcoming environment for diverse museum goers. The Nelson aims to be a place “Where the power of art engages the spirit of community” - the entire community.