Not Knowing Together: DEIA Committee Paves Path of Discovery

DEIA Committee preparing pre-presentation snacks prior to the speaker's address DEIA Committee preparing pre-presentation snacks prior to the speaker's address

Not Knowing Together: DEIA Committee Paves Path of Discovery

Judy Steers, PhxArt Master Docent, NDSC Director at Large

Pati Anderson, PhxArt Docent DEIA Director

With energy, passion, commitment, courage, and a willingness to “jump into the void of not knowing” together, the PhxArt Museum Docent DEIA Committee took the plunge toward introducing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) to Docents in 2021, building on work that was begun in 2017. Though well-intentioned and well-orchestrated at that time, it had a precarious beginning.

Now because the topic of DEIA is an international priority for museums and institutions, the 2021 Committee continues to work in tandem with Museum and Education staff paving the path of discovery in support of DEIA initiatives.

The DEIA Committee dove into the project with Mindfulness practices and intermittent introduction of DEIA terms provided by a national course of study, exposure to experts in the expanding field, and individual research shared at weekly intense planning sessions. From this format DEIA Docent practice sessions titled Docent Dialogues were instigated offering informative presentations on various timely topics that focused on the Museum’s themed art exhibits. 

Docent Dialogues occur four times a year with Break-Out sessions following presentations by experts on various DEIA topics. A trained Docent moderator guides groups of five or six Docent colleagues in conversation providing a safe space for discussion about personal discovery, growth, and engagement with Museum guests.

The impact of this work for Docents has encouraged personal reflection, created new perspectives about cultural awareness, developed tangible sensitivity, re-imaged conversations for public art presentations, and increased a willingness to broaden deep discussions. DEIA exposure has become embedded into Docent training, recruiting, land acknowledgment introductions, Docent Times articles and through highlighted cultural celebration resources on the Docent website. Through these practices Docent Training classes have become more diverse-a long pursued goal now coming to fruition. 

This never-ending quest to inform will continue as cultural shifts demand. And the DEIA logo will trumpet that path of discovery through curiosity, knowledge, and empathy as art connects us all.


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