Crafting a Highlights Tour (March 2019)

Toni Kendrick, Docent, The Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC 

I love a Highlights tour. As a docent at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina, I find that crafting a Highlights tour is one of the most creative aspects of being a docent.

I use a 5-point building block format that I gleaned from the National Docent Symposium Council Docent Handbook.

1. Select a theme
2. Establish tour goals & objectives
3. Get to know my audience
4. Plan each stop of my tour
5. Enjoy myself

Sometimes a specific request will determine my theme, and this was the case recently. The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA®), the nation’s first African-American athletic conference, holds their annual basketball tournament in Charlotte. Recently they sponsored one of their meetings in the museum. They scheduled a docent-led tour to follow their meeting. The theme for their tournament was, We Are Rising. They specifically asked for the docent to use African-American artists in the tour.
In an effort to relate to their overall tournament theme, I decided to use a poem written by Maya Angelou, entitled, Still I Rise, as a link to connect four pieces of art: Beverly McIver’s Dora’s Dance, John Biggers’ The Harvesters, Kehinde Wiley’s Philip the Fair, and Romare Bearden’s Carolina Shout (shown above).

The HarvestersPhilip the Fair   DorasDance

              John Biggers, The Harvesters                           Kehinda Wiley, Philip the Fair                           Beverly McIver, Dora's Dance

At each stop, after we carefully reviewed and discussed the art, I quoted an excerpt from the poem that seem to correspond to the theme of the image. At the end of the four stops, I read the entire poem, with gusto! This tour was well received because many of the guests connected the poem with the art and with the theme of their tournament. This tour allowed me to be creative in a way that was specific to the group and celebratory of two art forms – visual art and literature.

Planning a Highlights tour allows me to become acquainted with different artists and genres of art. It allows me to use various engaging techniques, based on the age and interests of my guests. It helps me create a link between history and current events as I strive to make each piece relatable and significant. And it makes me love being a docent, most especially when a guest says, “Thank you for a wonderful tour!”