Over the summer months, Carnegie Museum of Art offers three daily Art Chats. Each one is different and dependent on the docent’s personal style and interests. An Art Chat can be presented as an exhibition overview that highlights one to three objects on view, focus on an individual artist’s technique and process, or follow the lead of its participants by discussing the artworks the visitors find most fascinating or puzzling. They are ideal for breaking up a sprawling exhibition, such as the 2018 Carnegie International, which included works by over 30 artists and had pieces throughout our museum, into smaller chunks by highlighting one to three artworks or artists during the daily 30-minute discussion. Docents rotated the content of the Art Chat every two weeks so that over its five-month run visitors had the chance to discuss every artist in the exhibition.
Art Chats also help boost participation in the daily public tour. Docents mention this tour at the end of each Art Chat. We have found that after enjoying this short, dynamic discussion, there is an increase in visitors’ willingness to commit to the 60-minute tour. Once they have a dialogue-based experience at the museum with a docent, visitors realize the value of speaking with a knowledgeable person about their ideas and personal responses to the artwork. Art Chats help break the initial stereotype that docents are here simply to lecture. They have truly expanded how drop-in visitors interact with the docent corps.