CAUSE:Far from an idle opportunity


Museum's docent training program teaches its volunteers to make personal connections while learning about art.

June 20, 2007|By Jessie Brunner

dpt-goodcause20TextLV27R1NCDaily Pilot Museum's docent training program teaches its volunteers to make personal connections while learning about art.GETTING INVOLVED

The Orange County Museum of Art will host a docent mixer at 5:30 p.m. on July 19 for anyone interested in the docent training program. To learn more, visit or contact Ami Davis at (949) 759-1122 x.204 or

Newport Beach photographer Ann Marie Rousseau always thought of museum docents as "blue-haired old ladies with nothing else to do" until last week, when she and nine others graduated from the Orange County Museum of Art's docent training program.


Though the working mother has plenty to do, she reluctantly signed up for the program at a friend's recommendation. Three weeks into it, Rousseau knew she'd found something great, and has volunteered to publish the docent newsletter in addition to her regular tour duties.

"It has given me back more than I have given it, and I did not expect that at all," she said, adding that nobody in the group has blue hair. "As an artist, I thought I knew everything, but I learned a tremendous amount from the training."

The nine-month, one evening per week training program includes extensive education in contemporary art history, elements and principles of design and techniques for engaging a diverse audience.

"These are not the traditional docents who talk at a group," said docent trainer Ami Davis. "We teach them to really interact with people and have them make personal connections while learning about art in the context of California and world history."

Davis added that volunteers don't need to have an art background to sign up for the program and encourages anyone who is enthusiastic about "making art meaningful" to apply.

"We have a surgeon who just graduated, and he was really brushing up on his art history," she said. "Anyone can sign up, and they will get a great education as well as the satisfaction of working with the public."

After moving to Costa Mesa from Germany last June, Craig Ellefson was looking for a way to explore the local art world when he learned about the program.

An archives technician for the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration by day, Ellefson brings plenty of experience to the table. He also studied art in the Netherlands, Italy and France, and is an experienced painter and musician.

"The program fully prepared me for what I'm excited to be doing, which is hopefully enlightening people to the crazy world of modern art," he said.

Ellefson and the other graduates, who include Deborah Hohmann of Costa Mesa and Michael Marcus of Corona del Mar, will assume their duties next month. All volunteers must commit at least 100 hours of service per year and lead at least three tours monthly.

  • JESSIE BRUNNER may be reached at (714) 966-4632 or at

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