Docents Share Their Love of Art

By Natalie Rieth, Administrative Assistant and Editor

The Everson is a museum of many “firsts.” One that patrons may be unfamiliar with is that the Museum is the first in the United States to initiate a school tour program, under founder Dr. George Fisk Comfort, and later in 1916, a Docent program spearheaded by Maude Weaver Baxter, who was known to give lectures to visiting students.

More than 100 years later, the Everson now boasts a group of nearly 50 vibrant, steadfast docents who are the face of the Museum to the thousands of visitors who tour its galleries each year.

In addition to leading tours, our docents facilitate community outreach for local school groups, clubs, and organizations. They help students and patrons interpret the art they see and instill the excitement that’s integral to getting visitors back at the Everson to celebrate artworks time and time again.

“If you have a little free time and you want to explore something that may enlighten your life a little this is a really great opportunity,” Barbara Bakalic said.

Having moved to Syracuse newly retired from a 50-year career in the fashion industry, Bakalic was in search of a creative outlet when she decided to join the Everson’s Docent Organization in 2022.

“My background was so much different than everyone else,” Bakalic said. “But it’s great to have people from all different walks of life. I thought it would be a great place to meet new people, see art and just share my love of art and teaching with others.”

Rethink the Stereotype
Now as President, Bakalic hopes to rethink the stereotype that being a docent is only a retirement hobby and continues to recruit volunteers of all ages and diverse backgrounds. Since September, eight new docents have joined, a few of whom are fresh out of college.

The Everson Museum of Art’s Docent Association meets twice each month to learn about current exhibitions and enjoy talks from working artists and Museum staffers. “It’s part of our responsibility to learn about each exhibition so that we can share it with others,” Bakalic said. The organization’s meetings are from 1:30-3:00pm on Mondays and from 5:00-8:00pm on Thursdays in order to open accessibility to students and working volunteers. The docents volunteer in community outreach programs throughout the year.

Since joining the Docent Organization, Bakalic said she enjoyed leading tours through Raymon Elozua’s 2022 exhibition, which featured detailed, mixed-media ceramic sculptures and multimedia collected by the artist. Bakalic reminded the students that if they are a collector of anything, they could be inspired enough to transform their own collections into art like Elozua’s.

Bakalic has also found pleasure in teaching students about the Everson’s architectural features, specifically its four cantilevered galleries.

“The building itself is a work of art,” Bakalic said. “It’s so much fun when you take kids outside the Museum and explain to them how those pieces of concrete squares are sticking out the side of the building. Their eyes get so big with excitement.”

If you appreciate art and learning, and value giving back to the community, consider becoming an Everson Docent! You can learn more about our Docent Organization on the volunteer page of everson.org.

Pictured: Bakalic leads a 5th grade tour of Pepe Mar: Clay Garden.

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