By Maureen Courcenet, Finder Blogger: The Art Maven, and founder of Signé Design
Passionate about art and culture? Eager to contribute to the community? Read on as Finder Blogger Maureen Courcenet explains what it’s like to be a volunteer museum docent in Singapore – and consider trying it for yourself!
“Welcome! I’m Maureen, your docent for today’s tour. My day job is interior decorator but I enjoy a double-life as a volunteer guide with Friends of the Museums (FOM), a community of art and culture enthusiasts…”
This is the usual start to my tours in the three museums where I volunteer:
- the Asian Civilisations Museum – where I cover antiquity 101, or the ancestral cultures behind Singapore’s multi-ethnic DNA
- the Singapore Art Museum – where I address contemporary art, or those sometimes hard-to-digest artworks raising present-day concerns
- and the newly opened National Gallery -where I explain modern art in Southeast Asia and Singapore, or the region’s visual psyche since the 19th century
As a docent, I’ve burst into song, mimicked fantastical animals, played Metallica music videos to wide-eyed visitors, listened heart-in-throat to a visiting Dutchman talk about his parents’ internment in WWII Indonesia, brought to life such issues as deforestation and poaching via artefacts, debated Confucianism vs. Buddhism with a Singaporean youth and more!
- Personal enrichment: The knowledge gained as a docent is incredible creative fodder for my decorator alter ego – from Buddhist antiques to ethnic textiles and up-and-coming artists.
- Family enrichment: Let’s just say, my dog is the neighbourhood’s most cultured as my trial audience. Yes, your partner and kids will hear it all!
- A new home: Your sense of belonging in Singapore can only deepen, as from learning comes understanding. Plus, sharing your knowledge is most rewarding, from a simple thank you to a heart-lifting round of applause from your visitors.
- Deeper appreciation of others’ cultures: My end-of-year festivities? A succulent Indian Deepavali feast, a moving Hanukkah ceremony and a tropical Christmas under the roof of an iconic Singaporean Black and White house. They’re the reward of sharing with like-minded people from across the globe! Our docent community is indeed best described as an international pudding with a local cherry on top.
Are you really cut out for this?
Whether you’re an eminent art expert or a blank canvas, the docent community welcomes anyone committed to learning and sharing with a flexible enough calendar. You can guide at up to 10 institutions with FOM – from the National and Peranakan Museums to the Tyler Print Institute or the Malay and Indian Heritage Centres. Depending on the museum, you’ll need two to three mornings a week over a two- to six-month-long training. (So, even if you’re not a social butterfly or natural public speaker, you’ll feel confident about leading tours and more by the end.)
Practical info: FOM trainings start in September 2016, except the Malay Heritage Centre and Tyler Print Institute, which start in April and March, respectively. For more info visit the FOM website or email. The National Gallery has a stand-alone programme that starts in mid-2016.
Not ready to become a docent just yet?
Do a little toe-dip by joining one of the many activities open to FOM members: free tours and lectures, Asian book and film groups or even a study tour within the region. Come find out for yourself at our next Public Information Meeting: May 19 at the Asian Civilisations Museum.
Exploring the docent process – and checking out the upcoming Art Stage Singapore, Singapore Contemporary Art Show and newly-opened National Gallery – are January resolutions to embrace whole-art-edly!
About Maureen Courcenet
A global brand manager for prestigious homecare and beauty brands turned passionate advocate for culture and the arts, Maureen now heads Signé Design Interior Decorating. Signé Design is French for Signed By Design, and the interiors that Maureen creates are a subtle blend of your unique personal style with the studio’s own signature – it’s as delicate a labour of love as the branding of a bottle of perfume. While Maureen’s decorating projects often take her from Europe to Asia and back, this Parisian art-lover also co-heads docent ongoing training and special events at the Singapore Art Museum. Join her on Design Musings.