Crystal Bridges is currently recruiting folks to join the next class of Gallery Guides. Gallery Guides are volunteers who go through a rigorous training process in order to be able to answer questions for Museum guests in the galleries and lead guided tours. If you would like more information about becoming a Gallery Guide, you can click here.
Today’s post was written by Tim Crane, one of our museum’s longtime Gallery Guides. I hope you’ll be as moved as I was by Tim’s thoughtful and heartfelt post about what it means to him to be a Gallery Guide at Crystal Bridges. –LD
Like many people in Bentonville back in 2005, I was excited to see construction begin on what would be Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. I knew our little town would be transformed by this new museum. Much has been written about how museums affect communities where they are located, but I think less may have been written about how museums can transform people.
I knew I wanted to support Crystal Bridges. I wanted to be a museum member for sure, but my desire was to be something more than just a patron. I wanted to help share the excitement and pride I felt about our museum. I wanted to be a Crystal Bridges volunteer.
Early on, in the almost six years it took to build Crystal Bridges, I read a story in the local paper about the museum needing volunteers. Crystal Bridges then was just a big hole in the ground, with a city trail running along the western edge of the construction site. On that trail, there was an observation platform overlooking the museum site. Volunteers were needed to interview curious onlookers and help Crystal Bridges learn who used the trail, how often, where they lived, etc.
I became one of those interview volunteers and that opportunity led me to become a volunteer Museum Guide in time for the museum’s grand opening in November 2011. Museum Guides play an important role in helping visitors navigate the grounds and galleries, but my real ambition was to become a Gallery Guide.
Gallery Guides lead tours through the art galleries at Crystal Bridges. It is an exciting and important volunteer role. Though I’ve always enjoyed visiting art museums, I’m not trained in art, and I wasn’t sure of my ability to learn all it would take to become a Gallery Guide.
In 2012, I was accepted into the Gallery Guide training program. Was I nervous? You bet I was. Was I excited? Off the charts! Let me state upfront, Gallery Guide training is challenging…in a very good way.
Sure, I learned about art basics and the museum’s art collection, but for me, the biggest reward was (and still is) the relationships I developed with my fellow guides and the museum’s staff. Now that I’ve been a Gallery Guide for almost four years, I can also add that my life has been enriched by the interaction I’ve enjoyed with our museum guests.
One of my favorite paintings in our collection is Rosie the Riveter by Norman Rockwell. Rosie, as I’m fond of calling her, is an iconic American artwork that carries much emotion for many people. Rosie represents the heroic contribution made by women in our nation’s effort to defeat the axis powers during World War II. When I lead a tour that includes Rosie, it’s not unusual for a guest to comment that their mom, grandmother, or another family member was a “Rosie.” When a guest makes this kind of personal connection with art and feels compelled to share it with me, with our group, I feel truly blessed. I feel, for a wonderful moment, a level of human connection that would be impossible without the shared experience of the art.
Every guest at Crystal Bridges is a special guest. Most guests come to our museum to learn, to be inspired or just to be immersed in the wonder and beauty of human expression. When those guests choose to take a tour, the Gallery Guide’s role becomes more than just being a resource of facts. It becomes an opportunity to help those guests see something they may not have seen, or that they see, but weren’t sure how to express. For me, being a Gallery Guide is not about teaching our guests. It’s about sharing and learning from them.
I consider myself a lifelong learner. Becoming a Gallery Guide at Crystal Bridges provided me the chance to continue that quest in a direction I’d previously never considered. I’m proud of many things in my life. I’m a husband, a father, and a business professional. I’m very proud to add Crystal Bridges Gallery Guide to that list. It’s not an overstatement to say my life has been positively transformed by the museum experience.
I’m thankful for this opportunity to share my thoughts about volunteering at Crystal Bridges and I look forward to seeing you in the galleries.
If you are interested in learning more about how you could interview to be part of the NEW Gallery Guide class (starting in early 2017), follow this link to sign up for an information session: https://crystalbridges.org/gallery-guide-training-program/.