Joan Jasso calls her position at the Heard Museum a “dream job.”
As a docent training facilitator, the Buckeye resident is helping further the facility’s mission of sharing Native American culture with the public.
“I was hoping to be asked to be a facilitator, and I was happy to get the role,” says Jasso of the leadership role in the program known as Las Guias.
Jasso, who has volunteered there for about a decade, helps find and helps train facilitators who will eventually join the team of 100 Heard Museum docents. The next training information meeting is Tuesday, April 24, at a yet-to-be-determined time. Potential docents are asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Docents will learn about every area of the museum. Jasso explains, “The Heard’s foundation mission is all about American Indians in the Southwest. However, we’ve expanded that mission statement to include indigenous peoples of North America. As docents, we learn about traditions, culture, art and history.
“Our foundation gallery is home to ‘Native People in the Southwest’ and that’s the foundation for the Heard Museum. Then we have changing galleries and those might have a traditional artist or a contemporary artist.”
The changing galleries ensure Heard Museum’s exhibits are always fresh and engaging. Docents are trained in every aspect of giving tours of the galleries and answering visitors’ questions.
Training for docents includes reading and educational sessions that run for 29 training days, 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesdays October 2018 to April 2019. Once through training, docents are required to do 30 tours between June 1 and May 31.
“Docents who are training will also give what we call a ‘practice tour,’” Jasso says, “As they learn each section of the museum, they then give a tour with a competent guide who serves as a mentor. The docent-in-training will go on museum tours to observe what other docents do.”
Sharah Nieto, the Heard Museum’s director of education, helps train.
“She covers everything and she’s really good. She is pouring herself into this job,” Jasso says. “Being a docent at Heard Museum fulfills many of my retirement goals. It includes lifelong learning about American Indians of the Southwest. We take study trips around Phoenix and throughout Arizona. We also travel with the museum’s guild to interesting places in the Southwest and Mexico. I love meeting people from all over the world.
“It’s a time commitment, but those of us who do it consider it very worthwhile,” added Jasso, who visited the Yucatan with other volunteers in December. “Being a docent provides camaraderie, opportunities to socialize and we all learn together. We also welcome and can accommodate snowbirds.”
Nieto added docents are important to the museum. There is only a small paid staff within Heard Museum’s department of education and it relies on volunteers to assist with museum tours. She works with one other full-time employee who handles scheduling.
“It’s me and her working with school tours, children and teachers and doing professional development,” Nieto says. “We had more than 10,000 students come through our doors last year. We couldn’t possibly do all that work without our docents.”
Heard Museum, 2301 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix, 602.252.8840, heard.org