Frist docent

Photo courtesy of Frist Art Museum

For Ronny Criss and Jason Trimmer, art is a passion and a calling. Through their work at the Frist Art Museum, they are able to share their love of art - in all its forms - with others.

“We’re always looking for folks who are interested in being part of our mission, the mission of the Frist, to help people look at their world in new ways through art,” said Criss, who oversees the Frist’s volunteer program.

Trimmer is an educator of interpretation. He leads the Frist’s docents, who are also volunteers. Both Trimmer and Criss are looking for the museum’s next class of ambassadors – often the first faces visitors see.

The Frist is currently taking applications for volunteers and docents. No, you don’t have to be an aspiring Van Gogh or Monet – or even a ‘paint by numbers’ aficionado – to apply.

“You don’t have to be someone who’s an artist or someone who even knows much about art. I think you probably would want to have some kind of fondness for art in some way to be here but that’s not actually necessary, either. It’s more about being someone who’s willing to be helpful and around people and work with our visitors and make this the best place it can be for our visitors,” Criss said.

The initial volunteer commitment is 32 hours in the first four months, which Criss said is usually divided into two shifts a month. He added the Frist is flexible in accommodating volunteers’ schedules.

Frist docent

Photo courtesy of Frist Art Museum

Docents, who give exhibition and architecture tours to visitors, must pledge an initial 2-year commitment. They will also go through a 10-week docent training course, the first offered at the Frist since 2015. Trimmer said, while docents will learn about art history and museum education, personality is key.

“The focus is really going to be thinking about engaging visitors of all ages in the gallery space and facilitating a welcoming environment for visitors… Whether they have a background in art or education or not, they can’t necessarily be wallflowers,” said Trimmer.

Docents who have a fondness for certain aspects of art are encouraged to share that affinity with visitors.

“So, if they have a particular interest in history or some of them might be a studio artist so they might have more of an interest in the practices and creation of art, that way they can kind of lean into their interests because that enthusiasm is something that our visitors are going to pick up on,” Trimmer said. 

Criss said the Frist has between 280 to 300 volunteers, who range in age from teenagers to retirees and come from all walks of life.

“We’re always looking for people who can bring a little bit of who they are to the Frist. Part of the reason why the Frist is so unique and interesting is because of the different people who are involved, whether it’s staff or volunteers. They bring a little bit of themselves into what they do and it really makes the Frist better for it,” said Criss.

Working with volunteers is Criss’ favorite part of his job. “Being able to interact with them every day and to get to know them and be a part of their lives, even in a small way, is extremely rewarding, maybe more so than I even realized it would have been when I first took the job. And so, being able to have these folks as people that I know and work with regularly is really a blessing and I don’t take that part for granted,” he said.

For Trimmer, sharing his love of art sometimes pales in comparison to what he receives in return. “My favorite part of my job is being in the galleries with our visitors and talking to them about works of art because it might be a work that I’ve seen every day for a few months or weeks and they always help me see it anew and get a fresh perspective,” Trimmer said. 

Docent applications are due no later than 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 31. You can find an application by clicking here.

Volunteer applications are due by February 1. Click here to apply.


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