How to: Become a Gallery Docent

Have a passion for art? Expat Samantha Carle shares how becoming a Docent at the Singapore Tyler Print Institute (STPI) has helped her become part of a vibrant volunteer community and given her an insider's look at a rich collection of art.

 

As a senior school art teacher, who worked in the UK and then international schools in Asia, Samantha Carle is the ideal candidate to guide visitors at the STPI Creative Workshop and Gallery (www.stpi.com.sg) “I usually guide two or three times a month,” she explains. “I’m part of a team of amazing voluntary docents. I give one-hour tours of the current gallery show, and behind the scenes at STPI’s creative workshop for general visitors. I also give private tours. But the majority of tours are student tours for local and international school groups, as part of STPI’s Education and Outreach programme.”

Meeting new people
The mother of two boys (Harris, 10 and Hector, 7) Carle moved to Singapore with her husband two and a half years ago, after living in Hong Kong and Japan. She initially joined the docent program as a way to make new friends. “As I was new to Singapore, joining the docent training programme was a brilliant way to meet people, make new friends and feel more connected to Singapore.”

Carle began by attending an open lecture at Friends of the Museums (FOM), a volunteer, non-profit society that offers guiding services and other forms of partnership to nine of Singapore’s museums and heritage institutions. “I found out more about the range of museums that you can volunteer at in Singapore. As well as STPI, you can train to be a docent at the Asian Civilisations Museum or the National Museum, and many other institutions.”

Training up
She signed up for the required eight weeks of docent training and hasn’t looked back. “The training included lectures on art history, guiding adults and students, as well as workshops with the artists to learn print and paper making techniques. There’s a great deal of reading and written work to do in preparation for your first one-hour tour.” Carle stresses you don’t have to be an expert to become a guide. “It certainly helps to have a background in art and design to guide at STPI, but it’s not essential.”

Connecting with the art community
Carle loves how her role has opened up new connections in Singapore. “In training and working at STPI, I have met expats from all over the world and made Singaporean friends too.” She also enjoys meeting the artists. “Each year, a number of artists are invited to live and work at STPI. It’s a total privilege to be able to see their work in progress, before it’s shown in the gallery.”

Being around great art is a joy for Carle. “The current show is work from the National Collection by James Rosenquist, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Rauschenberg. It’s amazing to be able to see historically important artists up close and personal in a small gallery context. There’s nowhere else in the world like STPI and I feel very lucky to play a small part in its journey.”

Interested in volunteering through FOM? Head here