Young docents draw on new experiences

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Denise Taylor
Globe Correspondent / March 27, 2008

A lina Gotal, 17, is well aware that one statue on display at Framingham's Danforth Museum of Art has a shoe untied. She also knows that some visitors who saw the figure in artist Ana Maria Pacheco's "Dark Night of the Soul" installation noticed the dangling shoelace as well - and then tied it.

"But Pacheco wanted it untied. So, museum curators all over have had to untie it every time someone ties it. It's really interesting," said Gotal, who is a teen docent at the Danforth. "It's just one of the many quirky aspects of the piece, which I really like, because it's also just so striking."

The teenager's detailed knowledge about an esoteric work of art is typical for the museum, which has started offering intensive art classes and public-speaking training to area youths who then serve as guides to the Danforth's collections. The new teen docent program is free, but space is limited and standards are unfalteringly high.

"Just like you have varsity-level sports, this is varsity-level art. That's the way one high school art teacher summed it up to me, and I think she got it just right," said the museum's director of education, Pat Walker, who designed the program.

Participants spend the summer beefing up their art portfolios through studio classes led by professional artists and college art faculty (the same people who evaluate portfolios during the college admissions process). The teens also study museum exhibitions, meet with featured artists to discuss their work, and practice leading tours.

"They really get to delve deeply into art and act as museum professionals, which is really helpful because most of our teen docents are planning on going to college to study fine art," said Walker.

Once trained, docents serve as paid interns during the school year. Mainly, they lead youth tours and assist with the museum's popular (and free) Drop into Art activities for families, held the first Sunday of each month.

"The teens are really good with the kids, and it's nice that the children can look up to and identify with them," said Julia Brucker, Danforth's education coordinator.

Walker said the docent program is a direct response to a growing demand for art opportunities for older youths, and it will double from seven to 15 docents this year. In addition, the museum has added more events for youths, including workshops and classes.

"We've been expanding all our programs for middle and high school students over the past two years," said Walker. "It really meets an important need for high-level art classes for teens."

On Saturday evening, these programs will be showcased at "collAboRaTe." Area youths ages 14 through 18 are invited to take part in the teen art event, which will feature creative group projects (such as a graffiti wall) and live music by a Northborough teen rock band, the Move.

After that, anyone longing to ask Pacheco about her work (or that shoelace) is invited to hear the internationally renowned artist speak on April 6 at the Framingham Civic League. Gotal, for one, is eager to meet her.

"It's really helped to be a docent because I've always liked making art, but I wasn't really involved with any aspects of other people's art before. I didn't look up paintings online. I didn't see any art. I didn't go to any museums. But now, I'm more interested in it," said Gotal. "It's interesting to see what other people are doing."

"CollAboRaTe" will take place 6-9 p.m. Saturday, Danforth Museum of Art, 123 Union Ave., Framingham. Free for ages 14-18, but RSVP required; call 508-620-0050, ext. 23. Drop into Art, 2-4 p.m. April 6, with book signing by children's book illustrator Wade Zahares. Free. Artist Ana Maria Pacheco will speak at 3 p.m. April 6 at the Framingham Civic League, 214 Concord St. $10 advance; $12 at door (includes museum admission). 508-620-0050, ext. 16;

VIVE LE CINÉMA: Say merci to the French Ministry of Culture for the Tournées Film Festival. This free annual smorgasbord of French flicks takes place at more than 100 colleges across America, thanks to grants from the ministry.

Locally, Regis College in Weston will screen five films starting Monday, and, yes, they are en Français, but all have English subtitles.

Selections range from comedy to documentary. But of course, they are films that only the French could shoot, such as "La Moustache," a thriller about a man who shaves his trademark facial hair and then goes slowly mad when he realizes no one notices.

The Tournées Film Festival will run Monday through April 8 at Regis College, Room 202 in College Hall, 235 Wellesley St., Weston. All films at 7 p.m. Free. Monday, "Après Vous." Tuesday, "La Moustache." Wednesday, "Le Plafond de Verre." April 7, "Delwende: Leve-Toi et Marche." April 8, "Comme Une Image." 781-768- 7058,

DIY CONCERTS: After spending two years helping out with Fox Run, a Sudbury-based house concert series, Debbie Crispo is bringing do-it-yourself music shows to her own hometown. On Saturday, she hosts New York City-based singer-songwriter Amy Speace and a local folk scene favorite, Dave Crossland, in a cozy concert in Milford.

"House concerts are so much more intimate than normal concerts," said Crispo. "You can walk around, get to know the other guests, and meet the musicians. It's just a great way to hear music."

While most house concerts are held in private homes, Crispo is making use of the clubhouse at her Milford Country Club condominium complex. The rooms seats about 60, she said. "If it goes well, I'll absolutely continue this. I'd like to have one concert about every two months."

Dave Crossland opens for Amy Speace at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (doors 7 p.m.), Milford Country Club clubhouse, 2 Country Club Lane, Milford. $20, 18-plus show. RSVP required at 508-381-0028,

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Teen docents at the Danforth Museum take part in an art portfolio class. Teen docents at the Danforth Museum take part in an art portfolio class. (Handout)

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