The staff at the Museum is constantly amazed by the dedication and countless hours donated to the Museum by our Docent Corps. This month, we are highlighting Billie Hayward for her hardwork as an active Docent at the Cummer. Thank you Billie for all you do at the Museum!
Tell us a little about yourself:
My husband and I moved from Farmington Hills, Michigan to Chapel Hill, North Carolina where we lived for six years after retiring. In 2004 we moved to Florida to be near our daughter and two granddaughters who live in Fleming Island. We chose Riverside as our home because we wanted a walkable community in an urban setting convenient to the cultural and social activities we enjoyed. During frequent visits prior to moving, we joined the Cummer and enjoyed attending exhibition openings, concerts, strolls through the gardens. Then after we moved we introduced our granddaughters to Art Connections which became a favorite excursion. On these visits we often talked with Jan Bevan (a staff member), who suggested that I was spending so much time there I should consider being a docent. But there are so many opportunities for volunteer activities in Jacksonville that I wasn’t sure I wanted to “tie myself down” to a once a week commitment for four hours nine months of the year. Then I succumbed to the joy of being at the Cummer and “stuck my toe in the water” in Spring 2006 by volunteering for VSA. I was assigned to a project with Jane Brown, an experienced docent, who shared her experiences doing tours with school children which was inspiring to me. So after VSA I was hooked. In September, 2006, I joined the “Provisional Class” and began my journey as a Cummer Docent.
Why did you want to be a docent?
I had been a lifelong learner and community volunteer during my career years and wanted to continue my commitment to growing and learning and community involvement after leaving my career. In my role as a nurse practitioner my focus had been primarily on the science and practice of nursing. Retirement offered an opportunity to focus on the arts. I had worked with sick children as a pediatric nurse and as a psychiatric nurse with children and adolescents in urban core settings for 30 years. In addition, I had taught nursing to graduates and undergraduate nursing students at Wayne State University. I enjoyed working with children – especially Pre K, K, 1st and 2nd grades. The Cummer Docent Program afforded the perfect blend of focusing on the arts, pursuing my quest for lifelong learning, using my knowledge of the growth and development of children, using my nursing practice and teaching experience to enrich the lives of children many of whom were from the urban core.
What is your favorite part of the job?
I love seeing the joy and excitement of the children as we progress through tours in the galleries and gardens. Listening to their responses after inviting them to observe, think about and describe what they see and feel when looking at a work of art is enlightening. Observing the awe they experience when walking into the garden is humbling. Watching them carefully focus on an art project and proudly display their artistic creations in the studio is heartwarming. Participating with them as they explore the interactive art stations in Art Connections reacquaints me with the childhood sense of the wonder and discovery. And finally, knowing that by being a docent for a 90 minute tour has contributed in some small way to their appreciation for art and artistic expression.
What is your favorite thing to do when you aren’t generously donating your time to the museum?
I am an actively engaged community volunteer in the arts and lifelong learning with commitments to MOCA and Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UNF. I enjoy my two granddaughters, traveling and “hanging out” with my husband, taking day trips with friends, cooking, reading, yoga, walking and sitting on my balcony looking at the St Johns River.