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The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens is committed to engage and inspire through the arts, gardens and education. A permanent collection of nearly 5,000 works of art on a riverfront campus offers more than 95,000 annual visitors a truly unique experience on the First Coast. Nationally recognized education programs serve adults and children of all abilities.

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Introducing the Junior Docents



Today’s post is about the Museum’s Junior Docent program. I could feed you all of the factual information about The Cummer’s Junior Docent core being comprised of 40 students grades 6th – 12th; about how each teenage participant engages themselves in art research, creation, and presentation; about the logistics of the monthly meetings. But wouldn’t it make more sense to hear about the program first hand from a Junior Docent? I have asked one of our Junior Docents to be our guest blogger and share her personal thoughts about what it means to be a Junior Docent. So, without further ado…I’d like to introduce to you Swati Sureka. Take it away Swati…

An Artist is Born
An artist, a poet, a performer, a presenter, a blogger, a leader, even a marketing director: the Museum’s Junior Docents program has placed me in roles that I could not have otherwise imagined. It is hard for me to fathom how much the two-hour monthly meetings have affected my personality over the years, but I truly believe that I grew up through this experience, and it will continue to be a significant chapter in my life after I graduate.

I was ten years old when I attended my first meeting. Being the stereotypical bookworm and model student, academics had always trumped my creative pursuits, which were essentially limited to performing an Indian cultural dance once per year. Naturally, when I was asked to give a presentation on an art piece, I was a little bit lost, and decided to use historical and biographical research as a crutch to avoid artistic analysis. I still recall trembling on presentation night, feeling incredibly small in the midst of the large, crowded gallery.

And yet, slowly but surely, I sensed my presentation skills growing. The following year, I was successfully able to conduct a miniature tour featuring three artworks, and the year after, I was able to provide a poetic interpretation.

These improvements soon began to carry over into the rest of my life, when I found myself becoming lead choreographer of an Indian dance for a school program. By the time high school came around, I had found the courage to sign up for drama and art classes, no longer hiding in the shadows. Having secured my faith in my own artistic ability, I decided to share the intricate symmetrical designs I often drew as doodles, garnering some very enthusiastic reactions.

At the end of last year, I had to take a step back to reflect on the progress I had made: my artwork was on display at the museum, as well as my poetic reaction to my favorite work, and, to top it all off, I played the lead role, that of a king, in a short piece of musical theatre that was largely my own creation. By the end of the night, I had received praise for the use of color in my artwork, a breast cancer survivor had informed me of how relatable she had found my poetry to her cancer experience, and several spectators, including the program director, had referred to my performance as “spectacular.”

This year, with the museum’s 50th anniversary fast approaching, I was asked to conduct a video interview with the museum that is soon to become part of an interactive exhibition in the museum, a great honor for me. As this seven-year journey comes to a close, I reflect on it fondly, and appreciate all that it has taught me and allowed me to become. The Cummer Museum, and the creative energy it has instilled in me, will forever have a special place in my heart and mind.

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