A Chat with Cheekwood Docents

The Cheekwood Docent Program

The docent program at Cheekwood offers behind-the-scenes information and training on Cheekwood’s 55 acres of gardens, historical mansion, and art exhibitions. We offer the opportunity for our volunteers to train as a Garden Docent, House and History Docent, and Exhibition Docent. As important members of our team, docents act as volunteer teachers and tour guides while sharing their passion for Cheekwood’s permanent and temporary exhibitions, gardens, and historical residence with visitors of all ages.

We recently sat down with two of our docents, Karen and Shelia, to ask them some questions about their experience as a docent, and what they love most.

A Conversation with Cheekwood Docents

A Chat with Shelia Mullican (pictured, right) 

When did you begin volunteering at Cheekwood?
I began volunteering at Cheekwood in the autumn of 2016.

What is your favorite memory as a Cheekwood Docent?
I love bringing children who live in the inner city with mostly concrete landscapes into the gardens. Their unbridled joy at seeing chipmunks, butterflies, frogs–their delight when they see the sugar maple’s helicopter seeds, and when they learn this tree also gives them syrup–the wonder in their eyes when they gently brush their fingers over the lavender, then breath in the scent–are marvelous.

Why did you become a Cheekwood docent?
Cheekwood has always been a special place for my children and me. We spent a great deal of time here as they were growing up, watching the seasons change, picnicking in the Japanese tea house, sketching blossoms, taking art classes. In gratitude for the joy given us, I wanted to give something back.

What experience, background, circumstance, etc. led you to being a Cheekwood docent?
I am at a threshold season in my life where the children and grandchild who have been my principle focus over the last several years require less of my time, and I am free to explore other opportunities. Volunteering as a docent at Cheekwood allows me to delve deeply into pursuits that nourish my soul–beauty, nature, story–and to interact with the most fascinating people.

A Chat with Karen Connoly (pictured, left) 

When did you begin volunteering at Cheekwood?
I began volunteering at Cheekwood in 2016. I have been a Cheekwood member since shortly after I came to the Nashville area and discovered Cheekwood. I was able to fit in the docent training only recently. I’m glad to see that you are now offering some docent classes at night so people who have difficulty in attending daytime classes can still become docents.

What is your favorite memory as a Cheekwood Docent? 
Actually, my favorite tour to date just occurred. The tour was a private tour with a group visiting Nashville for a family event weekend. What I enjoyed most about the tour was its interactive nature. The people in the group were high energy and lots of fun and were interested in the garden, the family history, and the mansion. They had a lot of questions and comments so the tour became a conversation rather than a one-way presentation of information. I’ve found that as a docent, I most enjoy tours where there’s a lot of give and take between those taking the tour and me. I hope that our visitors feel the same way.

Why did you become a Cheekwood docent?
Any discussion about Cheekwood has to begin with the beauty that draws so many of us to Cheekwood. As a new visitor, member and gardener wannabe, I was attracted to the beauty and peace of Cheekwood. I took a docent-led garden tour and then and there decided that I wanted both to learn more about Cheekwood and to be able to share that knowledge as a docent. Fast forward several years to when I was able to take the training and I have been a docent ever since.

What is the funniest thing a visitor has said to you on a tour?
An adult on a garden tour who had the funniest comment. I was waxing eloquent on the beautiful exfoliating bark of the crape myrtles, when a visitor said, “Thank goodness, I thought that the trees were diseased and were losing their bark.”

 

Pictured: Karen, left, and Shelia, right 

Become a Docent!

Are you an avid gardener, an admirer of the arts, or intrigued by Nashville’s rich history? Do you enjoy sharing your interests and knowledge with your community? If so, you may be interested in the program! Join us for our fall docent recruitment beginning Tuesday August 14. Simply register for the training by August 7 by contacting Haley Combs at 615.353.6980 or hcombs@cheekwood.org.

 

Learn more about the docent and volunteer program at Cheekwood: https://cheekwood.org/support/volunteer/


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