Docent Spotlight: Barbara Martin

Docent Spotlight: Barbara Martin

Published:  June 7, 2021

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 (virtually) sat down with one of our docents, Barbara Martin, to ask her some questions about her experience as a docent, and what she loves most.

Barbara has been an active Cheekwood volunteer for 5 years, educating groups as a docent on guided tours and assisting in numerous volunteer roles that serve our youth and family programs. Barbara works with visitors of all ages, from our youngest tots to adult tour groups, though her most beloved experiences at Cheekwood have been with our school-aged visitors. While in the gardens, Barbara can be found leading group tours, admiring new plantings, or interacting with walk-up visitors, always with a smile on her face!

Read on to learn more about Barbara’s experience as a Cheekwood Docent.

What made you decide you wanted to volunteer?

The reason I wanted to volunteer at Cheekwood was that I had recently retired, and had always loved Cheekwood, so I got on the website to look for opportunities. I am a Master Gardener,  so volunteering at Cheekwood looked like a great fit. Introducing  people of all ages to the gardens, seemed a perfect fit.

How did you hear about Cheekwood’s Docent program?

I actually found out about the docent program, while on the Cheekwood website.

What experience, background, circumstance, etc. led you to become a Cheekwood docent?

My experience of working in my own gardens, gardens in my neighborhood and being a lover of all plants and animals, led me in the direction of sharing my knowledge as a Cheekwood docent.

What sort of training is required to become a Cheekwood Docent?

The 6-week training prepared me well for being a docent. But it’s the additional opportunities that really expand your knowledge. We are encouraged to attend other trainings with garden and mansion staff to further educate us. We can even attend docent trainings again, especially if they are on gardens we would like to brush up on.

When did you begin volunteering at Cheekwood?

I started volunteering at Cheekwood in September of 2016.

Describe a typical tour:

There is no such thing as a typical tour. Our tours are rarely the same, we have different age groups and different levels of knowledge. We frequently tour multiple different gardens, and sometimes you might have 2 people or 12 people! You might also have a group of kindergarteners or a slower moving elderly group! It is challenging and fun to make every tour unique and engage your audience.

What is the funniest thing a visitor (young or grown!) has said to you on a tour?

One of my funnier moments while touring a group of 6th graders was….we had a science curriculum one fall with Davidson County schools. We had groups of 6th and 1st graders all fall. The 6th graders were studying the Emerald Ash Borer insect. On every tour I carried with me a colorful brochure of the insect an enlarged picture of it was on the front ( the picture showed an 8” insect). While I was sharing the picture, a student spoke up and said “ is he really that big?” Everyone got a good laugh and we continued on.

What are you most excited for at Cheekwood in the coming year?

I am always excited for Cheekwood Harvest in the fall , and the careful, slow reopening of some of our monthly events. Cheekwood is always evolving, and new art and new garden displays are always something to look forward to. The Nature POP! exhibition looks adorable and love the American Impressionists in the Mansion.  The new Wellness 360 is great new program to rejuvenate the mind, body and spirit!


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 Cheekwood’s Docent Program! Join us for our Summer docent training beginning the week of June 14th. Click here to learn more!


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