Volunteer Spotlight: Arkendra Johnson
Arkendra Johnson joined Cheekwood as a volunteer in 2018, and she has consistently served every year since. She pursued a range of opportunities here at Cheekwood helping with our Tot’s art activities, painting the Swan Ball dance floor, gardening, serving as a gallery service volunteer and guide during Chihuly at Cheekwood in 2020 and participating in our inaugural African American Cultural Family Celebration. Engaging, welcoming, and friendly, Arkendra always volunteers with an infectious smile! She is drawn to art and history, is eager to learn, and is currently attending docent training.
Tell us a little about yourself.
This is home!! I was born and raised in Franklin, TN graduated from Page High School and Middle Tennessee State University with a degree in Criminal Justice and a double minor in Political Science and Psychology. I’ve had the pleasure to work in some form of customer service for over 25 years. I love working with people and getting to know them (family too)! Currently I am the Principal Broker of Luxury Homes of Tennessee in Downtown Franklin and live in College Grove.
What are your favorite hobbies, activities, or interests?
I love to volunteer, read, and travel with my family. Also, I like trying new restaurants/foods.
What is your favorite garden or area at Cheekwood and why?
Very hard question because I love every part of Cheekwood. I guess it would be the Burr Terrace Garden and the Bracken Foundation Children’s Garden. The gardens are very inviting and an exceptional display for children and adults to enjoy.
What is your favorite room or area in the Historic Mansion & Museum, Frist Learning Center, or Botanic Hall? Why?
Featured Art Galleries. There’s a unique story with each artist and art piece.
Do you have a favorite art piece at Cheekwood, or, if not, a favorite exhibition that Cheekwood has hosted? Is there a reason you like it?
Chihuly! I volunteered not knowing a lot about it, but after a tour and reading about the artist I really enjoyed seeing all the rich color of glass art displayed. Definitely eye opening to see art shared in so many different forms and colors.
In what ways have you been involved as a volunteer with Cheekwood so far?
I’ve helped with kid’s activities, reading to the kids, Chihuly at Cheekwood, greeter in Historic Mansion & Museum, and helped prepare for the Swan Ball.
Why did you become a volunteer?
I have always volunteered in some way locally in my community, and decided to add to the list of organizations I volunteer for. Cheekwood piqued my interest with the different displays of gardens and art. This was all new to me, but I enjoy exploring new things and it’s been amazing!!
What have you enjoyed the most about your volunteer experience?
I work in a fast paced environment. When I volunteer at Cheekwood and arrive on the campus, everything slows down for me and I get to experience nature and new things. Also, I love meeting/talking to volunteers and guests. It’s great to see families spend time together and have fun at Cheekwood.
Is there a funny or inspirational story you can briefly tell about your volunteer experience?
I volunteered for the garden area. I had some idea of my volunteer assignment, but it was my first time working in the gardens. I didn’t realize how much manual hard work goes into gardening. I pulled weeds for about an hour and a half. I loved being in the gardens, but my knees and arms were sore when I left! My goodness I told myself several times “Do not quit!” I did not quit and completed my job. I want to thank all gardeners everywhere for all your hard work. Cheekwood is so beautiful.
Do you have any advice for individuals considering volunteering with Cheekwood?
Definitely come to Cheekwood to volunteer. It’s a great way to give back to nature/art and it responds back to you. Such an exciting opportunity to learn and enjoy all Cheekwood offers.