Volunteer Spotlight: Geri Franske
Today is the start of National Volunteer Week! Cheekwood has wonderful volunteers, and this week we want to spotlight our incredible docent and volunteer, Geri Franske.
Geri serves tirelessly in many roles at Cheekwood. She does extensive research on art, history and our gardens, to conduct informed educational tours as a docent and for school groups. Geri is very involved with an education program that sees 12,000 youth each year. Geri helps children enjoy hands on art experiences and exposes them to varied types of art and media. And she inspires many in the gardens to learn about design and beauty. She is the first one to sign up to support special exhibitions and events which reach a wide and diverse audience. Geri has taken on leadership responsibilities as Event Captain for special events and projects and is an important area lead on our Volunteers Committee. She expands these roles by helping with fundraising, membership events and community engagement initiatives. So many visitors take away more knowledge and understanding of area history and with greater appreciation for art and values represented at Cheekwood, but they are always impressed by her indelible quality of graciousness and warmth which enhances their whole experience.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am retired from San Bernardino, California fire department where I had a job that allowed me to embrace each day with joy that I could be there. As a fire safety specialist with the Fire Marshal’s office, I was a plans examiner and inspector for new construction and development. I also taught Code classes at Norco College. I’ve been retired for 10 years and moved to Nashville about 9 years ago to combine households with my sister.
What are your favorite hobbies, activities, or interests?
I’m a lifelong learner and have always been an avid reader, and lover of gardens and nature, art, history, and travel. The love of art involves making art in several mediums, taking classes, visiting art museums, and buying all kinds of art supplies. I am also a docent at the Frist Art Museum.
What is your favorite garden or area at Cheekwood and why?
Since the first time I came to Cheekwood as a visitor, I have loved the Howe Garden since it invokes memories of my grandmother. She was a farmwife with numerous responsibilities but still made time to create flower gardens. I think she and Cora Howe would have had much in common.
What is your favorite room or area in the Historic Mansion & Museum, Frist Learning Center, or Botanic Hall? Why?
While I like the library very much, I love the morning room in the mansion because of the wonderful light and view. I could picture spending time reading in the morning room and often setting up an easel to paint. I would love to have tea with Ms. Mabel in that room.
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?
The sculpture Silent Music II by Jaume Plensa is amazing and “sings” to me. Through Cheekwood, I have developed an appreciation for the artists “The Eight or Ashcan painters”. I have appreciated their work at many museums.
In what ways have you been involved as a volunteer with Cheekwood so far?
My original involvement was a need to keep busy and become engaged with the community since I was new to Nashville. I like to interact with people and thrive when I am doing purposeful activities. My sister introduced me to Cheekwood several times while I was visiting. I always thought it might be a cool place to be involved.
Why did you become a volunteer?
I enjoy docent tours but also like activities with children. As a (new) member of the Herb Society of Nashville too, we help maintain the herb gardens at Cheekwood (and Centennial Park), so that means “fingers in the dirt.” The special events are always fun and it’s interesting to be introduced to many cultural activities. Dog days (nights) are the best. Holiday LIGHTS is still enchanting after seven years.
What have you enjoyed the most about your volunteer experience?
Pre-pandemic, many times I did school tours of the gardens at Cheekwood in the morning and then school tours of the exhibits at the Frist in the afternoon. Call me crazy but I found that very invigorating. Two years later, I’m not so sure but will be willing to try.
Is there a funny or inspirational story you can briefly tell about your volunteer experience?
One of the most memorable garden tours was with kindergarteners. I was pointing at a tree, and there in the branch, two feet from my hand was a large black snake. I’m not fond of snakes, but since I had to be the adult in this scenario it was necessary to quell the desire to run screaming down the path and still make it a learning experience.
Do you have any advice for individuals considering volunteering with Cheekwood?
Anyone considering volunteering should just do it. They should try different assignments and put joy and their unique abilities into them. It’s a great way to meet interesting people from all over. And it’s great working for Ms. Amy.
Are you interested in volunteering at Cheekwood? Click here to learn more!