Thank you to all who submitted proposals.  The deadline has passed and descriptions of education sessions for the VDE 2019 conference can be found  here


Education Session Proposals

Talk About It: Creating Dialogues is the overarching theme of the 2019 Virginia Docent Exchange at VMFA. The dialogic approach has gained popularity in museums as a way to facilitate meaningful encounters with works of art. In this context, dialogue can best be understood as the shared experience of exploration through an exchange of ideas, observations, and inquiry.  Sessions offered at the 2019 VDE should examine the role of dialogue in creating meaningful experiences. How do we create an environment that ignites imaginations, allows time to ponder, encourages visitors to share, and even think differently?

There are many ways docents can create successful dialogues, and we have chosen four sub-themes, or avenues, aimed at achieving that goal.  The sub-themes are: Empathy, Cultural Relevancy, Communication/ Language, and Creative Thinking (please scroll down for sub-them examples).  Each session should offer the participants ways to create meaningful dialogues with our visitors through one of these four sub-themes (sub-themes are described below).  As you begin to think about possible session proposals you would like to submit, be sure to frame each one within one of the four sub-themes.

Breakout sessions for the 2019 Virginia Docent Exchange should aim to engage and inspire the docents who participate. Each Docent Exchange member institution should propose at least two 50 minute presentations that explore this year’s theme through one of the four sub-themes.  We encourage docents to propose sessions that will take place in VMFA’s galleries, although it is not a requirement. Conference rooms and art classrooms will also be available for presentations. Hands-on activities and interactive experiences that encourage observation, investigation and critical analysis are encouraged. In planning the session, in addition to selecting a sub-theme, also consider what aspect of the docent experience it addresses such as: touring strategies, docent training and evaluation, the incorporation of technology in touring, meeting the needs of specific visitors, etc. The docents participating in each session should receive strategies and materials to take home that can be adapted and used at their own institutions.

If you have any questions please e-mail Anne Walker or

Mary Frediani .

We look forward to reading your proposals!


 Sub-theme Examples:

 Empathy: Sessions on empathy might address how to navigate personal observations, sensitive or difficult dialogues on tours.  How can we make sure museums are places where people feel comfortable and open to the process of exploring other points of view?

 Cultural Relevancy:  Sessions on cultural relevancy will explore how to encourage dialogue that allows visitors to understand works of art in ways that relate to their life experiences and current events.  Sessions might include ideas, tools and/or techniques used by a docent to help the visitor relate to an object or concept that is foreign to them. How can we build a rapport with our visitors and align our tour content with things that are relevant in their lives?

 Communication/Language: In what ways do different modes of communication and intentional language play a role in facilitating dialogue and meaningful experiences with art? How do they play a role in empowering visitors to respond? How can a small change in language either encourage dialogue or end it?  A session under this theme might explore the differences between asking closed questions versus open questions. Another session might differ slightly and think about semantics or the meaning implied in words or phrases and how it affects our audience – how to know what to say, or what not to say, and when?

 Creative Thinking:  How do we inspire and engage our visitors through dialogue to think creatively and critically about what they see?  Or, what sort of creative tactics do you use to encourage your visitors to respond to a work of art?

 Remember, each session should relate back to the central theme of Talk About It:  Creating Dialogues.


Anne Walker & Mary Frediani

Virginia Docent Exchange 2019 Co-Chairs