December 10, 2020

Docents on Demand: A Video Project at SMoCA

Docents at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) demonstrated their adaptability in moving to digital platforms this year to engage with each other and our visitors. These platforms for active engagement have included Zoom, Facebook, and Learning & Innovation’s Spark blog. To remain connected with our visitors in a time of social distancing, we invited the docents to create short videos to be viewed in the galleries via a scannable QR code. The new project’s title, Docents on Demand (DoD), echoes the video on demand (VoD) concept that broke with traditional forms of media distribution in the early 1990s, emphasizing the ways that the docent program can adapt to new technologies and cultural contexts.

Creating video content for Docents on Demand in BEYOND: Works by Nellie King Solomon and Barbara King Solomon at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA).
Photo: Scottsdale Arts

These short docent videos intend to inspire close looking and suggest directions for thinking further about an artwork. During a typical pre-pandemic gallery engagement, docents posed questions to discover a visitor’s individual connection with the art and to help them reach their own personal understanding of its significance. To translate this emphasis on visitor interpretation to a digital format, each docent video ends with an open-ended question for the viewer to consider.    

Scripting, improvising, and filming in front of Nellie King Solomon’s Breaking Up the Concrete Cloud (2020) at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA). Photo: Scottsdale Arts

The Docents on Demand video project fulfilled our participating docents’ desire to remain “plugged in” to the Museum’s visitors while meeting a new intellectual challenge. One docent reflected: “I have been craving some art-think. The challenge to distill the essential questions raised by a work of art into a one-minute video really satisfied that craving.”

The video project also inspired the participants to think about what the future role of a docent might look like: “The pandemic has merely accelerated the trend toward digital. The one-minute video is proof the docent program can continue to evolve and expand the ways we share our love of art with our visitors.”

Another docent said, “It has completely changed our role at the museum,” while yet another predicted, “This may be the new way we meet the public.”  

Action! Filming in Unapologetic: All Women, All Year at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA). Photo: Scottsdale Arts.

Whether or not the Museum of the future includes a hybrid of in-person dialog, interactive technology, and even augmented reality—as showcased in this year’s Canal Convergence—the docents believe their current investment in connecting digitally with visitors will “encourage closer looking” and “help visitors appreciate their museum experience.” 

We encourage you to reserve your timed-entry admission to SMoCA and look for the five QR codes that offer the opportunity to hear more from a SMoCA docent.

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