Become a Stanley Docent

Nearly fifteen years ago Jude Langhurst retired from a career in public relations and advertising and moved to Iowa City to be close to family. She’d been living in Burlington, Iowa, where she first cultivated her passion for encouraging young people to be creative. Langhurst worked as a volunteer, presenting art to grade school students. While that experience was formative for her, Langhurst quips that it was not the start of a grand plan to become what she is today—the Stanley museum’s most dedicated docent.

Jude Langhurst at Jackson Elementary School, Maquoketa, Iowa

“I saw a small ad for docents in the [Iowa City] Press-Citizen and applied,” Langhurst says. “It really was just luck that I found something I could enjoy with passion.”

After the 2008 flood shuttered the museum’s doors, curators began acquiring artworks for classroom presentations, and Langhurst’s role as a docent evolved into familiar territory: she found herself again taking art into schools. “Teachers from across Iowa requested in-class presentations,” she says. “With organizational and transportation help from the UISMA staff I presented on African Art, Masks, American Indian Art, Art of the Pacific Northwest, Comics, Gee's Bend Quilts, and Art from Northern India. Even though the topics were widely varied I could never find a personal favorite, nor could I find one I did not enjoy sharing with children.”

When the new Stanley Museum of Art opens next fall, Langhurst and other docents will provide tours and educational experiences to museum visitors of all ages. Associate Curator of Education Joshua Siefken, who coordinates the recently relaunched docent program, looks forward to bringing a new crop of volunteers into the fold. “The docent corps will provide a vital role in the community,” he says. “During training sessions, they will learn about new scholarship and educational theories on some of our oldest and most well-known artworks. Their voice will reach thousands of children and provide insight to Iowans regardless of their knowledge of art.”

Langhurst is eager to see her favorite artworks on display in their new, permanent home. She anticipates a rush of emotions. “Usually I find that the more I know and understand about a piece of art, the more I develop an attachment to the piece. For me, it's like developing a friendship,” she says. “Those pieces I'd presented to students at the old museum before the flood were the works I most treasured, and it will be good to renew our relationship.”

Would you like to become a Stanley docent? Read more here.

Brady Plunger at Aurora Heights Elementary, Newton, Iowa

[From the Fall 2021 Stanley Museum of Art Magazine.]