square arrangement of tables with students sitting and listening to an instructor at the front of a classroom

Youth Docent Tour Program Offers Teen Perspectives on Art

This spring, the Museum launched a youth docent program alongside the opening of Many Wests: Artists Shape an American Idea. Docents are volunteers who serve as gallery guides for the Museum, teaching people about the artwork and artists featured in an exhibition.

The youth docent program involves high-school students who are building skills and confidence in discussing art, culture, and current events. Since February, these students have participated in training sessions, listened to guest speakers, trained in public speaking, created a podcast, and had fun hanging out in the docent lounge inside the Lightcatcher.

Taking a youth docent tour at the Museum offers the public the opportunity to hear the unique perspectives of the teens, who share about the artwork and artists that inspire them most. We asked some of the students to tell us a little more about their experience:

Ella Thompson, Sehome High School

What I love about participating in the youth docent program is that it allows me to go deeper than the paint on a canvas—to learn about a work’s artist and the history and context surrounding a piece—and about the Whatcom Museum, and the museum process as a whole. Then, we get to go even further and share that knowledge with the public.

Museums are places to learn about the world and experience it, and to me, the youth docent program feels like a fantastic extension of that. From exploring the maze of historical objects kept in storage beneath the Lightcatcher, to hearing about how art pieces are transported on planes (apparently it involves a lot of keeping them away from racehorses), to just looking at some really cool art, I’ve had a lot of fun experiences and learned a lot of fascinating things through the program. Tours are just the final step, cementing those experiences by sharing our newfound understanding with the world, and hopefully even learning from the museum visitors as well.


Sebastian Dales, Squalicum High School

The first thing I remember about being part of the program was exploring the Museum. With all the nooks and crannies of each building being so cool to see. Searching all the rooms in the Museum—ones open to the public and some behind the scenes. Different artworks from different time periods. But all just seeming to fit in place. In all, the Museum never disappoints me with anything. Stop by sometime.


Lucy Tervo, Squalicum High School

I joined the docent program after my English teacher, Mrs. Prichard, encouraged us to look into the program. My favorite part of being a docent was doing the research while planning my tour. It was fascinating to research different art techniques and the history behind some of the pieces in the exhibit. My favorite piece to do research on was Enrollment by Ka’ila Farrell-Smith, which taught me about the Hudson Bay Company and its effects on the Indigenous Peoples of North America. I’m very thankful to be a youth docent for these past few months!


Jessie Y. Hill, Bellingham High School and Whatcom Community College

One thing that I’ve enjoyed through leading tours on this exhibit is how it has helped people question their preconceived notions about the west, encouraging them to think deeper about the media they consume in their day-to-day lives.


Ella Prichard, Sehome High School

While I only joined the program last February, the Museum has been an important place throughout my life. When I was younger, my parents brought me to the FIG (Family Interactive Gallery) almost every weekend. It was a place of wonder and exploration. I remember playing with foam blocks and noodles, using them to build imaginary landscapes with newfound friends. I remember how much I loved it there, how much I learned and how it helped cultivate my lifelong love of curiosity and knowledge.

Upon acceptance into the youth docent program, I was exhilarated to become part of the museum community. So far, I’ve not only given tours, but I’ve also learned about what goes into a museum, from the day-to-day innerworkings, to the process of designing large-scale, traveling exhibitions. Through the museum, I’ve also had the chance to volunteer at summer camps and be interviewed by Cascadia Daily News and The Seattle Times. The work I’ve done is incredibly varied, yet no matter what I’m doing, I’ve found that I’m always having fun. I love spending time in the building and working with the staff. Everyone I’ve met is kind, hardworking and sincere. It’s a wonderful environment that I always look forward to spending time in. I’m so grateful to be part of this program. I can’t wait to see what the future of it holds and to help introduce a new generation to the Whatcom Museum.


If you haven’t had a chance to take a youth docent tour, there are two weeks left to attend. Join us Fri., Aug. 12 or 19, 4-5pm. Tours begin in the lobby of the Lightcatcher and are included with admission/free to members. Generous support for this program provided by Art Bridges.