Ev Zaklan, a longtime tour guide (docent) at Surrey Art Gallery, tells school students about artist Maurice Van Der Beke’s “Mandala After Prayer Wheel,” a copper sculpture displayed in the gallery lobby. (Photo: surrey.ca)

Surrey Art Gallery needs docents for school group tours

‘There is always something new and exciting happening,’ says 17-year volunteer Ev Zaklan

Volunteer tour guides are sought by operators of Surrey Art Gallery.

The guides, known as docents, are needed to lead weekday school groups through the contemporary art exhibitions at the public art gallery, the second largest in Metro Vancouver.

“Our docents come from all walks of life but many are retired,” noted Chris Dawson-Murphy, the gallery’s volunteer program co-ordinator. “It’s a role that appeals to life-long learners and those who like working with children.

“The New Year is always a good time to re-evaluate commitments and perhaps try something new,” he added.

Docents work to encourage students to explore a variety of art mediums, including paintings, drawings, sculptures, ceramics, textiles, videos and sound art.

Experience is not required for this volunteer position, and new docents receive training. New recruits accompany senior docents on tours for the first month.

Also, ongoing training orients docents to new exhibits through lectures and workshops taught by curators, artists and educators.

“There is always something new and exciting happening,” stated Ev Zaklan, a volunteer docent at the gallery for more than 17 years.

“You’re meeting artists and getting to spend time with the other docents, who are diverse but have similar ideas. My art knowledge has improved immensely. There is the social aspect as well – I’ve made a lot of friendships.”

The next training session begins Feb. 1, and the application deadline is Monday, Jan. 8. For more details, including a list of responsibilities and qualifications, visit the “opportunities” page of surrey.ca/artgallery, or contact Dawson-Murphy (email artsvolunteer@surrey.ca or call 604-501-5198).

Looking ahead, the gallery’s new winter exhibit, called Many Visions, Many Versions: Art from Indigenous Communities in India, will open on Jan. 20 with a talk by co-curator Aurogeeta Das, starting at 6:30 p.m. The exhibit features the work of 24 contemporary artists from four major indigenous artistic traditions in India: the Gond and Warli communities of Central India, the Mithila region of Bihar, and the narrative scroll painters of West Bengal.

Also this month, the gallery’s satellite venue, UrbanScreen at Chuck Bailey Recreation Centre, will feature Toronto artist Alex McLeod’s Phantasmagoria digital art exhibit starting on Jan. 25 and continuing until April 29.

“His art uses digital software to render imagery that moves between two- and three-dimensional space, dissolving the façade between our own physical word and the imagined possibilities of elsewhere,” says a post at surrey.ca.

“In a constant game of elaboration, McLeod’s subjects remind us of the rules which govern our reality before breaking them in a colourful display of artifice.”

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