Each month, a volunteer docent visits the classroom to talk about master artists and share examples of their works, like these self portraits.
Leonardo da Vinci — the Mona Lisa is featured — and Edward Degas and his famous portraits of Parisian ballerinas. “In our increasingly visual insta-world, art docent challenges you to look with a discerning eye beyond what is in front of you to find deeper meaning,” Fordyce says. “You learn to pull together information from a variety of disciplines — science, math, art and history — to gain understanding.” On a recent afternoon at Eubanks Intermediate School, Melissa Schembri began the hourlong session talking about the work of Ando Hiroshige, his choice to become an artist, the intricate work of carving wood blocks and the geography of his native Japan. Students eagerly answered questions, remembering some facts from the docent’s visit last month. Art docent days are anticipated by students as a break from traditional lectures. Their enthusiasm comes thanks to the scores of artifacts and supporting materials supplied by Victoria Comstock, who created the program and continues to lead it through the years, teaching docents in their periodic training sessions. Comstock’s magnetic personality and passion for art have kept the program going. Born in Argentina, she traveled the world as
a flight attendant and wife of an American Airlines pilot and has personally seen many masterpieces showcased in the world’s top museums. She collects items from all over the world and can tell first-person stories about life in different countries and cultures to the students. Her role as an arts educator came about in the late 1980s, when she agreed to help a Southlake friend, Dianne Mish, find a way to introduce the great artists to children in the school district despite limited funds. “There was basically no art other than a few volunteers who would come in and talk about Rembrandt; that was it,” she says. “There was nothing for these children to do. I don’t have children, but I stayed on for the love of it, and it just blossomed into this huge program.” The art docent has grown from simply operating off a cart that was rolled from room to room to having dedicated classroom space at both Eubanks and Durham Intermediate. It’s also home to docent training, typically led by Comstock, who lends artifacts she has collected from her travels to help illustrate the life and times of artists. Among them are intricately painted umbrellas from Japan, used in the Hiroshige presentation, and reproductions of Renaissance cutlery. “It’s interesting for children to understand how people had to cut their steak in the 1600s,” Comstock says. “It’s not just about understanding the art, but how people actually lived.” Fordyce is grateful for Comstock’s donations to the program, which include her time, expertise and educational materials — Comstock is donating
THE DETAILS If you’re interested in joining the art docent program or getting more information, contact Katy Jo Fordyce at 817-939-5279 or email@example.com.
At a recent session, sixth graders at Eubanks Intermediate School learned about artists Ando Hiroshige and Vincent van Gogh.