Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Celebrates 50 Years of Gallery Instructor Program

MFA to Fête Multiple Generations of Dedicated Volunteer Educators

BOSTON, MA (October 25, 2013)—The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its volunteer Gallery Instructor program throughout the 2013-2014 academic year. One of the earliest initiatives of its kind in the U.S., Gallery Instructors introduce school children––from kindergarten through high school—to art, history and museums through interactive tours of the MFA’s encyclopedic collection. Rigorous training ensures instructors are knowledgeable, engaging and well versed in current educational standards and techniques––offering student-centered learning experiences that build on school curriculum. Each year approximately 26,000 school children, teens and teachers participate in the MFA’s program, representing schools from Massachusetts as well as New Hampshire, Maine and occasionally Canada.  The Gallery Instructor Program is funded through a generous endowment by Marcia and Louis Kamentsky. Support is also provided by the Bascha Snyder Education Fund, the Grace S. Dane Fund, and the National Docent Symposium Gallery Instructors Fund for Professional Development.

“The longevity of the Gallery Instructor program is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our volunteer educators, who open the world of art to students year after year,” said Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director at the MFA. “I’m proud that we’ve had hundreds of instructors over the years, of all ages and backgrounds, working tirelessly to make the Museum the world-class educational resource it is today. They are truly the unsung heroes of the MFA.”

The Gallery Instructors have chosen to celebrate their 50th anniversary by raising funds for two projects at the MFA—Please Be Seated, which commissions public seating from leading contemporary furniture makers, and The Heritage Fund for a Diverse Collection, which provides acquisition funds for works by American artists of color, along with other art that broadens the visitor experience by presenting a more complete record of American culture. The new addition to the Please Be Seated program is a commemorative bench, crafted by New Hampshire artist Vivian Beer, which has been placed on the second floor of the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art.

“The MFA hosts over 55,000 students at the Museum every year, nearly half of whom are guided through the collections by our Gallery Instructors,” said Willamarie Moore, the MFA’s Head of School Programs and Teacher Resources. “We constantly receive letters, emails and handmade thank you cards from teachers and students, letting us know how meaningful their time in the Museum was. Almost always, we are told how our Gallery Instructors brought the art alive and provided an amazing experience for their group.”

The Museum’s flagship docent program started in 1963, when Martha Wright, in the MFA’s Education Department, organized volunteers to lead school groups on guided tours of the MFA’s landmark Tutankhamun Treasures exhibition—bringing Ancient Egypt to life for students studying the subject in school. In the 1970s, when many Boston schools were unable to transport students to the Museum, Gallery Instructors went out to classrooms with slide presentations. Today, Gallery Instructors continue to make MFA field trips positive and enriching experiences. Committed to a minimum of two years of service, the diverse group represents volunteers with a variety of life experiences, ranging in age from 26 to 92 and with tenure from 18 months to 40 years. Gallery Instructors––who live as far away as Cape Cod and New Hampshire—train for 16 weeks at the Museum before leading tours. After their coursework, instructors immerse themselves in continuing education to learn about the MFA’s collection areas, art history and most importantly, how to engage young minds with the excitement of a work of art.

“As a Gallery Instructor for almost 20 years, I am thrilled to join my fellow instructors, past and present, in celebrating a half century of dedication to exploring the transformative power of art with students,” said Sylvia Simmons, an active Gallery Instructor and honorary Trustee at the MFA. “As an integral part of the Museum community, we receive so much in return for our service, including the opportunity to broaden our minds, expand our intellect and develop a lifelong passion for art.”

Through interactive, object-based discussions and hands-on learning activities throughout the Museum, Gallery Instructors engage student groups in lively discussions about art from many cultures and time periods. MFA Guided Tours last an hour and are available Monday–Friday throughout the school year. Tours include seven to 10 objects from the MFA’s collection, ranging from tours of the Art of the Americas Wing to the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art.

“Gallery Instructors treasure their roles as both student and teacher, and I have loved working with these inventive and energetic people over the decades,” said Martha Wright, founder of the Gallery Instructor program and current Adjunct Lecturer in Asian Art. “We can always count on Gallery Instructors to apply themselves with vigor to produce the caliber of teaching the MFA deserves.”

In honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Gallery Instructor program, the MFA is hosting a number of events and activities through 2014. A luncheon and day of recognition was held for 200 current and emeritus instructors on October 21, 2013, kicking off a year of celebration at the Museum.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), is recognized for the quality and scope of its encyclopedic collection, which includes an estimated 450,000 objects. The Museum’s collection is made up of: Art of the Americas; Art of Europe; Contemporary Art; Art of Asia, Oceania, and Africa; Art of the Ancient World; Prints, Drawings, and Photographs; Textile and Fashion Arts; and Musical Instruments. Open seven days a week, the MFA’s hours are Saturday through Tuesday, 10 a.m. – 4:45 p.m.; and Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. – 9:45 p.m. Admission (which includes one repeat visit within 10 days) is $25 for adults and $23 for seniors and students age 18 and older, and includes entry to all galleries and special exhibitions. Admission is free for University Members and youths age 17 and younger on weekdays after 3 p.m., weekends, and Boston Public Schools holidays; otherwise $10. Wednesday nights after 4 p.m. admission is by voluntary contribution (suggested donation $25). MFA Members are always admitted for free. The MFA’s multi-media guide is available at ticket desks and the Sharf Visitor Center for $5, members; $6, non-members; and $4, youths. The Museum is closed on New Year’s Day, Patriots’ Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. For more information, visit or call 617.267.9300. The MFA is located on the Avenue of the Arts at 465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115.