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Volunteers Share the Garden

This article was originally featured in the August 2016 issue of The Garden Path magazine.


Photo by Jonathan Ley

Inspiration, tranquility, and education are at the heart of each of our Art in the Garden exhibitions. We rely on the continuous dedication of our volunteer docents to help educate Garden guests about each exhibition and spread knowledge and relevance of Japanese culture. Our dedicated docents spend hours learning about each artists and their creations. For the exhibition, Bending Nature: Four Bamboo Artists in the Garden, our docents attended off-site visits to the art studios, meet each artist and fully immerse themselves in the art form in order to pass their knowledge onto Garden guests, hoping to make each guests’ experience unforgettable.

“I love learning about all the forms of art we are exposed to,” said Gina McMurran, who wears many hats as a Garden volunteer. “I am always fascinated by how artists see things and their ability to express what they see,” she added.

On a warm day in late June, more than a dozen Portland Japanese Garden docent volunteers visited bamboo artist Anne Crumpacker’s Portland studio. Crumpacker gave a short presentation on her background, education, and the inspiration behind her pieces.

“I’m really pleased to have an inside look at things. It will make me a better and more informed docent. I think knowing about the artists’ own journeys helps me as a docent when I am talking with visitors. They are always very interested in knowing about the artists themselves,” said Alice Rogan, a docent volunteer.

After they attended the tour, we asked each volunteer what inspired them and what they liked the most about the exhibition orientations.

“I learn so much each time I do this. It inspires my creative nature and I’ve enjoyed the fascinating artists that we’ve had the good fortune to meet,” said Margaret Keeler, a tour guide and exhibition docent since 2009.

In May, Bamboo artist Charissa Brock hosted about two dozen docent volunteers in her studio just outside Portland. She walked through her bamboo sculpture making process from start to finish using a variety of traditional hand tools and knives. She answered volunteer questions and passed around examples of her work, explaining each stage of the process.

“These events inform other areas of my life, including my own artwork. My understanding of the depth of an ancient Eastern culture is increased by these special events that the Garden lines up. I can now pass along my own enthusiasm about the art to Garden visitors,” said longtime exhibition volunteer Lee Haga.