This blog, the second in our volunteer interview series, we’ll learn more about the ArtPrize Education Program by meeting Joyce Washburn, a longtime volunteer, and hearing about her experience. Becca Guyette, Education Director, will also share with us some details and changes for the ArtPrize Seven Education Program.

Joyce Washburn started to give her time to the Grand Rapids community as an ArtPrize volunteer in 2011. A native Grand Rapidian, Joyce grew up in a north end neighborhood near North Park, right on the edge of the city. Joyce is now retired from the U.S. Navy, where she worked for the Department of Community Health as a treatment specialist.

Besides ArtPrize, which is now one of her main interests, Joyce enjoys watching sports, especially football. Her favorite teams are the Green Bay Packers, Wisconsin, and the Indianapolis Colts.

Joyce enjoyed her first volunteer experience in high school when she was 14 years old: she helped coach and keep score for her sister's 7th-8th grade basketball team. Joyce shared that the main reason she continues to volunteer is because she likes to meet people.

“It was so funny, when I went to Kentucky to volunteer at a sports car race, almost all the people who were volunteering, I knew them—they were from Grand Rapids and Lansing! I didn’t talk with them before—it just happened!

That’s what I like about ArtPrize, too. I like to do stuff before the event starts, because you get to meet people—you get to talk, you get to know people—so I form friendships.”

Joyce with volunteer team at Kentucky sports car race. Photo: Joyce Washburn. 

For more about our avid volunteer’s experience please read below!

ArtPrize (AP): What motivates you to give your time as a volunteer?

Joyce: It’s mostly because I have a good time. It’s just a lot of fun.

AP: What area did you work in for your first volunteer experience?

Joyce: I was a Wayfinder. It was pretty fun. In the beginning I was a bit afraid to work the last shifts, because you have to go back by yourself to the parking lot when it’s dark outside—quite dangerous, I thought. But I got over it. Once you come downtown, you see that there are many people around and you don’t have any reason to be afraid.

AP: What was your favorite part about Wayfinding?

Joyce: I think interacting with people. There’s so much energy downtown in the city. You can just feel it. People are so nice. You get to go around and you get to see the different artworks. It’s about two things: you get something for yourself, and you help others find things. I like going to the Ford Museum. It always seems to be a good area, and they always have good exhibits there.

AP: What was the hardest part about Wayfinding?

Joyce: I think just finally giving yourself permission to not know the answers. Because you’re not a computer. Of course each year you get to know more and more. But sometimes people will be so upset with a question: “Where is a bathroom? Where can I get water? Where do you catch this bus?”

Or “My friend’s brother-in-law entered as an artist, do you know where his work is?” And they don’t know the person’s name. So there is the app on your phone and you're trying to figure out how to find the answer, almost like Sherlock Holmes.

You have to be willing to talk, because if you’re shy, that wouldn’t be enjoyable.

Joyce with ArtPrize 2014 Education team. Photo: Joyce Washburn. 

AP: What other volunteer positions have you already tried?

Joyce: Wayfinding, as I already mentioned, Chair Camp—my favorite of all things—and “preparation-for-the-event”. Working with the kids is a lot of fun. Also I was an Education Docent Volunteer, leading school groups on tours through ArtPrize.

AP: What did you appreciate about this experience?

Joyce: Well, there are a lot of different things to do, and you have a choice. It gives me a chance to see a lot of things—all the artworks. As a Wayfinder, you can go around and see a lot of exhibits. Also [ArtPrize has] events during the year, and you can see people who you normally only see in autumn. ArtPrize is really good to their volunteers; meeting people, meeting staff, I feel appreciated. And because it lasts over a certain time period, we start doing preparation work in August. So, we’re here for about a month. You kind of take an ownership.

Yesterday I was at a meeting for my high school class reunion, and they said “We need to have a meeting soon”. I suggested July, but they respond: “How about August or September?” and I quickly said: “Oh no! That’s ArtPrize! I can’t have a meeting then, because I have to be at ArtPrize”. It's so fun, and you look forward to it.

I think the community has taken an ownership of ArtPrize.

Joyce with another ArtPrize volunteer Dee Tokarski at ArtPrize 2014. Photo: ArtPrize Volunteer Media team. 

Joyce at ArtPrize 2014 Volunteer Kick-Off Party. Photo: ArtPrize.

AP: What's your most memorable moment from volunteering or in general?

Joyce: Well, the first thing that pops up in my head about ArtPrize is the first time, when I came down to look at art, and Mia Tavonatti was near her work Crucifixion, which later won ArtPrize. We were standing and talking with her that morning for about an hour.

Also, the first year we had a little lounge at the HUB. Just getting to know what to do. Nervousness, excitement, and the leadership positions for Volunteers Leads—that makes you feel at home.

AP: Was it kind of a mix of different feelings in one bowl?

Joyce: Yes. The thing that I remember the most is being back in that lounge before and after the shifts, and the time I spent there with the volunteers.

AP: Do you remember any fun stories?

Joyce: Last year we were down at the Rosa Parks Circle and it was Family Day. Kids were doing chalk drawing all over—oh, gosh, that was really fun. I volunteered for Education Programs and also for Chair Camp. It is always the funnest! I have already been there for three years and that really is the most fun.

The first year it was down at JW Marriott and they had, like, about thousands kids in one huge room. It was crazy, but it was fun. That year I worked with a table of kids who were developmentally disabled. They just were so fun. You didn't expect them to have all that creativity and stuff. Of course they need some help, with this or that, but they were very enjoyable to work with.

Joyce with other ArtPrize 2014 Education volunteers at Rosa Parks Circle. Photo: Tim Ryan / ArtPrize Volunteer Media team.

Chalk drawing and face painting during ArtPrize 2014 Education Days at Rosa Parks Circle. Photo: Tim Ryan / ArtPrize Volunteer Media team.

Chalk drawing during ArtPrize 2014 Education Days at Rosa Parks Circle. Photo: Tim Ryan / ArtPrize Volunteer Media team.

Chalk drawing during ArtPrize 2014 Education Days at Rosa Parks Circle. Photo: Tim Ryan / ArtPrize Volunteer Media team.

AP: What was your favorite part about the Education Volunteer Positions?

Joyce: I really enjoyed taking the school groups out. Especially the groups that were not from Grand Rapids. Because then you can show them the city as well. For example, there is a furniture building, which used to be a manufacturing museum. Which is right across from DeVos Place. Right along the river. It’s got this beautiful brick and all of these sculpture-type things. And talking to the kids, and asking “What is an artist?”—the interaction is really cool. It’s really great to see the kids get really excited, and most of them appreciate it.

AP: What was the hardest part about the Education Volunteer Positions?

Joyce: The hardest part was being able to meet the needs of the teachers, and stay within educational moments. They did not always necessarily want to do the things that we set up for them and they wanted to make changes. For example, they would say “We want to go to this place!” and you have already some spots planned for them. One day we were at Saint Cecilia and they wanted to go to the Ford Museum, and we only had like a half an hour left. Those kind of things.

AP: Who should sign up for this kind of position?

Joyce: Someone who likes kids, and is also very flexible, in case something has to be changed. You just do it, but while trying not to stray too far away from the previous plan because the main goal is a good art experience.

Joyce with founder of Chair Camp Karla Hartman and ArtPrize 2014 Education team. Photo: Joyce.

AP: Do you have any other thoughts or recommendations?

Joyce: Try it. You don’t have to volunteer a whole bunch. You can volunteer one or two shifts in different positions. There are a lot of things to try, and a lot of things to do. There is something for everybody—even for those who don’t like to communicate too much. You can do retail, or preparation work, pre-event. Also you can be a bike valet. There really is something for everybody.

AP: Would you recommend volunteering to others?

Joyce: Oh, yes, I’ve got a couple friends who I’ve recruited. And my son, who came to volunteer last year. In the end he said “I want to come next year”.

From left: Amber Oudsema, Education Coordinator and Becca Guyette, Education Manager for ArtPrize Seven.

Let us introduce this year’s ArtPrize Education Program team!

Becca Guyette, Education Manager. Becca manages the education team and oversees all aspects of ArtPrize’s educational programs designed for families, educators, and schools. She joined the ArtPrize staff in 2015 with over 10 years of experience managing community arts education programs including the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, West Michigan Center for Arts & Technology, and other cultural institutions in the West Michigan Area.

Amber Oudsema, Education Coordinator. Amber coordinates program registration for schools and our ArtPrize Volunteer Lead Docent Team. This is her third season of ArtPrize. Along with her work at ArtPrize she teaches Art History at Muskegon Community College and Kendall College of Art and Design.

Katherine Ponsetto, Education Assistant. Katherine assists with ArtPrize family programs, and she facilitates hands-on activities in our drop-in studio spaces and Saturday events at The HUB. She has experience leading family engagement activities at Historic Charlton Park and Loyola University Museum of Art. She will start her work in the end of August.

Assisting to kids during Chair Camp 2014 at Grand Rapids Public Museum. Photo: Drew Davis / ArtPrize.

AP: What are the essential changes to the ArtPrize Education Program this year? What are the key elements of the ArtPrize Seven Education Programs?

Becca: We have so many exciting programs this year and fun ways to get involved. We offer Lead Volunteer positions and needs for general volunteers as well. Together, our team will provide fun and creative experiences for students and families to engage and learn at ArtPrize!

Our Education Days program works with over 10 cultural partners and provides over 10,000 K–12 students with field trips to ArtPrize. Our team coordinates program registration as well as partner and educator support. We also administer our own programs to K–12 student groups. This year, most of our programs will take place or start at The HUB. We are looking for 20 Lead Volunteers to help lead these tours and activities.

We also have fun activities and materials for families. Located at The HUB, we have a drop-in studio space in need of general volunteers as well as three Saturday events in the park outside the The HUB.

Pre-event volunteer needs include cinch sack stuffing and helping with material prep.   

AP: What are you most excited about?

Becca: That is the hardest question ever! I am excited about all our programs and I cannot wait till students and families engage, participate, and utilize our resources to activate their ArtPrize experience.

During Chair Camp 2014 at Grand Rapids Public Museum. Photo: Drew Davis / ArtPrize.

AP: Will Chair Camp have a place in the program this year?

Becca: Yes! Chair Camp is happening during ArtPrize and will be located at the Grand Rapids Public Museum (GRPM). In fact, GRPM is taking on a lead role this year and will be managing all volunteer efforts for Chair Camp. If you are interested in volunteering, we can connect you to their volunteer coordinator.

AP: What are the opportunities for the volunteers?

Becca: We’ll have four different positions for volunteers:

  • Material Prep (cinch sack stuffing)
  • Education Docent Leads
  • Studio Assistants (ArtLab)
  • Event Assistants

AP: Can the volunteers bring their own kids when they volunteer?

Becca: That is a great question. In general, we ask volunteers be present and engaged during their shifts. Having to watch your own children during your shift makes it harder to help with the tasks. So no, we do not allow volunteers to bring their own children to shifts.

Children's painting during ArtPrize 2014. Photo: Stacey Hilton / ArtPrize Volunteer Media team.

AP: What are the requirements for being Education volunteers? Should they have an art or education professional background?

Becca: We do not require it, however we do encourage people with an education or arts background to volunteer for our programs. We will offer training for volunteers interested in our Lead Docent Program. This training includes facilitation techniques, how to accommodate students with special needs, and we will work as a group to practice presenting.

Docent Training Dates:

  • 9/9/2015 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
  • 9/11/15 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Docents must have a completed background check to volunteer.

AP: Can the volunteers pick the age range or grade levels of the children with whom they’d like to work/volunteer?

Becca: Volunteers may sign up for any volunteer position they are interested in. Each position will have a detailed description of what kind of work they have to do and what ages they'll be interacting with.

AP: Will the volunteers work in groups and can they bring friends with them to volunteer together?

Becca: For many of our programs, we are asking for 2+ volunteers during shifts. If you are interested in volunteering with a friend, make sure to sign up for the same shifts. Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee friends working together. We will also have staff available at all times to lend support when needed.

Chalk drawing during ArtPrize 2014 Education Days at Rosa Parks Circle. Photo: Tim Ryan / ArtPrize Volunteer Media team.

AP: How many shifts will volunteers be required to perform? How much time have they to spend for one shift?

Becca: For the Lead Docent Positions, volunteers must commit to a minimum of 3 shifts.

For all of the other Education opportunities you can sign up for as few or as many as you like. ArtLab positions at the HUB are considered a HUB Hospitality role, so you would sign up for HUB Hospitality.

Stay tuned for further ArtPrize Seven Volunteer interviews. Next we will highlight a HUB Lead from last year—and ArtPrize Seven Leadership Volunteer Opportunities.

By Iryna Bilan on