By Barry Barbe

“A docent is someone who loves to teach, or guide someone through museums.  Teaching others about art.”  — Jeanne Blumer, 20-year Prescott Art Docent.

Started in 1971, the Prescott Art Docents have turned their love of art and education into a much needed and beneficial service not only to the Prescott Unified School District, but the Prescott community at large.

Over 40 years ago, a group of Prescott ladies formed the local docent program through an association with the Phoenix Art Museum.  Now a separate 501(c)3, the group of 80 volunteer members go through an intensive training program and, like a museum without walls, take their love of art into the community.

In a time where education budgets are continually cut back, the arts are often one of the first areas to feel that impact. For teachers, and parents, the Prescott Art Docents are a welcome resource of not only education, but art appreciation.

Carole Mastio, a lifetime educator, has been a docent for the past 12 years. Her monthly visits to Abia Judd Elementary School are met with enthusiasm as young minds get to experience a variety of art styles and genres throughout the school year.

“I love going into the school and watching these young children experience and interpret art in their own way,” Carol explains. “I always ask, ‘How does this make you feel?” and the responses are genuine, honest, and oftentimes surprisingly mature.”

With a collection of more than 800 prints, which are stored in a space provided by the school district, the group provides school children with what is sometimes their first experience of art through a presentation of works by a variety of masters.

Thus, the name of the program: “Masterpiece,” which is an ongoing program that runs throughout the school year with volunteer docents offering monthly presentations.

Along with the educational aspect as to the history of the piece or the artist’s unique style, these presentations allow students to experience how a certain piece may make them feel, what they see beyond the paint or try to interpret what the artist was trying to convey.

Paid for through grants, public donations and memorial gifts, the program operates on a tight budget with energy and dedication making up the difference.

Through community collaborations, the organization hosts monthly talks at the Prescott Public Library and Suze’s Prescott Center for the Arts.

With “Art Days in the Library,” which is open to children throughout the school year, students have the opportunity to learn basic art knowledge and create a piece based on the talk of the day.

Bonita Sandleben, co-president of PAD, still cherishes her daughter’s Sunflower painting she created after a docent presentation at Lincoln School many years ago.

Additionally, PAD holds Caldecott Books & Arts for Kids aged K-2 at the library.  Utilizing books that have received the Caldecott Award for illustration, the docents discuss the art techniques and styles of the illustrations accompanying the text to help expand the students’ understanding of basic art vocabulary and styles. Each presentation is again followed by a hands-on art project.

While the love of early childhood art education is beneficial, it is well known that art appreciation is experienced throughout our lifetime. And so, PAD offers Monday adult art appreciation classes as well.

Through an additional collaboration with PCA, the docents present Monday Art Talks at the Artists Lounge below the theater.  The art talks cover a range of topics presented by local artists who work in a variety of mediums.

The next Art Talk presentation, “You Can’t Make a Mistake” presented by Annie Alexander of Gallery Beyond Words, takes place Monday, Oct. 23, from 10 a.m. to noon. The Artists Lounge is located at 208 N. Marina St. and the entrance faces Willis Street.

Of the current 60 members, 30 are active docents going into schools and presenting through collaborative opportunities. The group is continually looking for volunteers with a love of art and education. Training is provided and there are social aspects to the group that provide networking and building relationships with others who share a love of art.

Pre-2020 the PAD membership numbered over 150; the current smaller, yet dedicated group continues to provide a much appreciated educational service.

“I just love having the opportunity to share my experience and love of art with children,” Carole added.

Prescott Art Docents, presenting the masters to the masses through collaboration and education.

For more information, to become a docent, or to make a financial contribution, visit

Barry Barbe owns the El Gato Azul and Torme restaurants in Prescott, and is the energy and insight behind the Prescott Palette. His radio show, the Prescott Palette, is on KQNA 1130 AM, Saturdays at noon. Email:

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