What’s a docent to do when there are no tours?! 

Docents at CMA

Columbus Museum of Art reopened to the public with immense care after Ohio’s COVID-19 shutdown. The Museum’s safety precautions for the June reopening included suspending all in-person programming and tours until further notice. While visitors are welcome to connect with works of art independently, what’s a docent to do when there are no tours?!

At CMA, there are nearly 130 docents. Docents are community volunteers who train rigorously in order to engage thousands of visitors each year – including many Columbus City School students. For many docents, their dedication to the program is no small commitment. It goes beyond service and is a major source of social connection and life-long learning. So it comes as little surprise the docents have remained active during COVID restrictions, utilizing video conferencing to connect with each other. 

The Docent Leadership Committee worked throughout the summer to create “Beyond the Frame,” an opt-in way to organize independent study and participation in training activities. The title reflects the aspirational nature of the program, which is designed to help docents stay active and engaged with the CMA and encourage reflection. In addition to traditional “docent-led” learning resources such as mentorship, touring strategies, and a permanent collection study group, the docents are also encouraged to think “Beyond the Frame” by sharing resources that support anti-racism and anti-bias work, CMA collection inspired art making, and other materials that support creating inclusive and conversation-based gallery experiences for our community.

Some of the docents have even begun exploring how they might deliver virtual programming to audiences that they can no longer reach in person, such as those in nursing homes and retirement centers.  

While it is uncertain when COVID-19 will be controlled enough for our docents to return to the Museum in an official capacity, what is certain is that the docents will be ready to resume their important role at the museum and engage visitors and tour groups with a renewed sense of purpose.

Mark Zuzik is the Manager of Visitor Experience and Operations at the Pizzuti Collection of the Columbus Museum of Art and held multiple positions with the Pizzuti Collection prior to its acquisition by the CMA. Mark enjoys knitting, cooking, and visits museums as often as possible.

Art Gallery as College Classroom

A new kind of art museum education: OSU’s Teaching and Learning in the Art Museum class was held on Fridays at Pizzuti Collection of CMA.

Often the phrase “Art Education” conjures images of dimly lit art history lecture halls and slide carousels, or young children in tiny aprons creating their very first tempera paint masterpieces. But in January 2020 Columbus Museum of Art and The Ohio State University (OSU) embarked on the first steps of creating a different kind of space for arts learning. Coincidentally positioned halfway between OSU and CMA, the Pizzuti Collection of the CMA bridged the two institutions and provided a physical space for students and educators to experiment with a new kind of art museum education. 

This past semester Dr. Dana Carlisle Kletchka from OSU’s Department of Arts Administration Education and Policy held her class Teaching and Learning in the Art Museum on Fridays at Pizzuti Collection of CMA and utilized the current exhibition Driving Forces to practice the in-gallery teaching techniques discussed in class and hold conversation in front of artworks. While it might seem a natural idea to host such classes in museums and galleries, in Dr. Kletchka’s experience, this is not always possible. Beyond many higher education institutions not having a formal partnership with their local museum there may be an array of other issues preventing such an opportunity including demands on museum staff. “I feel fortunate that the Pizzuti Collection of CMA is willing to invest time and resources into our program,” says Dr. Carlisle Kletchka, adding that “[the experience] is so much more rich if you are in the building, in front of the object” as opposed to discussing a teaching strategy in the abstract.”


The ethos to support concrete experiences for students in the larger Columbus community extends across disciplines at OSU. Concurrent with Dr. Carlisle Kletchka’s class the Pizzuti Collection served as a partner site for graduate students from the Fisher College of Business. The course paired student teams from the business college with local organizations for hands-on consulting-style experiences. The opportunity to partner with real-world organizations requires critical thinking, creativity, and interpersonal skills all helping to prepare students for their next steps in the working world. Echoed by Art Museum Education student Megan Wanttie, the opportunity to incorporate gallery learning and off-campus projects is “relevant to all students and expands beyond the boundaries of disciplines.” Of the art museum education course, Megan describes it as “truly unique” continuing that she finds the course “exciting as a student and as someone who looks forward to being a practitioner.” 

Despite the cancellation of in-person classes at OSU due to COVID-19, Dr. Carlisle Kletchka is excited for future collaborations with the CMA and opportunities to utilize the Pizzuti Collection site and exhibitions for future classes and new student experiences. Joining OSU’s faculty in 2017 (in part because of opportunities to collaborate outside of campus) and recognized as an innovator in the field of Museum Education, Dr. Carlisle Kletchka has sought to create a one of a kind program – one she hopes to expand – based around observed issues in museums and approaching art “as a conduit to grappling with social issues.” Aligning with the CMA’s visitor-centered approach and community focused programming (which Dr. Carlisle Kletchka admires CMA’s leadership for), the partnership is a natural fit. Gesturing to contemporary art’s particular aptness to address such social issues, Carlisle Kletchka adds “Maybe the Pizzuti’s impact isn’t just the art, but a manifestation of much larger community goals.” Notably, she sees in the younger generation of students a commitment to critical social justice, engagement, and inclusion. 

Moving forward CMA and OSU plan to strengthen the relationship forged this semester. The foundation laid will help to support new initiatives and opportunities to collaborate between the Pizzuti Collection and the Department of Arts Administration, Education, and Policy. With Pizzuti Collection of CMA functioning as an “art laboratory” OSU and CMA will continue to explore forward thinking ideas in the field of art museum work and prepare the next generation of art museum practitioners.  

 Mark Zuzik is the Manager of Visitor Experience and Operations at the Pizzuti Collection of the Columbus Museum of Art and held multiple positions with the Pizzuti Collection prior to its acquisition by the CMA. Mark enjoys knitting, cooking, and visits museums as often as possible.