As a volunteer guide for over 50 years at the National Gallery of Victoria, Judy Davey has encountered her fair share of interesting characters.
On one tour in particular, she remembers presenting the “Angry Penguins” – a collective of artists from the modernist movement in Australia in the 1940s.
The tour group responded with earnest enthusiasm that they had seen the same angry penguins last night at Phillip Island.
But Davey doesn’t like to scoff at “well-meaning” questions from NGV visitors. Guides are there to make the art accessible, she says.
“People come to the gallery a bit scared, that’s why we started [the tours] in the first place – to humanize it a bit.
Humanizing art goes beyond looking beyond people’s arguably silly questions.
NGV’s volunteer guides have extensive training in creating tours for all kinds of visitors.
There are Mandarin tours, tours for people with Alzheimer’s disease, and tours for the visually impaired.
Since the 1980s, the NGV began to transport the gallery. Davey brings the gallery to rural areas, nursing homes and nursing homes via a projector – and his knowledge.