WWNO skyline header graphic
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Local Newscast
Hear the latest from the WWNO/WRKF Newsroom.

White House Honors Ogden Museum Docent Program

Steve Purcell

Credit Zack Smith Photography
Kayla Curley, a senior at Warren Easton High School, participated in the summer docent program run by the Ogden Museum of Southern Art

The docent program for teenagers at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art has been honored by the White House.  It was one of only 12 programs across the country to receive the 2015 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, the nation’s highest acknowledgment for those programs.

Eileen Fleming spoke with education manager Ellen Balkin and docent Kayla Curley, a senior at Warren Easton High School and one of the seven docents at Ogden this past summer, about what it was like to receive an award – and a hug – from the First Lady.

Ellen Balkin explains just what a docent does in the program:

“They train to be docents and lead tours around the museum in the summer. They learn how to be counselors at our summer camps. And they also work with a local puppeteer and create their own puppet shows," Balkin said. "They bring those shows out on the road to local library story hours, to Children’s Hospital and bringing art to people who may not be able to come to the museum.”  

Seventeen-year-old Kayla Curley heard about the program through the Young Artists Young Aspirations Program, and she applied. She thought it could help her get over her shyness if she worked with children.

“They helped me to expand what I wanted to say and how I could relay certain messages to everyone around me," she said.

She was confident she would get the summer job, and she did. And then she created her puppet show.

“My story was about this girl who wanted to find a quiet place to relax and just kind of have some down time because her family was loud and annoying," Kayla said.

Balkin says that in the summer, Ogden decided to apply for the National Arts and Humanities award again. Last year the first attempt failed to qualify for the top 12. This year, it did. And Kayla was selected to represent the program in Washington.

Winners were announced November 17, the day of the awards ceremony held in the East Room.

Kayla describes the day:

“Everyone came in and then they announced, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, the First Lady of the United States. I’ll remember that for the rest of my life."

Balkin said it was also vital for the participants to meet each other. 

“They are all super inspiring kids who have done great things. And the programs are also inspiring; listening to Mrs. Obama speak about the arts and the humanities and how important they are in children’s lives today.”  

The program is aimed at improving literacy and language abilities, communication and performance skills, and cultural awareness. Since it started in 2008, the program at the Ogden has trained 40 public school students. They’re given a stipend of $1,000 a month. By winning the arts and humanities award, it gets $10,000 to support the training.

Kayla is now a visual artist, focusing on sketching, drawing, painting and sculpting, and plans to study graphic design at Loyola University. Meantime, she’s recommending the Ogden docent program for any student.

“It could change your life in ways that you never thought could happen. You don’t even have to really be an artist.”

Information and applications for Ogden internship programs are available on the museum website at ogdenmuseum.org

Eileen is a news reporter and producer for WWNO. She researches, reports and produces the local daily news items. Eileen relocated to New Orleans in 2008 after working as a writer and producer with the Associated Press in Washington, D.C. for seven years.