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Profile: Docent Dana Schumacher

Posted on April 14, 2020 at 3:00 PM by Brooke Rogers

docent /ˈdōsənt/ noun: a person who acts as a guide, typically on a voluntary basis, in a museum, art gallery, or zoo.

University Museums depends upon a group of knowledgeable, enthusiastic and skilled group of docents to give tours of exhibitions and collections to students, faculty and staff, children on school field trips, and the many visitors to the Iowa State campus. They are a vital part of University Museums’ mission of “fostering understanding and delight in the visual arts.” 

Docent Dana Schumacher has long been a part of the Iowa State arts community. She became a member of the dance faulty in 1976 and later moved in to advising and administration. She retired several years ago as the Assistant Director of the University Honors Program.

During her tenure, she was involved with the art on campus and also served on the Museums’ Acquisitions Committee. Becoming a Museums’ docent after retirement was an easy step. “Volunteering as a docent gives me a way to (continue) supporting the mission of University Museums, stay connected to the university, and be engaged with the larger community,” Schumacher said.

The docent group meets monthly to learn about current exhibitions, enhance their knowledge of the public art, and develop their skills educating about the University Museums’ vast and ever-growing collection.

“I enjoy learning about the museums, its collections and exhibitions, and then having opportunities to share that information with others,” Schumacher said. “Teaching in the museum is a different way of teaching. It is interesting and – in the best way – challenging.”

With so much art to see on campus, it’s difficult to make a short list for visitors when they come to Iowa State for the first time. Some of Schumacher’s favorites include: the sculptures that (are located around) central campus for their history, relationship to the university, and artists; Karen LaMonte’s Nocturne 5 because of its craftsmanship; Grant Wood’s Breaking the Prairie Sod for its history and symbolism; Christian Petersen’s Library Boy & Girl because they are so characteristic of the period and for their charm; Andrew Leicester’s work in and outside Molecular Biology for its messages and puzzles; and, for personal reasons, Harvey Littleton’s 180 Degrees Red.

Schumacher also finds inspiration in numerous artists included in the University Museums’ collection. “Part of me wants to spend a day with Christian Petersen or Grant Wood, so we could talk about the Works Progress Administration (WPA) art and artists that came out of that period, which has interesting parallels in dance history,” she said. “But I’m retired now, so can I choose something that isn’t related to my work, right? I’d pick a day spent in the Czech Republic with Karen LaMonte, watching a glass casting.”

Without the help of docents, University Museums could not fully nurture knowledge and appreciation of the collections, museum spaces and education resource for the university. Thank you Dana for your generosity of time, spirit and passion for learning and teaching about the art in our collection.


Nocturne 5, 2017 by Karen LaMonte. This acquisition is made possible by donations from Mary and John Pappajohn, Claire Andreasen, Martha Allen, Cal and Frankie Parrott in honor of Callie Parrott Bower, Rachel Flint, Susan and Philip Sargent, Arthur Klein, Diane and James Patton, an anonymous donor, the estate of Neva Petersen, Phyllis and Larry Lepke, Debra and David Engle, Lynette and John Pohlman, Carole Horowitz, Dana Schumacher, and the University Museums membership. In the Art on Campus Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. U2018.145abc

180 Degree Rotation, Red, 1980 by Harvey K. Littleton. This work of art was purchased with monies donated to the Kenneth Schumacher Memorial Fund with additional acquisition funding provided by Arthur Klein, Rachel Flint, and the generosity and support of Maurine Littleton. In the permanent collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa. UM2015.69

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