Joyce Benington is revered by her fellow docents, BMA staff, and many loyal patrons and friends for her generous knowledge of art history and the BMA’s collection. Though the focus of her liberal arts education was literature and music, it was her travels and visits to art museums and galleries throughout the world that strengthened her appreciation for art and architecture. She first fell in love with paintings by the Old Masters, but gradually, through her husband’s influence, she came to appreciate abstraction as well.
Joyce’s career focus in the 1980s–1990s was working as a consulting writer and editor for nonprofits and large businesses, including Fortune 500 companies. For one client, a national portrait brokerage firm, she interviewed and wrote articles about portrait artists throughout the United States, primarily for marketing purposes. This role helped her become increasingly familiar with artist techniques and fueled her love of learning about art. From 1989 to 1993, Joyce served as the visual arts chair for the Birmingham Festival of Art. In this volunteer position, she acted as intermediary between local galleries and the artists from the honored country each year to bring their works to Birmingham. In 1993, she received the Silver Bowl Award for Art from the Birmingham Festival of Art and the Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce.
Joyce’s passion for art and art history expanded even more when she joined the docent program in 1996. Over the past 23 years, she has intensely focused on each collection area of the Museum to learn the historical and cultural context for each object and to develop an appreciation for its beauty and relevance. Realizing the interrelatedness of most things, she also enjoys introducing poetry, literature, and music into her discussions around art.
In 2003, Lucy Richardson of the Walker County Arts Alliance booked a tour with the Education Department and Joyce was the docent assigned to the group. According to Lucy, the group was interested in learning more about art and wanted to meet once a month, thinking the experience wouldn’t last more than a year. Now in its 16th year of monthly tours with Joyce, the Art Focus group still discovers new ways to appreciate the Museum’s collection. Lucy is still a faithful member and has helped expand the group over the years. She emphasizes the vital role of the docent in making artwork truly accessible. Another member of Art Focus, Dr. Paul Samuelson, says. “It has been a wonderful experience being part of the group. Each session I learn to ‘see’ that which I often missed in the past. During our frequent national and international travels and museum visits I always think, “I sure wish Joyce was here!”
Over the past two years, Joyce has also been giving gallery talks to a group of ceramic artists and ceramic art enthusiasts around the Museum’s vast ceramic collections. This is in addition to leading many other tours to school groups and adult groups. Joyce is invaluable to the Museum as an interpreter of art, facilitator of in-depth discussions around art, and a great friend. Thank you for your service, Joyce!