Cathy Fitzpatrick calls herself a freelance docent.
The Ponte Vedra Beach resident used to work in the educational department at the Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville, where she led a lot of group tours.
Now she runs a unique business called Go Art, where she takes private groups on tours of museums, galleries and public art around the First Coast. Using an open-ended method of engaging people with individual pieces of art through visual and thinking strategies, Fitzpatrick said it is a way to facilitate viewing, while inspiring people to remember what they see.
First, she asks them to look at a piece of art for longer than they ordinary would. On average, people spend 30 seconds, she said. “I ask them to spend a whole minute.”
Then she asks three questions: What is going on in the work? What do you see that makes you say that? Then—what more can we find?
It invites conversation within the group, she said. “If they ask questions about the artist or the style, then we’ll engage in those answers and ask them what they see that has led them to ask that question.”
Fitzpatrick said the technique she uses was developed by Philip Yenawine in in the 1990s in New York City, in conjunction with a psychologist. It has proven successful in helping people connect with art and allowing it to become a part of their life.
“There are a lot of people who feel intimidated in a gallery or museum environment,” Fitzpatrick said. “What helps people engage? One thing is having their own ideas validated.”
Fitzpatrick majored in art at St. Mary’s College, Notre Dame and then went on to graduate school at Pratt Institute in New York City. She has done art, but said what she really loves are conversations that come from looking at art.
She launched her business a year ago and is now branching out by offering monthly special events at Butterfield Garage Art Gallery in St. Augustine. Each will focus on one artist. She sees them as a way for art lovers to grow an awareness of an individual artist’s work, while meeting them in person.
Her first event, Nov. 21, from 7 to 8:30 p.m., will feature artist Karen Victoria, a handbag designer. Victoria is slated to share stories about her life, as well as her construction techniques and designs. Attendees will be able to ask questions, purchase a one-of-a-kind handbag on the spot, and perhaps win one in a raffle. Tickets for the monthly events at Butterfield, located at 137 West King St., are $10.
Fitzpatrick’s group tours come in all sizes, and prices vary depending on location. She said she enjoys helping people connect with art--couples, office groups, families, women’s groups, retirees. “All kinds of people.”
Fitzpatrick’s website is goartandexplore.com, where she can be reached for reservations or more information.
She loves being in a business that helps people love art.
“It’s taking me in directions I didn’t expect,” she said. “It’s an adventure for me.”