Turning his dream of a career in art history into reality, eleventh-grader Luis Flores actively and passionately volunteers as a docent at Sarasota’s own Selby Gardens.
The historical and local Payne Mansion was constructed in a corner of Selby Gardens in 1934. It was initially owned by Christy and Anne Payne but sold 29 years later to Marie Selby, founder of Selby Gardens, and transformed into a home for history and art exhibits. Soon after this transformation, the botanical gardens was opened to the public.
Flores has been volunteering at the Payne Mansion since January of 2018. He first heard about this opportunity through his friend, eleventh-grader Stefani Wald. “One day I just ran into [Stefani] at Selby Gardens. I hadn’t been there before, and once I heard about [the opportunity] from her, I realized this is something I would like because I am interested in pursuing a career in art history,” Flores said.
“Luis really excels at what he does. There’s no doubt in my mind that he will have a career in art history; he’s a big help at Selby Gardens,” Wald said.
As a docent, Flores leads tours and teaches groups of visitors about different historical aspects of the area. “My role as a docent is to know all the history of the house as well as the history of the exhibition itself. Whether the exhibition is about several artists or just the botanical gardens, it’s my job to know everything about the certain exhibition,” Flores said.
Every Sunday afternoon, Flores spends about five hours at Selby Gardens giving tours and teaching guests about the history of the area. He has spent over 100 hours working at Selby Gardens since January.
While performing his roles, Flores meets many people, all with different backgrounds and histories.
“My absolute favorite part is the connections I make with some guests, just the process of giving tours to random people and getting to talk to them. Some people have the most interesting stories. I know people who have brought in Andy Warhol paintings; they’ve worked in a studio with him or who have been one of the lead surgeons in his operation. It’s really interesting seeing different people’s perspectives.”
Art history has given Flores an artistic outlet that he didn’t know was there until recently. “Since I was a kid, I’ve always done creative things with projects. Like, I’ll always have my projects with colors and graphs and things, but I’ve always had a passion for something artistic. I just never knew how to express it,” he said.
Flores demonstrates an interest in history at school as well. He is a member of Model United Nations and History Bowl, and has taken AP Art History to further pursue his passion.
“My goal is to work in the museum curating in the sense of not just conserving paintings but also curating my own exhibits. Working under a museum, curating exhibits, designing what the exhibit will entail, and how to create an exhibit based on art in general — that’s my dream job. Hopefully, I’ll be working in some major museum in New York, but we’ll see,” Flores said.
He plans to continue volunteering at Selby Gardens throughout high school, as it is an enjoyable activity that will further his experience with art history.