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“I am so happy that I have finally found what I want to do when I grow up—be a docent at CAF!  And I'm doing it!” 

—Tom Hackley, CAF Docent Class of 2013

What is a Chicago Architecture Foundation docent?

Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) docents are skilled ambassadors and educators. They develop and conduct public and private tours and serve as interpreters of Chicago’s architecture and its history.

Our docents are an elite group of content experts. They are handpicked and carefully trained to serve as the face of an internationally renowned organization. Although CAF docents come from all walks of life, they share a few common traits. Each of our docent volunteers is a curious and creative lifelong learner. They are passionate about architecture and Chicago. They are flexible and open to feedback, and enjoy interacting with people from all over the world.

What does the docent application process entail?

First, fill out an application form and pay the $20 application fee. Then, if you're selected to move on the next round, you will be interviewed by a group of current docents.

Although we're no longer accepting applications for the 2016 Docent Class, you can stay in the loop by signing up for Volunteer Updates via email.

Sign up for email updates

A few tips for strengthening your application:

  • Attend a docent information meeting to receive the most current information about our next docent class.
  • Commit to attending all training class sessions.
  • Commit to completing all class requirements.
  • Have access to the internet in your home.
  • Be comfortable using Google Drive, email and the internet for research.
  • Be available to give weekend tours.

Due to the challenging requirements of our training program, we do not accept full-time undergraduate or graduate students to our docent training program.

Once I’m accepted into the program, how do I train to become a docent?

Our docent training is a rigorous experience. The program aims to give new docents a broad understanding of architecture and architectural language, as well as the confidence and skills necessary to lead a specific tour.

Docent training has three components:

  • Introduction to the Chicago Architecture Foundation – A two-hour orientation to answer all of your questions about our organization.
  • Fundamentals of Chicago Architecture – This class meets once a week for a full day to discuss Chicago architecture and history. It includes a broad look at architecture and techniques for developing and conducting tours.
  • Specific Tour Training – This class meets once a week for a full day to focus on developing and mastering at least one CAF tour. This section includes tour demonstrations, tour practice and assistance in creating a tour that will meet CAF standards.

What is expected of a CAF docent?

Once your docent training is complete, we hope you’ll be excited to put everything you’ve learned to use. You’ll join the ranks of CAF docents who happily share their knowledge and passion for Chicago, its world-class architecture and the urban environment.

Our docents commit to giving a minimum of 13 tours during their first year of service. After that, each docent is expected to give a minimum of 10 tours every year. Docents also commit to continuing their education by attending docent-planned enrichment activities and/or conducting their own research. But most importantly, our docents are expected to enthusiastically represent CAF and the city of Chicago. 

Important Dates for 2015-2016

Information Meetings

Saturday, October 24, 2015: 2:30 – 4:00 pm

Wednesday, October 28, 2015: 12:00 – 1:30 pm

Monday, November 9, 2015: 5:30 - 7:00 pm

Please note, it is OK to first submit an application and then attend an information meeting.

Training Dates (Must Attend All Sessions)

Fundamentals of Chicago Architecture

(All sessions take place on Saturdays, from 9:00 am – 4:30 pm)

January 23, 30; February 6, 13, and 20 (2016)

Specific Tour Training

(All sessions take place on Saturdays, from 9:00 am – 4:30 pm)

March 5, 12, 19; April 2 (2016)

Specific Tour Training

(Sessions will take place on Thursdays and Saturdays, from 9:00 am – 4:30 pm. You will be able to choose the day that works best for you.)

Thursdays: May 5, 12, 19; June 2, 9 (2016)

Saturdays: May 7, 14, 21; June 4, 11 (2016)

You will be learning two tours. 

Introduction to the Chicago Architecture Foundation

(You only need to attend one of these sessions)

Thursday, January 7, 2016: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm

Monday, January 11, 2016: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm

Saturday, January 16, 2016: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm

Tuesday, January 19, 2016: 5:00 – 7:00 pm

Other Dates

Application Period: October 6 – November 2, 2015
Interviews: November 10 – December 11, 2015