Slow Art Day Interviews Sarah Bluvas of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Slow Art Day, recently spoke with Slow Art Day host Sarah Bluvas who works in the education department at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri. The Nelson-Atkins has been a participating Slow Art Day venue for three years now, though this is Sarah’s first time as a host.

Slow Art Day: What are your thoughts about Slow Art Day?

Sarah Bluvas (SB): I think Slow Art Day is a phenomenal idea. I love the concept of just stopping and looking. One thing I’m curious about is the conversation aspect after the viewing time. I think it’s one thing to encourage people to come and look at a piece of artwork, but it’s a whole other challenge to get them to sit down and talk about it.

Slow Art Day: That’s a good question. We find that once people look at art slowly that they are bursting with enthusiasm to talk. We always tell hosts that they just need to be prepared to get out of the way because attendees – especially first-time museum goers and other novices – are very excited to talk.

SB: I’m glad to hear it. Not only do we want people to come to our programs, we also want them to be more active participants and encourage conversation. So for the discussion after the Slow looking event, I am really hoping that people will be willing to share their experience. Even if it’s as simple as them saying, “I liked that work” or “I didn’t like that work”, and why—I think it further achieves the purpose of art.

Slow Art Day:  So in other words, it solidifies the experience?

SB: Yeah. I mean, first and foremost, it’s about getting people to stop and look at art. But then for me, the question of “Why is it important, why do we want people to stop and look” is brought up.

Slow Art Day: Absolutely.

SB: I just think Slow Art Day is a great program to get people to stop and look at art and to think how it fits into their lives. I’m really excited to be a part of this movement!

Slow Art Day: Great. Shifting gears – have you chosen your artwork yet for Slow Art Day? If so, what are you thinking?

SB: We try to choose works from a variety of areas in the museum’s collection. I’m still trying to narrow down my choices for this year’s Slow Art Day, but I know there will be a nice mix of pieces. Some highlights will include Ritual Disc with Dragon Motifs (Bi), from our Chinese collection, and Memento # 5 by Kerry James Marshall, from our Modern + Contemporary collection. We also have the beautiful Kansas City Sculpture Park, so, depending on the weather, I would love to include a sculpture in the park and send people outside to look!

Slow Art Day: And, what is one of your favorite works of art?

SB: In the museum’s collection, I love all of our works by Thomas Hart Benton, a Kansas City-native and one of the three great artists of the Regionalism movement. However, my all-time favorite work of art is Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, on view at the Art Institute of Chicago. One of the reasons I like it so much is because of the idea of prolonged looking, actually! The narrative, or lack of a narrative, in Nighthawks is so complicated and fascinating to me. You can look at it for hours without really knowing what’s going on!

Slow Art Day: Finally, tell us a little bit about yourself? What do you do – and why do you do it?

SB: I am the Coordinator for Public Programs at the Nelson-Atkins. I assist with planning, implementing and facilitating more than 120 public programs per year, mostly for adult and family audiences. I think museums are really important resources for the communities they are located in, but I also think museums can be a little intimidating for people. So I plan programs for and with the community to help the public realize that this is their museum and that they can find themselves here, too. It’s nothing to be scared of!

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