Slow Art Week at the National Museum of Women in the Arts

For its 10th Slow Art Day, the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) in Washington DC celebrated a week of events. And because the museum’s historic building was closed for a major renovation until October 2023, the April 2023 events were hosted virtually.

Alison Saar, Scorch Song, 2022; Wood, found mini skillets, nails, and tar, 34 x 11 x 9 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts; Museum Purchase: Funds provided by Steven Scott, Baltimore, in honor of the artist and the 35th Anniversary of the National Museum of Women in the Arts; © Alison Saar; Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA; Photo by Jeff McLane

For Slow Looking Week, the NMWA published a PDF with slow looking prompts and instructions, which is viewable below.

The theme for this year’s events was “A Growing Collection,” featuring recent acquisitions by the NMWA from 2021 and 2022. For the week, a selection of the artworks were uploaded to the NMWA’s Lightbox: 2023 Slow Art Day virtual art gallery. These could be viewed by participants in the week leading up to the 15th, when the NMWA hosted a Zoom meeting where all artworks could be discussed live.

Ahead of the Zoom meeting, all participants were encouraged to consider questions about the role of the art museum, including:

  • Which museum collection has spoken most to you? What about it resonated with you? Whose faces and voices were represented?
  • What should an art museum’s collection look like?
  • What do you want to see more of in art museums? Less of?

During the Zoom meeting, the group was divided into breakout rooms, in which each person was invited to select an image from the Lightbox options, and the whole group was asked to discuss using the Harvard Project Zero prompts See/Think/Wonder.

Following this, all groups came back together to share experiences of and reflect on process of looking together. Attendees called in from Canada, the United Kingdom, DC, FL, IL, MD, NJ, and NY. For 60% of the attendees, 2023 was their first Slow Art Day experience.

At the end of the Zoom event, participants were asked what they enjoyed the most about the slow looking experience. Here’s a selection of their answers:

  • “Hearing other people’s experiences and seeing more through their eyes.”
  • “Talking with just a few people at a time. I could talk a bit more than normal.”
  • “The shared experience; the opportunity to give over to LOOKING, observing, talking, and reflecting.”
  • “Breakout session, taking the time to understood what and why each of us chose specific artworks & how we all came with different background and observations.”

Everyone said that they would love to attend another Slow Art Day.

We at Slow Art Day are big fans of the NMWA – for many reasons including that they are real leaders in the global Slow Art Day movement. We hope more museums imitate their weeklong activities. And now that the NMWA has reopened, we look forward to what they come up with for Slow Art Day Week 2024.

– Johanna, Ashley, Jessica Jane, and Phyl

Slow Art Therapy at MACBA in Spain

For their second Slow Art Day, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona (MACBA), Spain, held an event hosted by certified art therapists from the Fundacion La Casa Ambar titled “A Conscious Visit to Art.”

Participants were first invited to look slowly at the following five artworks:

  • “Enderroc” by Ignasi Aballí
  • “Rinzen, Subito despertar” by Antoni Tàpies
  • “Eco de una carta inacabada” by Elena del Rivero
  • “Movil Home” by Mona Hatoum
  • “Dialegs de Llum” by Josep Grau-Garriga

After the slow looking exercise, art therapists Aura Pizarro, Joaquim Basart and Maribel Perpiñá led the group in a facilitated discussion using gestalt psychotherapy, which focuses on one’s present life rather than on past experiences. Through the discussion, participants shared reactions to the art and discovered common themes of friendship, play, family, pain, and happiness.

Slow Art Day is founded on the principle of being present in the moment, and we at HQ love to see how MACBA and the Fundacion La Casa Ambar combined Slow Looking with Gestalt Art Therapy. The Fundacion La Casa Ambar also mentioned that they offer therapy to everyone, irrespective of economic means — and radical inclusivity is another shared principle with Slow Art Day.

We are excited to see what the MACBA and the Fundacion La Casa Ambar come up with for Slow Art Day 2024.

– Johanna, Ashley, Jessica Jane, and Phyl

National Gallery of Canada Hosts First Slow Art Day

The National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, one of the largest museums in North America, hosted its first Slow Art Day in 2023, with a simple design: participants were invited to look slowly at art in two rooms of the gallery before discussing their experiences together.

Slow Art Day poster. National Gallery of Canada
Slow Art Day participants at the National Gallery of Canada, 2023. Featured artworks: Kazuo Nakamura, Landscape, Spring, 1959. Oil on masonite, 93.6 x 121.5 cm; Kazuo Nakamura, August, Morning Reflections, 1961. Oil on canvas, 93.7 x 121.5 cm. Both paintings are located at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Respectively purchased in 1960 and 1961. Photos: NGC

On April 15, educator Andrea Gumpert and interpreter Valérie Mercier greeted English and French speaking participants in the Great Hall. After a quick grounding exercise and a collective slow looking warm up, participants were taken to two different galleries for their slow looking. They were given a few prompts to keep in mind during each session, including choosing to read or ignore the artwork labels.

Participants were first invited to select a piece in a gallery with only figurative works (Indigenous and Canadian Galleries – A110). They spent 10 minutes looking at their chosen artworks before sharing thoughts.

This was repeated for 15 minutes in a different gallery with a variety of figurative and abstract paintings
and Inuit sculptures (Indigenous and Canadian Galleries – A112). After the second session, participants compared experiences from each gallery.

In the sharing sessions, participants remarked that their impressions of the works grew more nuanced as they spent time with them. Some found themselves asking questions about painting techniques or of the artist’s life. Two participants in the French speaking group requested to spend time with Riopelle’s Pavane, and enjoyed the exchange so much that they decided to lunch together afterwards despite not knowing each other beforehand.

In addition to the public group experience, the Gallery also suggested that participants participate on their own or watch the guided slow look of Rembrandt’s Heroine via a video produced by the museum. Several people on social media commented positively about Slow Art Day, and others wrote to the Gallery asking if the exercise would be repeated. A few staff also suggested the approach be offered on an ongoing basis.

The slow looking event was first tested in staff sessions at the Gallery in March prior to the public event in April. Andrea and Valérie ran the program with staff to 1) offer a team building exercise, and 2) test their approach and work out any kinks ahead of the public program. The staff loved it and later answered a survey, including this note from Dina Groulx, Corporate Relations Officer:


I genuinely enjoyed every minute of the tour […]. What a treat it was for me to have experienced that.
As a remote employee, it felt very impactful. I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I signed up, but I
was so glad to have invested time out of my day for myself. I also thought of how lucky I was as an
employee to have had access to the quietness of the space (most of the time) and I realized that as
the pilot took place on Monday, it created a calm retreat experience. It was so nice to go through that
experience with colleagues outside of my regular work and made connections with them and with the
art in a way that I had never experienced before.

Dina Groulx, Corporate Relations Officer

Taking inspiration from the National Gallery of Canada, we strongly recommend that other museums and galleries imitate what they have done and run slow looking sessions with their staff.

Note that the National Gallery of Canada also ran an effective marketing campaign. Their Slow Art Day event was featured in an article by Chelsea Osmond in the National Gallery of Canada Magazine and advertised on local radio stations. The Gallery also promoted the event via social media posts and in their monthly newsletter.

We are so glad the National Gallery of Canada has joined the Slow Art Day movement, and we look forward to the creative design they come up with for 2024.

-Johanna, Ashley, Jessica Jane, and Phyl

P.S. Take a look at these concluding remarks from educator Andrea Gumpert:


“Participation in the Slow Art Day requires little preparation, links the Gallery to a broader global movement and aligns directly with the Strategic Plan. The approach also benefits visitors by reported reduction in stress levels, improved concentration levels and a better ability to foster empathy. As the participants in the Gallery’s Slow Art Day expressed, slow and careful looking helps to unravel complexity, build connections and see things from multiple perspectives. Finally, since slow looking is inclusive: everyone can take part and no prior knowledge is required. For those who want to practice slow looking with art, no art historical knowledge is required giving confidence in one’s own abilities to visit a museum and to understand works of art for oneself. The Gallery is ideally placed to continue the annual Slow Art Day event and might consider further opportunities to host slow looking programs for the public as well as the staff.”

Andrea Gumpert, educator at the National Gallery of Canada

Small Town Embraces Slow Art Day

For their first Slow Art Day, Ellie Harold Studio and Gallery in Frankfort, Michigan, a small town of 1,500, hosted a slow looking event from 12 – 4 pm in her home-based venue. One of the things we love about Slow Art Day is that it happens in national museums, regional museums, movie theaters, and even local home-based galleries.

On April 15, Ellie Harold displayed a variety of paintings from her private collection, one large painting of her own, and a sculpture.

Photo courtesy of Carol Lautenbach.

Photo courtesy of Carol Lautenbach.

Photo courtesy of Carol Lautenbach.

Photo courtesy of Carol Lautenbach.

The whole town embraced this first Slow Art Day in Frankfort. Not only did a large group of people come out to view the Slow Art Day, but the local paper, Benzie County Record Patriot, also ran a substantial article.

For the event itself, the gallery handed each participant a sheet with suggestions for slow looking and a blank space and pen for writing down notes:

SUGGESTIONS FOR SLOW LOOKING

  • Gaze at a spot and let it reveal itself to you.
  • How do the colors make you feel?
  • Look at details.
  • Follow a path through the painting with your eyes.
  • Find different textures in the painting.
  • What comes forward and what recedes?
  • Does the painting take you up, down, or all around?
  • Look for rhythm or pattern.
  • Where in the painting do your eyes want to rest?
  • Does the painting have a message for you?
  • What else do you notice?

Most participants took 45 minutes to 1 hour to look at the pieces. Since the event took place in Ellie’s home, there was more artwork on display than what was selected specifically for the event, and some visitors chose to look slowly at those as well. During the event, Ellie walked around and discussed the experience with participants. She also later published a blog post: “Slow Art Day: Taking Time to Gaze.”

“Everyone reported having a positive experience and said that the exercise would change how they view art in museums going forward.”

Ellie Harold, Gallery and Studio owner

As we noted, we are always happy to see Slow Art Day being embraced by towns and institutions of all sizes and scale around the world. We welcome Ellie Harold Studio and Gallery to the Slow Art Day community, and look forward to their event next year, which will expand to include several artists.

-Johanna, Ashley, Jessica Jane, Phyl

Europe’s Largest Museum Complex Welcomes Slow Art Day

For their first Slow Art Day, Sigmund Freud University and the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin in Berlin, which comprises seventeen museums in five clusters, jointly sponsored a Slow Art event hosted by Master’s students in Art Therapy Naira Bloss and Ulla Utasch.

The museum complex invited visitors to pre-register for one of two 150-minute long workshops held on April 15th:

WORKSHOP 1: The New Museum / Neues Museum. 9.30 a.m. -12.00 p.m.

WORKSHOP 2: The Old Museum / Altes Museum. 2:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Each session opened with a guided relaxation exercise, followed by slow looking at the busts of Queen Nefertiti (workshop 1) and Queen Cleopatra (workshop 2). Afterwards, the hosts facilitated in-depth discussions.

Bust of Queen Nefertiti c. 1353 and 1336 BC. | National Museums in Berlin | Egyptian Museum with Papyrus Collection | Sandra Steiß
Portrait of Cleopatra around 50-38 B.C. | National Museums in Berlin | Collection of Classical Antiquities | Johannes Laurentius


The sessions concluded with a slow drawing exercise, where the hosts asked each participant to create a design inspired by their experience in the museum, and reflecting on the impact of Slow Looking at art on their mental health.

Workshop at the New Museum.

At Slow Art Day HQ, we are so happy to welcome the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, and its seventeen museums, to the slow looking movement. We also want to thank Prof. Dr. Georg Franzen, Professorship for Psychotherapy Science and Applied Art Psychology at the Sigmund Freud University for supervising his students Naira and Ulla.

We look forward to what the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin comes up with for Slow Art Day 2024.

-Johanna, Ashley, Jessica Jane, and Phyl

Art Deco Movie Theater Shows a New Kind of Slow Art Day

Arlee Theater in Mason City, Illinois, a locally-owned and operated art deco movie theater, which relies on volunteers to stay open, hosted its first Slow Art Day (and the first one we know of in a movie theater – wow!) with great success.

Exterior of the Arlee Theater in Mason City. The photo is from the Arlee website.

Ahead of the event, local residents were invited to submit an artwork to be considered for a slow looking session to be held on the big screen.

Arlee’s volunteer crew selected five artworks (out of the overall twenty that were submitted) to be shown for five minutes each before Saturday night’s movie screening. These replaced the normal pre-show advertisements, and were accompanied by brief contextual information about Slow Art Day to help orient people arriving at different times. You can view the five works below.

Following the event, a timed video of the artworks was uploaded to the Arlee website and Facebook page so people could participate at home as well.

Marcia Maxson Schwartz, who is an Arlee board member and volunteer, reported that they received a lot of positive feedback, including from visitors who rarely go to museums or galleries. In fact, by bringing art into the movie theater, Arlee is showing all of us how to bring art into the lives of *many* more people.

Further, Schwartz and her volunteer team hope to use this year’s success to create a citywide Slow Art Day in Mason next year.

“While we only had a couple of days to get things together, our team considers it a success and is looking forward to next year – we’ve even started the ball rolling with a store owner and the town’s librarian to coordinate events across this little town next year.”

Marcia Maxaon Schwartz

At Slow Art Day HQ, we love the pioneering efforts of the Arlee Theater and hope they start a movement of movie theaters around the world showing art slowly.

We also love the mix of kinds of institutions that are now participating in Slow Art Day – major national museums, regional and university museums, galleries, outdoor sculpture parks, avant garde art spaces, and local movie theaters in small towns. Hurray!

Art needs to be slowly seen *everywhere* and we thank the volunteers at Arlee for innovating a new way to reach more people.

We eagerly anticipate what Arlee and the town of Mason, which may host a citywide Slow Art Day in 2024, come up with for next year.

-Johanna, Ashley, Jessica Jane, and Phyl

Something Old, Something New at Angel Ambrose

For their second Slow Art Day, Angel Ambrose Fine Art Studio in Bloomington, Illinois invited visitors to consider the well known wedding rhyme “Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue” as part of the city-wide Slow Art Day in this famous Route 66 town.

Angel invited visitors to her studio to look slowly at a selection of works that corresponded with the rhyme:

Something Old: an “old” painting from Angel’s BFA show at Illinois State University

Something New: a selection of new artworks by Angel

Something Borrowed: an Ansel Adams photo on loan from a private collection

Something Blue: a painting titled “Magnificent Blues,” on loan from the private collection of Wendy Knight Ives (pictured below).

Something Blue: “Magnificent Blues,” on loan from the collection of Wendy Knight Ives.
Something New: Artwork by Angel Ambrose

Angel also shared a slow looking activity on Facebook for online participants.

Give yourself 3-5 minutes of silence to focus on one piece of art. Think about these prompts as you view the selected art, (and answer them for yourself afterwards if you wish):

For your head (objective thought/intellect) you can consider any of the following:

  • What did you see? What decisions did you notice that Angel made in her painting—line, color, texture, form, repetition, contrast, etc? Was there a color scheme/theme apparent? Notice the paint—can you see individual brushstrokes, or a smooth surface, or perhaps another tool was used to apply the paint? How was movement used in the artwork? Was the piece representational, abstracted, or somewhere between? Why do you think Angel chose this format?

For your heart (feelings/emotions), consider the following:

  • How did you feel when you looked at the work? Did the colors evoke any emotions? What did these feelings make you think about? Did your mood change after looking at the artwork? Did you experience any personal significance to the piece?”

Angel reported that the event was a success, with many new visitors and lots of great conversations.

At Slow Art Day HQ we love how this and the other galleries in Bloomington have been pioneering citywide events. (Note: rumors are that a state-wide Slow Art Day is now being considered in Illinois!)

Best,

– Johanna, Ashley, Jessica Jane, and Phyl

Slow Art and Slow Food Come Together in Italy

For their third Slow Art Day, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Trento and Rovereto (MART), Italy organized a two-stage event in collaboration with a local Slow Food collective, which specializes in cheese, jam, wine and bread.

For the first-stage, MART invited the Slow Food producers to a private event in order to experience slow looking with the works of art shown below.

  • “Spiralando sull’Arena di Verona”, by Renato Di Bosso, 1935 (from the permanent collection)
  • “L’incantesimo dell’amore e la primavera della vita” by Galileo Chini, 1914 (from the temporary exhibition on Klimt and Italian Art)

“Spiralando sull’Arena di Verona”, by Renato Di Bosso. 1935.
Left panel detail from “L’incantesimo dell’amore e la primavera della vita” by Galileo Chini. 1914.
Right panel detail from “L’incantesimo dell’amore e la primavera della vita” by Galileo Chini. 1914.
Visitors looking at “L’incantesimo dell’amore e la primavera della vita” by Galileo Chini (1914) for Slow Art Day at MART 2023

For the second stage held about a week later, MART invited the public to the same slow looking experience with the same works of art.

This time, however, the Slow Food producers held a food tasting afterwards that featured foods they chose to pair with the art based on things like color and emotion. During the tasting, the Slow Food collective talked about their choices in the pairings.

Wow! What a great design for Slow Art Day.

We encourage museums around the world to do something similar: partner with a local Slow Food organization.

Slow Art collaboration with Slow Food at MART 2023
Slow Food tasting as part of MART’s Slow Art Day 2023

Not surprisingly, the MART hosts (Monica Sperandio, Social Media Representative, and Denise Bernabe, Membership Coordinator), reported that the event was a success on all fronts:

We were very satisfied with the experience and the collaboration as Slow Art and Slow Food have very similar ethics and visions, and we were able to combine two different but similar pleasures of life such as art and quality food.

Monica Sperandio

At Slow Art Day HQ, we love the partnership with Slow Food.

We (one of us is based in Italy) hope to visit MART in the future, and get a chance to see and taste the art and food ourselves.

And, of course, we are eager to see what unique design MART comes up with for Slow Art Day 2024.

-Johanna, Ashley, Jessica Jane and Phyl

P.S. Stay up to date with upcoming events at MART via their Instagram and Facebook pages.

Engaging the Senses in Frederiksberg, Denmark

For their second Slow Art Day, the Frederiksberg Museums in Frederiksberg, Denmark, held two guided slow looking events at Cisternerne (The Cisterns), an underground water reservoir that now hosts contemporary art exhibitions.

Slow looking participant. Slow Art Day 2023 at Cisterne. Photo: Jacob Hansen.

For their Slow Art Day event, Cecilie Monrad, Curator and Health Manager, and Thomas Riis Jensen, Coordinator of Exhibitions and Events, invited participants to engage their senses in a new way by experiencing South Korean artist Kimsooja’s Weaving the Light exhibition at the Cisternerne.

The Cisternerne Exhibition Space featuring Kimsooja’s Weaving the Light installation. Photo: Torben Eskerod.

Before we describe what they did for Slow Art Day, we need to first explain the unique environment of the Cisternerne. It is a 4,400 square meter underground space that never sees daylight, where the humidity is close to 100%, and the temperature fluctuates between 40 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit (4 and 16 degrees Celsius). Sounds vibrate and echo throughout, and a slow surface drip of water creates stalactites on the walls and vaults.

For the Weaving the Light exhibition, Kimsooja transformed the darkness of Cisternerne into an installation of light and color by using diffraction grating film mounted on transparent panels. These let light pass through a microscopic surface of horizontal and vertical prisms, creating a spectacular array of light in the darkness.

Artist Kimsooja at her exhibition Weaving the Light at Cisternerne. Photo: Malthe Ivarsson.

The Slow Art Day event started above ground, where participants first got acclimated to the light, temperature and atmosphere outside. Next, they went down into the Cisternerne together, first spending a moment getting used to the darkness, and change in temperature and humidity. They then self-selected areas throughout the exhibition for a 30 minute slow looking session before heading back to the surface, where they shared observations and reflections from the experience.

The Cisternerne, which is actually one of four museums in The Frederiksberg Museum collection, hosts, along with the other museums, slow looking events throughout the year. This year, for example, the museum collective is leading a research program for young psychiatric users who will investigate slow looking as a component in the recovery process for people suffering from dementia, stress, or depression.

At Slow Art Day HQ we are impressed by the many ways the Frederiksberg Museums are creatively using slow looking in a number of different ways. In fact, we all want to go spend some time with them and think you should do the same.

We look forward to whatever they come up with for Slow Art Day 2024.

-Johanna, Ashley, Jessica Jane, Phyl

P.S. Note that the Cisternerne is actually one of several museums in The Frederiksberg Museum collection, which also includes:
STORM – Museum of Humor and Satire
Bakkehuset – Museum of the Danish Golden Age
Møstings – Danish Museum of Contemporary and Modern Art

Picturing the Divine: Slow Art Day at the Roemer and Pelizaeus Museum

For their third Slow Art Day the Roemer and Pelizaeus Museum (RPM) in Hildesheim, Germany, featured three statues representing the divine or enlightenment from several permanent exhibitions:

– The Egyptian goddess Isis

– A Bodhisattva (a Buddhist monk that is acknowledged to have achieved enlightenment on Earth through discipline and compassion)

– A Pieta (image of the Virgin Mary in mourning with the dead body of Jesus)

The goddess Isis, seated. Egypt. c. 600 BCE/BC. Photo courtesy of the Roemer and Pelizaeus Museum.
Bodhisattva of Compassion (Bodhisattva der Barmherzigkeit) Guanyin, China, Ming-dynasty. 1368-1644. Photo courtesy of the Roemer and Pelizaeus Museum.
Pieta. Mary, mother of God (Mary, Mutter Gottes). Hildesheim. c. 1520-1525. Photo courtesy of the Roemer and Pelizaeus Museum.

Participants were invited to look slowly at the three featured statues, while museum staff were also available for in-depth discussion.

The theme of divinity was chosen as an interesting way to focus on images of women in diverse religious and cultural traditions: the Egyptian goddess Isis, and – in the Catholic tradition – the Virgin Mary. Interestingly, in Buddhism it is debated whether women can become enlightened and achieve Buddha-status, or if they need to first be reborn as a man. Some paths of Mahayana Buddhism acknowledge both male and female Bodhisattvas, but in the stricter Theravada tradition only men are able to achieve the status of Arhat (a version of enlightenment that is founded on individual wisdom rather than on the principle of compassion). Thus, the Bodhisattva statue is a great example of how visual representation can lead to dialogue and exploration.

In the words of Andrea Nicklisch, ethnologist at the museum:

“Slow Art Day offers a wonderful opportunity to explore representations of women and to deal intensively with deities in different cultures and art in a new way.”

RPM ethnologist Andrea Nicklisch.

We look forward to whatever this archaeological museum comes up with for April 13, 2024.

– Johanna, Ashley, Jessica Jane, and Phyl

P.S. Stay updated with the Roemer and Pelizaeus Museum via their Facebook and Instagram pages.

P.P.S. Registration is now open for Slow Art Day 2024.