Can Digital Help the Slow Art Movement?

Freelance writer, Rebecca Hardy Wombell, asks about the role of digital in building the slow art movement in her recent article for MuseumNext, where she also documents the history of Slow Art Day and our relationship to the Internet.

We originally launched Slow Art Day as an antidote to the negative effects of the Internet – effects I had already begun to see in 2008 while running a digital consulting firm helping companies like Apple and Facebook. For years since then, our rule at Slow Art Day has been simple: we can use the Internet to evangelize slow looking, but the events must be in museums and galleries and definitely *not* online.

Of course, the pandemic forced us to go online and so we pivoted and quickly taught museums how to use Zoom and the basics of how to run slow looking sessions virtually.

From there, many galleries and museums all over the world used their creativity and ingenuity to design Zoom-, social media-, video-based and hybrid events, as well as some in-person sessions where possible (all of which Wombell documents, and which our 2021 annual report will summarize when it’s released in February).

Best,

Phyl, Johanna, Jessica Jane, and Ashley

P.S. You can read Wombell’s full article – Can digital technology help us to learn to look slowly? – on MuseumNext, or visit her website, Words of Art, to learn more about her.

How to Submit a Guest Post

At Slow Art Day, we welcome guest posts from the educators, curators, and artists who host Slow Art Day events around the world.

Posts should be:

  • short (no more than 400 words)
  • connected to art, artists, and the art of slow looking
  • written with language that is both accessible (light on jargon and “art speak”), personal, and passionate

Here’s a good example of the kind of writing we like to publish:

Reflections on the Life and Death of Artist Wayne Thiebaud

Hedy Buzan writes with a depth of knowledge about the artist, but with ordinary words and a passion for this artist. She provides a video where he takes a slow look at a painting at The Met and a link to an essay he wrote in 1981. She concludes with a terrific quote from the artist that helps the reader think in a new way about art and the act of creating it.

To send a post for us to consider publishing, please take in mind the above and email us at: info@slowartday.com (or, if you are a host, then you know how to directly contact us).

Reflections on the Life and Death of Artist Wayne Thiebaud

Host Essay by Hedy Buzan

Wayne Thiebaud died on Christmas Day 2021 at the age of 101.

Thiebaud was one of the most important American artists of our generation. Mis-described as a “Pop Artist”, Thiebaud’s work was simultaneously accessible and deep, rooted in art history and slyly funny, idiosyncratic yet universal. His work, accessible in print and online but always best seen in person, was thick with glorious impasto and color nuance.

American in his subject matter – he famously painted still lifes of cakes and pies, but also archetypal figures and landscapes of the vertiginous hills of San Francisco and the rolling Sacramento Delta. Thiebaud was eclectic in his influences: there is as much Matisse, Daumier and Cezanne in his works as there is the influence of Hopper and Disney. Moreover, Thiebaud had a brilliant mind, as evidenced in this 1981 essay A Fellow Painter’s View of Georgio Morandi.

Thiebaud was always looking, looking, looking, and open to the new. This brief video by the Morgan Library gives some insight to his constant evolution as an artist (as well as a look at some of his great work).

At the end of his life he did a series of paintings of the most hackneyed subject in American art – clown paintings – and made them into a transcendental experience.

An exhibition of his work was shown last year at Laguna Art Museum. While Covid restrictions prevented a Slow Art Day there, my review for the local paper can be read here.

Moreover, Thiebaud the man was humble, approachable and kind.

You can see that in this video below where he takes a slow look at Rosa Bonheur’s “outstanding” painting, The Horse Fair.

Thiebaud had a second home in Laguna Beach and loaned and gave works to the local museum, as well as mentoring artists up to the final year of his life. He liked to work in the mornings, play tennis, take a nap and work again in the afternoons. He drew daily. He loved to teach and each of the three times I’ve heard him lecture he repeated the same anecdote:

“I love to ask students, especially beginning students one question: ‘Who is painting the painting – you or the painting?’ They invariably answer ‘I am painting the painting’ To which I say ‘Wrong answer! You need to follow the painting and see where it takes you.”

What wonderful words of advice, as regards painting and life. 

Hedy Buźan
Founding Host, Slow Art Day

Hedy Buzan is an artist and founding host of Slow Art Day. She also helped launch the Laguna Beach Sawdust Festival, an annual arts festival in Southern California. 

Slow Art Day is committed to publishing posts like this from our hosts around the world. Here are some tips.

Happy Slow Art Day 2021!

More than 110 museums* and galleries around the world are slowing down today – to create more inclusive environments that allow everyone to learn how to look at and love art.

We are really excited about the many creative events happening all over the world today. And we look forward to learn in the coming weeks more about what the educators and curators designed for this year (and we will be working with them to write-up and publish their 2021 reports).

Meanwhile, if you are looking to participate in a Slow Art Day event today, then you can go to your local museum or gallery to see if they are planning an event – or, you can click here on the official venues for this year. (tip: some of the links direct you to a museum homepage, from there go to their “events” section or search for “Slow Art Day”).

You can also check Instagram #slowartday2021.

Because of the pandemic, many events will be virtual allowing you to participate anywhere in the world.

Again, happy Slow Art Day!

– Phil, Johanna, Maggie, Ashley, and the whole volunteer team

*P.S. 110 is the official count, though we know many more are also celebrating.

Washington Post Covers Slow Art Day

In a terrific feature-length article published yesterday, the Washington Post writer Kelsey Ables covered slow looking, Slow Art Day, our message of radical inclusivity, and encouraged readers to sign up to one of the 90+ venues around the world for this year’s global event.

Participating museums like the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the National Museum of Women in the Arts are featured in the article, as is our friend, Jennifer Roberts, an art history professor at Harvard.

Further, the article highlighted a key element of our mission: increasing the accessibility of museums. From the beginning, we’ve believed that slow looking is an act of radical inclusivity where the viewer includes themselves, rather than being lectured to or told how to look. This radical inclusivity we believe is key to opening up museums and galleries to many more people.

I encourage you to read the article and share it on social media.

Also, if you are hosting a Slow Art Day event this weekend, then we wish you all the best and look forward to your report on how it went (and please post on social media with the tag #slowartday2021).

If you want to look slowly this weekend, then see the list of venues here.

Happy Slow Art Day 2021!

Best,

Phil

P.S. Again, you can read the Washington Post article here.

Slow Art Day Italian Interview

[Note: Slow Art Day 2021 is coming up Saturday, April 10 – read the 2020 report for ideas on how to design your slow looking events.]

In this interview, Annalisa Banzi, Ph.D. (researcher in museum studies, psychology and neuroscience at CESPEB-Bicocca University) shares some ideas on “Wellness and Museums” with Elisabetta Roncati (art influencer), and focuses on Slow Art Day as a great example of programs that help with mental health.

Banzi and Roncati discuss the powerful effect of slow looking and how Slow Art Day is radically inclusive – i.e., allows people to include themselves in the art experience.

Moreover, Banzi argues that Slow Art Day has become a useful way to enhance people’s mental wellbeing during the pandemic *and* has given an important way for museums to interact with visitors all over the world.

Listen to the interview in Italian here.

Phil

2020 Annual Report

Our 2020 report is now available for you to review!

Read it and get inspired by how educators around the world engaged the public during the pandemic. 

Also, get practical tips for designing virtual events.

A few highlights from 2020:

  • 2020 was our 10th anniversary. Since we began, more than 1,500 Slow Art Day events have been held in museums around the world, including The Tate Modern, SFMoMA, The Art Gallery of Ontario, The National Gallery in Australia, and The Art Institute of Chicago, to name a few.
  • We hosted virtual webinar training just after the lockdowns on how to use Zoom and host virtual events, with participants from several continents.
  • All Slow Art Day events were virtual this year except one, which was a walk-by window display.
  • A number of museums hosted their first Slow Art Day in 2020, despite the pandemic
  • Starting in April of 2020, we invited Slow Art Day hosts to join us for webinars with leading African Americans from outside the art world including:
    • NBA Deputy Commissioner, Mark Tatum
    • Then-Princeton educator, and now chair of President Biden’s Council of Economic Advisors, Cecilia Rouse
    • Dallas youth community organizer, Antoine Joyce
    • Former Deputy Mayor to then-Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Bo Kemp
  • We also spent time with museum leaders like Jack Becker, CEO and Executive Director of the Jocelyn Museum of Art in Omaha, who talked about “Diversity, Inclusion, and the Museum Experience.

So, thank you, thank you for helping us reach our 10 year anniversary – and for all you do to remind the world of the power of art to bring us together.

Best,

Phil, Johanna, Ashley, Maggie, and the whole Slow Art Day team

P.S. Again, here’s the link to download the annual report.

How to run a virtual Slow Art Day?

We just gathered museums from around the world and had a great roundtable discussion about how to run a virtual Slow Art Day amidst this Covid-19 crisis.

Watch the discussion below:

Or, you can also read a summary of some of the key questions and ideas as compiled by our Slow Art Day intern Johanna Bokedal.

This Sunday, March 29 at 11am NYC time, we plan to run a Zoom training session for educators and curators and others involved in virtual Slow Art Day planning. If you want to join that, then respond to this post in the comments (we’ll also be inviting hosts via email).

– Phil

Frye Art Museum Combines Looking and Drawing

The Frye Art Museum in Seattle, WA combined looking, drawing, and shared discussion for their Slow Art Day 2019.

The museum chose a single artwork in their current exhibition Tschabalala Self as a focus.

Each person then participated in three connected activities:

  • a close-looking session
  • a detailed artwork discussion rooted in Visual Thinking Strategies
  • a drawing activity and discussion with a partner (to see the drawing activity they used, watch this video here…the drawing assignment begins at about minute 3)

During the drawing portion, one participant noted it was “meaningful to exchange our drawing with a partner, interpret each other’s, then explain our own.” The museum also provided a self-guided form for visitors to lead their own slow looking art exploration.

Caroline Byrd who works in the Education Department at the museum says, “Slow Art Day is an accessible, inventive, and community-oriented opportunity that we continue to look forward to each year.” We couldn’t have said it better and appreciate the creativity they brought to the design of their day.

Phil

Multi-sensory Slow Art Day in New Brunswick

AX, the Arts and Culture Centre of Sussex in New Brunswick, Canada, held a multi-sensory Slow Art Day 2019 led by artist Deanna Musgrave, who had recently researched and written her Master’s thesis on multi-sensory art experiences.

Musgrave, whose own art was being shown, began by guiding the participants through a relaxation exercise, using sound and voice commands to invite the audience to achieve a trance-like state. She then focused on three pieces of work and encouraged viewers to experience tastes (wine, chocolate, peaches), smell (wine and peppermint), and sounds (recorded instruments) paired with each piece.

According to AX, audience members, ranging in age from 8 to 70, said that the slow multi-sensory session really enhanced their experience.

In other good news, Bonny Hill, Exhibitions Committee Chair at AX said they recently applied for and were awarded a grant to curate and host an exhibition of artists who work in the “slow art” style, using outdated technology and painstaking methods to create contemporary work. That exhibition will launch in early 2020, and perhaps be the focus of their Slow Art Day 2020.

Phil