Art, Spirituality, and History: a Virtual Journey at the Art Gallery of Ontario

For their 8th Slow Art Day, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) – one of the largest art museums in North America – organized a virtual event on Zoom.

For the event, Art Educator Lauren Spring, guided participants in a close looking journey through expressionist and spiritual realms from post WWI Germany to Inuvialuit hamlet Tuktuyaaqtuuq in the 1950s.

They were invited to take a deep and slow look at works of art by German artist Käthe Kollwitz, British-Indian artist Anish Kapoor, and Inuit sculptor Bill Nasogaluak, exploring themes of family, interconnectedness, limits, transformation and transcendence, and considering how and why artists aspire to represent the most complex human emotions and experiences.

Käthe Kollwitz. Mütter, 1919. transfer lithograph on wove paper, Sheet: 52.2 × 62.9 cm. Gift of W. Gunther and Elizabeth S. Plaut, 1995. © Art Gallery of Ontario. 95/348

Bill Nasogaluak. Bear Tangled in Barbed Wire, date unknown. painted barbed steel wire; stone, Overall: 21.5 × 26 × 47.5 cm. Private Collection. © Bill Nasogaluak. AGO.119815

The Zoom event hosted many live participated as well as generated many likes and reshares across AGO’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts.

At Slow Art Day HQ, we would like to thank Lauren Spring and her colleagues Melissa Smith, Natalie Lam, and Lexie Buchanan for organizing such an engaging virtual event. We are grateful for AGO’s long-term commitment to celebrating Slow Art Day, even during hard pandemic times.

We can’t wait to see what they come up with for their 9th Slow Art Day in 2023.

– Jessica, Johanna, Ashley, and Phyl

Inside Out Accessible Art’s First Slow Art Day

In what we hope is the beginning of a global trend, Bloomington, Illinois was home this year to the first planned citywide Slow Art Day event.

Nine galleries across this town, including the non-profit art collective Inside Out Accessible Art, Inc (IOAA), participated in what they called their Route 66 Slow Art Day initiative (Eaton, Illinois is situated on the historic Route 66 highway in the U.S.).

In addition to what IOAA and each of the other galleries did, the big win here of course is the way longtime host Pamala Eaton organized the first citywide Slow Art Day (see this earlier post and this local media coverage for more information).

The IOAA’s design for Slow Art Day was simple.

Visitors were invited to slowly look at the art of six local artists and then talk with each of the artists, who were invited to spend the day with slow lookers.

The six artists who participated were the following:

  • Peggy Dunlap (mixed media)

Photo credits: Shelley Schultz
Slow Art Day 2022 at IOAA. Photo credits: Shelley Schultz

At Slow Art Day HQ we look forward to publishing the reports from the other eight galleries, and to writing a wrap-up analysis of Bloomington’s citywide event, including what other cities might learn about doing something similar.

Of course, we also hope that the IOAA will host another Slow Art Day in 2023, and that next year’s event will be part of yet another citywide experience.

– Johanna, Jessica, Ashley and Phyl

Ps. The IOAA is a 501(c) 3 not-for-profit that has a physical gallery space for artists, provides art classes and events and works cooperatively with others in the community to provide art experiences. Check them out online or Facebook.

Birmingham Museum of Art hosts 9th Slow Art Day

The Birmingham Museum of Art (BMA) in Alabama — one of the founding Slow Art Day host museums back in 2010 — invited visitors in 2022 to a Slow Art Day featuring contemporary pieces of art in their collection.

Participants were invited to look at two pieces of art, including “The Deserted Studio” by artist Robert Motherwell.

Robert Motherwell, “The Deserted Studio”, acrylic and charcoal on canvas, Birmingham Museum of Art collection.

After 5-10 minutes spent individually contemplating the artworks, participants took part in a relaxed discussion hosted by Julia Stork, Master Docent at the museum.

The event was attended by BMA docent alumni alongside local Slow Art Day enthusiasts, who all appreciated the event, with one participant exclaiming “Let’s do this again sooner than next year!” (The BMA used to host Slow Art Sundays, but discontinued them when the pandemic hit — we hope they can start them up again in the future.)

We can’t wait to see what the BMA comes up with in 2023.

– Johanna, Ashley, Jessica and Phyl

Slowing Down with Diné art at the Museum of Northern Arizona

For their fourth Slow Art Day, the Museum of Northern Arizona (MNA) in Arizona, USA, hosted a slow looking event in combination with the opening of a new exhibition, Náátsʼíilid / Rainbow Light, featuring art by Diné artist Baje Whitethorne Sr., who grew up on the Navajo Nation Reservation.

Baje Whitethorne Sr., 1985, Watercolor on paper, MNA#C2587. Image courtsey of the MNA.

Before the event, the museum posted a video to YouTube, where Alan Petersen, Curator of Fine Art, and Samantha Honanie, Bookstore & Publications Manager, introduced slow looking and Slow Art Day.

We highly recommend that all museum educators and curators view this well-done video.

Alan Petersen, Curator of Fine Art, and Samantha Honanie, Bookstore & Publications Manager, at MNA, discussing slow looking and Slow Art Day. 30 March, 2022.

In six minutes, Samantha and Alan show (not tell) the viewer how Slow Art Day works.

They use some simple but ingenious methods for “showing” 10 minutes of slow looking in just a minute or so — and they then capture the joy of discovery and enthusiasm that participants experience (that is so hard to describe in words).

It’s a real joy to watch.

Take a look and think about how you might borrow some of their techniques for your next Slow Art Day event.

For the actual day, participants were given a Slow Art Day cheat sheet of slow looking prompts.

Participants were then invited to view the art by Baje Whitethorne, choosing the order they wanted to see the artworks in, and applying the slow looking promts from the cheat sheet.

At 2pm, all participants gathered in the Living Room at the museum, where Alan Petersen led a discussion of the insights and experiences from the event.

We recommend viewing the following video of artist Baje Whitethorne introducing the title and theme of his exhibition, Náátsʼíilid / Rainbow Light, below.

Baje Whitethorne introducing the exhibition theme – Náátsʼíilid/Rainbow Light.

We love everything about the NMA’s Slow Art Day – the preparatory video, the cheat sheet and the artwork chosen. We hope you get a chance to spend as much time with Baje Whitethorne and their work as we did in preparing this report.

We at Slow Art Day HQ are grateful that via writing these reports we get to look at and experience art from all over the world – art we may never have otherwise been able to see.

We look forward to whatever the Museum of Northern Arizona comes up with for Slow Art Day 2023.

– Johanna, Jessica, Ashley and Phyl

P.S. Stay updated with events at the Museum of Northern Arizona via their Facebook page.

Seaside Sculpture Park Slow Art Day

Founding Slow Art Day host (and regular contributor to the Slow Art Day blog), artist Hedy Buzan organized an in-person slow-looking event at the Public Art Walk in Heisler Park Gazebo, Laguna Beach, California.

Below is the flyer that Hedy distributed in the beachside artist community of Laguna Beach.

Slow Art Day flyer

For this event, Hedy chose five public art sculptures at Heisler Park, and asked participants to look at each for five minutes. Below are photos of three of the sculptures.

Semper Momento (Never Forget), 911 Memorial, by Jorg Dubin

Continuous Rotation by Scott and Naomi Schoenherr

Breaching Whale by Jon Seeman

When we launched Slow Art Day in 2010, Hedy and about 30 other artists and volunteers ran ‘guerilla-style’ Slow Art Day events at museums, galleries, and sculpture parks. These were unofficial events because museums were not at first willing to participate. But after several years of running these clandestine slow-looking events, museums and galleries began to adopt Slow Art Day – which has now been officially sponsored by over 2,000 museums and galleries all over the world.

We thank Hedy for being one of the pioneers that made this whole movement possible and can’t wait to see what she comes up with for 2023.

Jessica Jane, Ashley and Phyl

P.S. – If you happen to be in Laguna Beach anytime this summer between June 24 and August 28, then look for Hedy Buzan’s booth at The Sawdust Art Festival and go thank her for helping to launch Slow Art Day.

Slow Looking & Mindfulness in Singapore

Singaporean gallery ARTualize participated in their 2nd Slow Art Day by offering their year-long Mindfulness with Paintings class for free on the day of the event, and throughout April. Sok Leng, museum instructor, guided participants to look mindfully and slowly at the painting “By the River Seine” by established Singapore artist Low Hai Hong. They then had a discussion about the feelings the painting conjured up.

“By the River Seine” by artist Low Hai Hong. Medium: Oil on Canvas. Year: 2001.

Photo credit: ARTualize.

“Looking at paintings slowly gave me a deeper appreciation of the painting and a better understanding of myself through the art.”

Michelle, Slow Art Day Participant

ARTualize’s Slow Art Day event was also featured on Singapore’s main news broadcast channel Chinese Mediacorp Channel 8 News a few weeks after the event, and was the first time Slow Art has been featured on Singapore TV.

You can watch the TV segment below.

Educators and curators may want to copy the simple design of their weekly 1.5 hour Mindfulness with Paintings sessions, which are held every Saturday throughout the year:

1 – Concept – Introduce mindfulness and basic mindfulness techniques. 

2 – Practice – Look at selected paintings slowly and mindfully (at least 1 minute for each painting). 

3 – Discussion – Reflect upon the experience and realize how different paintings (and for that matter, life in general) feel, when we are mindful and when we take our time to slowly savour.

When we originally launched Slow Art Day in 2010, we wanted, in part, to inspire museums to produce year-round slow looking programming – and that has happened. In fact, slow looking programming has become so mainstream that ARTualize began slow looking sessions *before* they later joined Slow Art Day. We love this development!

Check them out on Facebook and Instagram.

We also encourage you to look more at the work of artist Low Hai Hong, and read about his journey, including pioneering the painting of oil on Chinese rice paper.

Ashley and Phyl

Slow Art Week, Slavery, and the University of Alabama

For their first Slow Art Week, Sharony Green, Associate Professor of History at the University of Alabama, and Brandon Thompson, Director of the UA Gorgas House Museum worked with students and artists to create and display a public art installation that helped history students and the campus as a whole think slowly about slavery and Antebellum America.

Dr. Green (pictured below) and her “Antebellum America” class created a 63-foot burlap with individual pieces that were displayed as a work-in-progress on April 1, eve of Slow Art Day, and then hung from Gorgas House later in the month once finished. Further, Dr. Green invited students from her “America since 1865” class to come and look slowly at the work of their Antebellum-focused student colleagues.

Dr. Sharony Green (left) and her students (right)

In her blog, Dr Green suggested to students, faculty, and staff that they slow down to think about the “enslaved artisans, including women, who… sewed out of necessity and maybe even survival.”

She further explained that tapestry also “offers a chance to ponder what textiles represent in a modernizing country in the years leading to the Civil War and what textiles mean today when we celebrate all things ‘handmade’ and what Koritha Mitchell labels as ‘homemade citizenship.'”

Gorgas House shared a digital interview about the students’ process and Dr. Green also talked about the process in the YouTube video below.

2 minute YouTube video by Dr. Sharony Green

The event was a real success on campus and across the online landscape including WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Linkedin.

We encourage other professors to take inspiration from Dr. Green and think about how to weave Slow Art Day into their classes and campus museums – including, as Dr. Green has done, with classes outside of the studio art or art history departments.

At Slow Art Day HQ, we certainly look forward to what Dr. Green comes up with in 2023 to teach us how to look and think slowly about American history and its most challenging and troubling aspects.

Exploring Grief in Art at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

For their fourth Slow Art Day, Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens invited guests to slow down and enjoy the immersive indoor and outdoor mixed media art environment created by artist Isaiah Zagar. The winding spaces are covered in mosaics created with Zagar’s handmade tiles and found objects, such as folk art, bottles, bike wheels, and mirrors.

Second level of the outside sculpture garden, featuring Isaiah Zagar’s Kohler tiles. Photo by Allison Boyle, Events & Marketing Manager.

Zagar’s art can also be seen on public walls throughout the south Philadelphia community, where he has been restoring and beautifying public spaces since the 1960s.

Mosiac building exterior by Isaiah Zagar on South St, Philadelphia. Photo by Ashley Moran, Slow Art Day Editor.

After slowing down to take in the details of the space, Samantha Eusebio, Museum Educator, led a discussion on a particular section of the outdoor sculpture garden that included several large handmade tiles that Zagar made during a residency he held at the Kohler company in Wisconsin from September to November, 2001.

Samantha Eusebio and Slow Art Day participants. Photo by Ashley Moran, Slow Art Day Editor.

Samantha first asked the group of 15 participants to share themes that they noticed emerging within the tiles. She then shared a video interview of Zagar talking about his experience at Kohler.

After the video, Samantha led a discussion about Zagar’s influences for the large tiles, which happened to be the events of 911 that occurred while he was in his residency at Kohler. Being raised in Brooklyn, NY, Zagar was heavily influenced by the tragedy, and his tiles include images of airplanes and buildings. Samantha continued the discussion with the group on different ways individuals deal with grief and trauma – through art, reading, exercise, or even just slowing down.

Slow Art Day participants looking slowly at Isaiah Zagar’s large Kohler tiles. Photo by Ashley Moran.
Large Tile Mosaics with Airplane Motifs by Isaiah Zagar. Photo by Ashley Moran.

Large Tile Mosaics with Airplane Motifs by Isaiah Zagar. Photo by Ashley Moran.

I had the pleasure of attending this Slow Art Day event, and it was eye opening. Even though I know that slowing down helps you see things that you are otherwise blind to, and even though I’m a longtime Slow Art Day volunteer who teaches many others about the power of slowing down to really see, I was still surprised by how much I saw that I had never seen before on multiple previous visits to The Magic Gardens. This is why Slow Art Day is an experiential program, and not primarily a theoretical one. You can understand the theory behind slow looking, but that doesn’t mean that you can see until you really slow down.

Ashley Moran, Slow Art Day Editor, immersing in the mosaicked space.

It truly is amazing what you can experience if you take the time to slow down.

We at Slow Art Day HQ look forward to visiting Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens while on our tour this summer of NYC and Philadelphia, and we can’t wait to see what they share for Slow Art Day 2023.

Ashley

Gratitude and Mindfulness for FMoPA’s Slow Art Day

For their first Slow Art Day the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts in Tampa, Florida, hosted an in-person event focused on mindfulness and gratitude.

Slow Art Day participants viewing the artwork by Paul Caponigro, Stream and Trees, Redding, Connecticut, 1967, Silver gelatin print, Collection of the Artist.

During the event, participants were taken through a step-by-step presentation by Zora Carrier, Executive Director of FMoPA, which we highly recommend curators and educators review and consider for inspiration for their own events.

Participants were first invited to do a body scan — noticing their sensations without judgement. We love this beginning. This is a great way to ground people in their body and senses.

Once they were tuned up, they were then invited to look slowly at two photographs by Paul Caponigro and David Dennard, and think about the following promts for each:

  • Look carefully at this artwork. What do you notice? Write down your observations. Be thorough.
  • Carefully review your observations.
  • Write down any inferences, opinions or conclusions formed because of known facts?
  • Are there any details that you want to know more about? Write 3-5 additional questions.
  • What is the context of the image?
  • What might the photographer be feeling?
  • Is the image positive, negative or neutral?
  • Is this image about an idea/concept that we can’t recognize with our five senses?

Paul Caponigro, American, b. 1932, Stream and Trees, Redding, Connecticut, 1967, Silver gelatin print, Collection of the Artist.
David Dennard, American, b. 1954, Paul Caponigro, A Desert Father, Death Valley, 2020, Platinum-palladium print, Collection of the Artist.

To finish the session, all participants were asked to do some breathing exercises and write a gratitude note to a person of their choice, guided by a three-step prompt:

  • Step 1: Focus on the recipient. Spend a few moments thinking about the note recipient—what they did for you; what they said; what it meant—focusing on the feel of the paper, colors, or what mental images come to mind when you think about the person.
  • Step 2: Be specific and personal. Think about the thing you’re most grateful for out of your relationship with the person.
  • Step 3: Think about how it made you feel—then and now. Don’t feel restricted by making it look ‘good’ as long as you can communicate your gratitude. Art is subjective, and this won’t be criticized.

In our own slow looking of these two photographs, we were particularly captured by the juxtaposition of the lush, first photograph with the spare moonscape-like second photograph. Then, after several minutes, we looked at the caption and realized that the artist of the first one is the subject of the second one. That brought added joy to the slow looking experience.

We recommend that all Slow Art Day educators and curators do as we did, and go through Carrier’s presentation. As much as possible, look with a child’s naive eye.

We are very happy to welcome FMoPA to the global Slow Art Day, and can’t wait to see what they come up with for Slow Art Day 2023.

Johanna, Jessica, Ashley and Phyl

PS. When we started Slow Art Day, almost no museums offered regular slow looking programming. We are happy to see that FMoPA not only participates in the global Slow Art Day, but also runs monthly slow looking events.

Slowing Down for Summer

Enuma Okoro, weekly columnist for the Financial Times, wrote a lovely article this week, The joy of living off the clock (gift link – first 20 readers to click will have access), about slowing down for summer and some of the art that reflects that.

In the column, Okoro spends time with three paintings: Khari Turner’s, “Get Home Before Dark“; John Singer Sargent’s “Two Girls Fishing“, and Njdeka Akunyili Crosby’s “Remain, Thriving.”

In looking slowly at these paintings, Okoro combines her life experience, her work as a curator, her knowledge of art history, and her good eye.

Njdeka Akunyili Crosby’s Remain, Thriving (at Brixton tube station in England)

Enjoy her article.

Meanwhile, the Slow Art Day volunteer team is beginning the process of writing up the reports from this year’s event. We will begin publishing soon and through the autumn. Be patient with us as we slowly work our way through all of your great work.

Hope you are having a good and slow May.

Phyl

P.S. The Slow Art Day HQ team will be slowing down this summer *together*! For the first time, we’ll meet in person (we work via Zoom across continents) and slowly look at art in New York and Philadelphia. We’ll share more about our plans soon in case you want to join us.