Slow Art and Mindfulness with the Art Gallery of Ontario

For their 7th Slow Art Day on April 10th, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in Toronto, one of Canada’s largest art museums, shared a video and five artworks from their collection to their social media platforms, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

A couple of days before the event, AGO uploaded a slow looking video featuring Clarence Alphonse Gagnon’s ‘Study of a Hare in Winter’ (1922), with a slow looking and mindfulness exercise guided by Melissa Smith, Assistant Curator of Community Programs.

Slow Looking video produced by the Art Gallery of Ontario for Slow Art Day 2021, featuring Clarence Alphonse Gagnon’s ‘Study of a Hare in Winter’ (1922), with a slow looking exercise guided by Melissa Smith, Assistant Curator of Community Programs.

On the actual day of the event, participants were then invited to focus on each of these five artworks for 10 minutes:

  • Kazuo Nakamura, Blue Reflections, 1962
  • Abraham Anghik Ruben, Sedna, c.1990
  • Vilhelm Hammershøi, Interior with Four Etchings, 1904
  • Julie Mehretu, Algorithms, Apparitions and Translations, 2013
  • Christi Belcourt, Wisdom of the Universe. 2014

They were also encouraged to leave comments under each image.

Below are images of the artworks, which we encourage you to experience slowly using the AGO’s prompts that follow.

Kazuo Nakamura, Blue Reflections, 1962
oil on canvas, Overall: 101.7 x 127 cm. Purchase, with funds from the Peter Larkin Foundation, 1962. © Art Gallery of Ontario 62/8

Prompts for Kazuo Nakamura

For this Kazuo Nakamura piece don’t just look slowly, look closely. See how subtly the colours change. Pay attention to how the gradual shifts in brushstrokes give a sense of movement to the landscape. What do you notice about how the brushstrokes are applied? Each and every brushstroke is calculated and purposefully applied. Nakamura is best known for this analytical approach in his paintings, and in his later works, he was influenced by mathematics and scientific theories. He sought to discover a universal pattern in art and nature. What do you think this universal pattern would look like? Do you prefer an analytical approach or a more gestural one?

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Potrebbe essere un'immagine raffigurante 1 persona e scultura
Abraham Anghik Ruben, Sedna, c.1990
mottled dark green Brazilian soapstone, inset stone eyes, Overall (approx.) 70 × 35.5 × 18 cm. Gift of Samuel and Esther Sarick, Toronto, 2001. © Abraham Anghik Ruben. 2001/400 

Prompts for Abraham Anghik Ruben

Abraham Anghik Ruben is a storyteller and tells his stories through the medium of sculpture. His sculptures often tell the legends, myths, and spiritual traditions of the Inuit people and the Arctic land. A recurring figure in Ruben’s works is the Inuit Sea Goddess, Sedna. Look at how her hair dramatically but gracefully arches up behind her like it is flowing with the movement of water. Notice how her eyes stand out from the rest of the sculpture, and how she clutches her hands close to her torso. What do her expression and her posture suggest? What is the message Ruben is trying to share?

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Potrebbe essere un contenuto artistico raffigurante spazio al chiuso
Vilhelm Hammershøi, Interior with Four Etchings, 1904
oil on canvas, Framed: 74.7 × 63.6 cm. Purchased with the assistance of a Moveable Cultural Property grant accorded by the Department of Canadian Heritage under the terms of the Cultural Property Export and Import Act, 2015; © Art Gallery of Ontario. 2014/1054

Prompts for Vilhelm Hammershøi

Looking for a little calm and quiet? Come and join us in Vilhelm Hammershøi’s “Interior with Four Etchings”. A muted scene in both colour and sound, we invite you to hush the world around you as you spend some time with this piece. The female figure is the artist’s wife, Ida. Since she has her back to us, we cannot read her expression. But because she is turned away, we can enter and explore this private space freely. Take a look around. Notice how the light softly enters from the left, creating reflections on surfaces and depth in the space. Where do your eyes go? To the items on the table? To the etchings on the wall? What are the etchings of? Look closely because there are details here that could have easily escaped you before.

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Potrebbe essere un contenuto artistico
Julie Mehretu, Algorithms, Apparitions and Translations, 2013
One of a suite of five etchings. Etching with aquatint, spitbite, soft ground, hardground, drypoint and engraving in black ink on paper. Sheet: 79.4 × 94.8 cm. Purchase, with funds from the Trier-Fodor Fund, 2019. © Julie Mehretu, courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery. 2019/2322.1

Prompts for Julie Mehretu

There’s no piece quite like this Julie Mehretu that demonstrates the importance of an unhurried and patient approach to art. Mehretu is inspired by landscapes, cities, and human activity within nature. Particularly interested in layered imagery, Mehretu’s printmaking technique requires her to slow down as she layers line upon line to create this surreal landscape. Take a look, what do you see? Now, look closer. Even closer. The closer you look the more details you’ll see. The larger narrative will begin to fall apart, revealing various smaller narratives beneath. Just as the piece evolves with each of Mehretu’s lines, your experience of this work will also evolve over time. So, go on. Look again.

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Nessuna descrizione della foto disponibile.
Christi Belcourt, Wisdom of the Universe. 2014
Acrylic on canvas, unframed: 171 × 282 cm. Purchased with funds donated by Greg Latremoille, 2014. © Christi Belcourt 2014/6

Prompts for Christi Belcourt

Ten minutes is hardly enough time to contemplate the wisdom of the universe, both the concept and this piece by Metis artist Christi Belcourt. Take your time to really explore this piece. What type of birds do you see? What type of flowers and vegetation can you recognize? Imagine yourself in this space. Move through the branches and notice the balance and harmony. Can you hear the sounds of the animals? Can you smell the flowers around you? See how everything is connected. This great network of life. Belcourt’s piece asks us to reflect upon the well-being of all living species on this earth, as the current climate crisis affects us all. Take a deep breath, and surround yourself with the wisdom of the universe.

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The event was well received, with 10,000+ likes and views on the AGO’s social media platforms.

Below are some great quotes form participants:

This is my favourite painting at the AGO! I always spend a long time in front of it and always pick up something new each visit.

Participant’s comment under Nakamura’s painting – Instagram

Love this idea!!

Participant’s comment on Instagram

We appreciate the Art Gallery of Ontario’s thoughtful design for this multi-day virtual event, and look forward to what they come up with for Slow Art Day in 2022.

Johanna, Ashley, Jessica, and Phyl

Stop and Smell the Roses: Slow Art Drive-By at Eaton Gallery

For their second Slow Art Day, The Eaton Gallery in Bloomington, Illinois, organized a “drive-by” exhibit in the Gallery’s window display, inviting the local community to slow down and enjoy floral still-life paintings by local artist Herb Eaton. 

Herb Eaton, Still Life with Grace. 3ft x 4 ft, oil on canvas.
Herb Eaton, Single Petal of a Rose. 24×18 oil on canvas board.

Pamela Eaton, Gallery owner, aims to make art more accessible in a relaxed setting, and provide a space to support local artists.

From the 10th to the 30th of April, the Gallery created a drive-by window exhibit for viewers to pause and look slowly at a selection of artworks. They were then invited to share their thoughts and reflections in a variety of ways: write a note and drop it in the Gallery’s mail slot, send an email, or leave a post on the Gallery’s Facebook page.

The exhibit got great press coverage from local news outlets, both last year and this year. An article by week.com includes a video interview with Pamela Eaton, where she explains that Slow Art Day is an opportunity for people to simultaneously develop an appreciation for art and local artists.

“We are so busy hurrying around. When you slow down and pay attention to your space and place you start to see more value in them. That’s probably one of the values of COVID, it’s slowed us all down.”

Pamela Eaton

Eaton Gallery’s press release

The Eaton Gallery received a lot of great feedback from participants:

Kind of makes you think of the beauty of life and the changes through the years. The petals are beautiful but life happens and the years change us, but the beauty still remains in our memories.

Viewer’s quote

I drove by today, slowly passing by in my car to admire A Single Petal of a Rose which I love more and more each time I see it.

Viewer’s quote

Walked by Saturday to enjoy the paintings in your window… peaceful and full of color.

Viewer’s quote



Looking forward to coming inside and seeing more of the art and the space.

Viewer’s quote



Beautiful work.

Viewer’s quote



Brightened up my walk downtown.

Viewer’s quote



The Eaton Gallery’s creative drive-by solution to sharing art with the local community during Covid19 has helped viewers and participants slow down and feel connected. At Slow Art Day HQ, we agree with Pamala Eaton: “When you slow down and pay attention to your space and place you start to see more value in them.”

We look forward to Eaton Gallery’s Slow Art Day in 2022.



Johanna, Jessica, Ashley, and Phyl



Long Exposure: Slow Looking Photography at FOMU

For their 6th Slow Art Day, the Foto Museum (FOMU), in Antwerp, Belgium, organized four virtual slow looking sessions featuring two photographs:

  • Lynne Cohen, Recording Studio, 1987.
  • Martine Franck, Quartier de Byker, Newcastle upon Tyne, Royaume-Uni, 1977.
Recording Studio, 1987 © Lynne Cohen, Courtesy Rodolphe Janssen.
Quartier de Byker, Newcastle upon Tyne, Royaume-Uni, 1977© Martine Franck / Magnum Photos.

Each virtual session opened with a warm welcome from a guide, and introductions from participants.

Without giving any details of the photographs, the guide shared each one and invited participants to look slowly and freely discuss their thoughts.

At the end of the session, all participants were guided through a mindful full-body check to reconnect to their physical surroundings.

Participants engaging with one of the photographs
Participants on Zoom

The participants enjoyed the slow looking and were eager to share their reflections, both about the pictures and the sessions.

“It’s a nice way to interact with strangers.”

Participant’s quote

“I was surprised that the time went by so quickly!”

Participant’s quote

“Nice food for thought with lots of different perspectives.”

Participant’s quote

At Slow Art Day HQ we are really impressed with FOMU’s commitment to hosting not one – but four – sessions in one day. Bookending each event with an introduction round and a mindful cooling-down activity is a great structure that we hope other museums adopt for a future Slow Art Day.

We look forward to what FOMU comes up with for their 7th Slow Art Day in 2022.

Johanna, Jessica, Ashley, and Phyl

Slow Art Infusion at the Three Sisters Tearoom

The Three Sisters Tearoom, in ​Campbellsville, Tennessee, hosted their first official Slow Art Day – and due to popular demand, they decided to hold slow looking sessions throughout the whole month of April.

The Stowe family, who run the tearoom, designed their Slow Art Month around selected paintings that featured tea as a centerpiece.

Artworks included:

  • One of the Family. Fredrick George Cotman
  • Beauty and the Beast. Jessi Wilcox Smith.
One of the Family. Fredrick George Cotman
Beauty and the Beast. Jessi Wilcox Smith.

During the sessions, visitors looked slowly at the selected works while sipping tea and listening to live music. This was followed by an engaging discussion where participants shared their observations.

The paintings selected, along with many others, are included in two slow-art-inspired books: Infused: Tea Time in Fine Art, and The Hide and Seek Gallery: A Child’s I Spy in Fine Art. Both books are written by Jennifer Stowe, slow art author, tearoom owner, and mother to the three sisters that the tearoom is named after.

Participants engaging with art.
Participants engaging with fine art while sipping tea.

The events were well received by participants of all ages. Julia Stowe said that she and her sisters are excited to continue hosting multi-generational slow art sessions throughout the year.

“Guests of all ages enjoyed this set-apart time to consider art, and the unique and intriguing observations from art-observers of various generations were especially delightful.”

Julia Stowe

At Slow Art Day HQ, we love that the Stowe family have adopted multi-generational slow looking sessions throughout the year.

We have been thinking about creating an annual tour to visit Slow Art Day museums and galleries all over the world. Assuming we make that happen, we hope to visit Campbell, TN and try their tea and slow art infusions.

In the meantime, we look forward to what the Three Sisters Tearoom comes up with for Slow Art Month in 2022.

Johanna, Ashley, Jessica, and Phyl

P.S. If you are interested in learning more about their approach, read the Summer 2021 newsletter below.

The Importance of Friends: Slow Art with Sørlandets Kunstmuseum

For their second Slow Art Day, Sørlandets Kunstmuseum in Kristiansand, Norway, hosted a live slow looking event on Facebook, featuring Else Hagen’s artwork named Veninner (in English: ‘female friends’, alt. ‘girlfriends’).

Else Hagen. Venninner, unknown date.
Oil on canvas, 60 x 49,5 cm.
AKO Kunststiftelse/Tangen-samlingen.
©Else Hagen/BONO 2021

On April 10, participants could tune in to the live 30 minute event on the museum’s Facebook page. The session was facilitated by Hanne Aamodt and Karoline Skomedal, respectively head tourguide and tourguide at the museum.

Participants were given an introduction to Slow Art Day, and then invited to observe the painting for seven minutes, using automatic writing as a slow looking tool (automatic writing means writing down words that come to mind without thinking about it). Afterwards, the facilitators shared some of their own thoughts and gave participants a set of prompts to use while studying the painting for seven *more* minutes.

The prompts included:

  • What shapes, colors and materials do you see?
  • What details do you notice?
  • What is going on in the painting?
  • Does the artwork remind you of something from your own life?
  • If you were at the place depicted in the artwork, what sounds would you hear? What surfaces, smells and temperatures would you feel?

The event was well received, and participants left comments like this after the live session:

“This was a great experience! I recommend it 🧡 Thank you very much!”

Participant’s quote on Facebook

The session was recorded and shared to YouTube. The video is included below for you to watch.

Slow Art Day 2021: Dypdykk i maleriet “Venninner” av Else Hagen. Video produced by Sørlandets Kunstmuseum.

At Slow Art Day HQ, we love the subject of this painting. Friends supporting each other is obviously a relevant theme during the ongoing pandemic, and we appreciate the warmth of this artwork.

If you would like to see more from Sørlandets Kunstmuseum, you can find them on their Facebook and Instagram pages.

We look forward to seeing what the Sørlandets Kunstmuseum has in store for Slow Art Day 2022.

Johanna, Jessica, Ashley, and Phyl

Slow Art for a Rainy Day with the Georgia Museum of Art

For their sixth Slow Art Day, the Georgia Museum of Art in Athens, GA, hosted an in-person slow looking and drawing session.

The session was originally planned as an outdoor sculpture viewing, but the rain had other plans and the event was hosted inside the museum. The program was created by Sage Kincaid, Associate Curator of Education, who has a strong passion for all things Slow Art.

On April 10, participants were invited to look slowly at three works of art at the museum:

  • Steinunn Thorarinsdottir’s sculpture ‘Tide’ (2012)
  • Nick Cave’s sculpture “Soundsuit” (2017)
  • Joan Mitchell’s painting “Close” (1972)

New Installment Added to Jane and Harry Willson Sculpture Garden | Georgia  Museum of Art at the University of Georgia - Georgia Museum of Art at the  University of Georgia
Steinunn Thorarinsdottir, ‘Tide’, 2012. Cast iron and glass. 70 7/8 × 27 9/16 × 13 3/4 in. (180 × 70 × 35 cm)
Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia; Museum purchase with funds provided by Judith Ellis
Participants doing line-drawings of Nick Cave’s Soundsuit Sculpture for Slow Art Day 2021. Photo courtsey of the Georgia Museum of Art.
two men looking at Joan Mitchell's large abstract painting "Close"
Visitors in front of Joan Mitchell’s painting “Close” (1972) during a previous Slow Art Day event. Photo courtesy of the Georgia Museum of Art.

After looking at the art pieces, Katie Landers, an Education Department Intern at the museum, led separate slow looking and drawing activities.

Participants were first encouraged to think about their physical relationship to the sculpture by Steinunn Thorarinsdottir. Next, they investigated color and color palettes by looking at Joan Mitchell’s painting. Finally, they made a blind contour and continuous line drawing of Nick Cave’s sculpture. To end the day, all participants made abstract color collages together. The event was well received by a dedicated group of 10, who spent several hours together for an immersive experience on Slow Art Day.

At Slow Art Day HQ, we love the integrated multi-sensory approach that the Georgia Museum of Art took to designing this year’s event. While looking at something closely lets us see in new ways, slow drawing takes that process even further and allows attendees to connect looking, talking and making. And that creates the possibility to be present — with art, with ourselves, and with others.

We look forwad to what the Georgia Museum of Art comes up with for their 7th Slow Art Day in 2022.

-Johanna, Jessica, Ashley and Phyl