Dutch Art at the Holland Museum

For their first Slow Art Day, the Holland Museum in Holland, Michigan, organized an in-person event inviting participants to engage with their Dutch art collection.

Beach Scene with Men on Horseback, n.d., Johannes Koekkoek (1840-1912), oil on canvas

Participants were divided in four small groups and were encouraged to look at the selected paintings for five minutes each, then to share their thoughts with a friend or another participant from the event. Education & Community Programs Manager Michelle Stempien provided them with a short brochure with images from the Dutch art collection.

Holland Museum’s Slow Art Day brochure.

The brochure contained different open-ended questions and prompts for each painting, to encourage more in-depth looking:

Elegant Company Making Music, 1660, Jacob Duck (1600-1667), oil on panel

Prompts for “Elegant Company Making Music” by Jacob Duck :

  • What do you think the woman on the left is thinking about?
  • Why is she looking at us?
  • How does the artist show us her importance?
  • What seems unusual about this scene?

Other prompts included the comparison between these two paintings:

Portraits of Cornelius Van Beresteyn and
Janntje Berckel, 1617, Pieter Jacobsz
(1608-1677), oil on panel

A docent was also available to discuss the paintings. Participants were playfully encouraged to copy some of the poses in paintings, and post photos of their poses to social media.

We encourage educators and curators to consider copying their joyful slow looking design — including their brochure.

And we at Slow Art Day HQ are happy to welcome the Holland Museum to Slow Art Day, and look forward to what they come up with for Slow Art Day 2023.

Jessica Jane, Johanna, Ashley, and Phyl

Art and Dresses – Slow Art Day Summer 2022 Retreat

We began our nine-day 2022 Slow Art Day volunteer team retreat by visiting the site of the first test of Slow Art Day: MoMA in New York. 

In 2009, Phyl organized four people to visit MoMA and look slowly at five artworks. 13 years and thousands of events later, they returned again with a group of four, but this time it was the dedicated Slow Art Day volunteer team with dresses to match the art. 

Ashley, Phyl and Jessica Jane on their way to MoMA. Photo taken by Johanna.

While looking slowly together in various museums, we decided to use our slow looking algorithm that can be used by small groups anytime all over the world.

Phyl first tried this in 2012 when they took three young brothers to their first art museum with a mother sure they would bounce off the walls and not look — she was shocked when they all slowed down and spent time with the art. 

Here’s how it works:

  • Assign a “selector” in each gallery
    Choose someone who will select an artwork to look at slowly.
  • Then everyone looks around for a few minutes
    While that’s happening, the selector picks their piece.
  • Look slowly at the chosen piece
    Spend 5 – 10 minutes looking together at the artwork.
  • Talk about it
    Ask: what did you see? Then don’t try to moderate. People will have a lot to say. Let them say it. In fact, this is a wonderful moment. You will get closer to each other as you learn how each other sees and thinks.
  • Move to the next gallery, choose the next selector, and repeat

That’s it. Really simple. Nothing else required. 

Further, if you do this as a group – and if you are dressed up like we were – then you’ll likely draw a crowd whenever you slow down to look at a piece of art intensively. That’s certainly what happened to us. No matter what we looked at, it became a temporary “Starry Night” or “Mona Lisa” with big crowds assembling to figure out why everyone is looking (note: this is a great way to get visitors to pay more attention to less well-known art).

At MoMA, Johanna was the selector for the first gallery we visited. She skipped “Starry Night” and chose Edvard Munch’s “The Storm” (1893). Everyone knows Munch’s “The Scream.” Fewer know “The Storm” and we were glad to bring more attention to this terrific painting.

Edvard Munch, The Storm, 1893
Slow looking at Munch’s “The Storm” at MoMA. Photo by Johanna.

In our discussion after the slow look, we of course learned more about this artwork and more about each other. Johanna and Jessica Jane are very good close lookers. Meanwhile, Phyl is most sensitive to color, while Ashley’s eye for design picks up composition and texture. 

We finished this first session feeling more connected to each other, and to the art. 

We then moved to the next gallery, where Jessica Jane was the selector. And so it went as we slowly looked our way through MoMA, the Met, the Whitney, The Barnes Foundation (in Philadelphia), the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens.  

From top left – Phyl, Jessica Jane, Ashley and Johanna at MoMA; all of us with Linnea West and Greg Stuart at The Philadelphia Museum of Art; all of us with Lisa Dombrow at the Whitney Museum; and all of us with Bill Perthes at The Barnes Foundation.

Special thanks to the educators who hosted us along the way, including:

  • Bill Perthes, Director of Adult Education at The Barnes Foundation
  • Linnea West, Manager of Adult Public Programs, Philadelphia Museum of Art
  • Greg Stuart, Coordinator of Adult Public Programs, Philadelphia Museum of Art
  • Lisa Dombrow, play activist, educator, and volunteer at MoMA and AMNH (and original ‘slow looker’)

We can’t wait for our Summer 2023 Slow Art Day retreat somewhere in the world (if you want us to come visit you and your institution, then let us know!).

– Phyl, Ashley, Jessica Jane, and Johanna

Retreat with the Global Slow Art Day Team

We just finished our first ever Slow Art Day team retreat with founder Phyl Terry (U.S.) and global team members Ashley Moran (U.S.), Jessica Jane Nocella (Italy), and Johanna Bokedal (Norway). We came together in New York and Philadelphia for nine days of slow art, friendship, and fun.

We will be posting several reports highlighting our time together at:

  • MoMA (New York)
  • The Met (New York)
  • The Whitney (New York)
  • The Barnes Foundation (Philadelphia)
  • The Philadelphia Museum of Art
  • Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens

Like happens all over the world with Slow Art Day, looking slowly deepened our ability to see from multiple perspectives, to love art even more, and to create closer bonds of friendship and community with each other.

In the reports that follow, we’ll share what we saw, what we learned, and the simple slow looking algorithm we used at each venue. 

Highlights include our coordinated dresses at MoMA, our long conversation and slow looking with the Director of Education at the Barnes Foundation (and a very interesting idea he floated), and our time with the team at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. 

Phyl, Jessica Jane, Ashley, and Johanna at MoMA

We are sad to end our retreat.

The good news, though, is we are looking forward to visiting other participating Slow Art Day institutions in future years around the world. 

And, we are even beginning to put together a global Slow Art conference in 2025 in partnership with a great art museum (more on that in the next several months).

With much love,

Phyl, Ashley, Jessica Jane, and Johanna

P.S. Our longtime global coordinator Maggie Freeman, who is studying for a PhD in Islamic Art & Architecture at MIT, could not join us for this one, but we look forward to future summer retreats with her.

A Slow Look at the Trinity with MIT List Visual Arts Center

For their 7th Slow Art Day, the MIT List Visual Arts Center in Cambridge, MA, invited visitors to a slow looking session focused on “Trinity” (Beverly Pepper, 1971), a sculpture from their Public Art Collection.

The event was organized and led by Elizabeth Ponce, Public Programs Coordinator, and Fatima Nasir Abbasi, MIT List Tour Guide.

Beverly Pepper, Trinity, 1971, Cor-Ten steel, 36 x 276 x 288 in. (91.4 x 701 x 731.5 cm), Gift of the Sonnabend Foundation, Photo by Chuck Mayer. 

On the day, participants met as a group and walked over to the sculpture. They were invited to look slowly at the sculpture for 10-15 minutes, and use that time to write, sketch or simply think about the artwork. Following this, the group shared their thoughts with each other.

The group was given the following prompts for the session. (Note: we encourage museum educators to consider copying these for slow looking events featuring sculpture.)

  • Stare at the piece.
  • When your mind begins to wander, refocus on the work.
  • What are your thoughts, experiences, feelings?
  • Consider: Form and shape, scale, color, installation space, concept, emotion, craft, design.
  • Change your perspective.
  • Move around, and observe this sculpture from a different angle.
  • Get close and examine the surface, the construction, and composition.
  • Back up and consider the work in its environment.

Pepper’s sculptures are known to touch on a wide range of themes – including religion, sexuality and emotion. This sculpture was originally titled Dunes I, which evokes images of the desert. The altered title allows viewers to explore a wider range of connotations, including the idea of religious or spiritual unity.

We at the Slow Art Day HQ team always like to see sculpture featured in slow looking events. The three-dimensionality allows participants to move around and engage the artwork from a wide range of perspectives. Further, because scuplture provides so many angles it enhances the way that slow looking connects us not only with art but with ourselves.

We look forward to what the MIT List Visual Arts Center comes up with for their 8th Slow Art Day in 2023.

-Johanna, Ashley, Jessica Jane and Phyl

PS. Stay updated with events at the MIT List Visual Arts Center through their Instagram and Facebook pages.

War and Peace at El Nido Art Space in Los Angeles


On April 2, 2022, the El Nido Art Space presented by VC Projects in Los Angeles, CA hosted their first Slow Art Day, which focused on a two-person exhibition titled “War and Peace” (Ukrainian Voices) by Denys Kushnarov, a Kyiv-based filmmaker, and Yuri Boyko, an LA-based Ukranian-American photographer and artist.

The in-person event featured six short films about Ukraine, which Kushnarov is associated with:

  • “Make Music Not War!” (made after the Donbas region and Crimea Peninsula were annexed by Russia)
  • “Rocketman”
  • “United System”
  • “There is a Place” (dedicated to the Chernobyl tragedy)
  • “Annihilation”
  • Memorial Choir “Ukraina”

Kushnarov also wrote “A Message from Ukraine,” a letter to the world based on the current Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The exhibition also featured the photography series, “Departure and Arrival”, by Boyko, which presented written prose and a visual exploration of the LA-based Ukranian-American artist’s grandmother’s home in Ukraine. Boyko visited the home after 30 years of absence, and found that all family rituals and traditions were still intact. His photographs capture a past that has now been destroyed.

Yuri Boyko, “Departure and Arrival (X)”, photography, pigment print on canvas, 8.5 x 11 in. single edition
Yuri Boyko, “Departure and Arrival (I)”, photography, pigment print on canvas, 8.5 x 11 in. single edition
Yuri Boyko, “Departure and Arrival (IV)”, photography, pigment print on canvas, 8.5 x 11 in. single edition

Victoria Chapman, Founder and Director of VC Projects, curated the exhibition by contacting the two artists in the wake of the Russian invasion. She writes, “What could be more relevant for Slow Art Day … taking pause to reflect on art and humanity.”

The event was attended by 50 guests, and was promoted on their website, where you can find links to the videos and view more of the photography. You can also check out more from VC Projects and the El Nido Art Space on Instagram at VC Projects and El Nido Art Space. Below is a flyer used to promote the event:

We at Slow Art Day HQ are deeply saddened by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, and are glad to see communities come together to reflect on art and humanity.

Ashley, Phyl, Jessica Jane, and Johanna

First Slow Art Day in Gard, France

On April 2, 2022, artist Christine Cougoule held her first Slow Art Day at Showroom Chris & Co. in Gard, France.

Installation in the showroom.

Christine led three one-hour four-step slow-looking sessions:

  • Welcome with a quick mindfulness session
  • Look slowly at 3 works for 10 minutes each
  • End with a quick mindfulness session
  • Discuss words that come to mind while sharing tea

We like this approachable design, which integrates mindfulness (and tea), and encourage the global community to consider copying what she’s done.

Below is some of the art she featured.

Canvas mixed media on paper.

Canvas mixed media: acrylic, ink, charcoal, hand made paper.

Christine publicized her event on both Facebook and Instagram in advance with the below flyer: 

She plans to lead more Slow Art Day sessions throughout the year. Keep a lookout for these on her Facebook and Instagram.

We are thrilled to welcome Christine to the Slow Art Day community, and look forward to her participation in 2023.

Ashley, Phyl, Johanna, Jessica Jane

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.