Birmingham Museum of Art Celebrates 9th Slow Art Day

The Birmingham Museum of Art in Birmingham, Alabama participated in their 9th annual Slow Art Day, where Master Docent Marlene Wallace won new converts to the art of slowing down by observing and discussing 5 selected paintings from the museum’s collection. 

A first-time participant (above left) from the University of Alabama was so inspired that she will be writing a paper about the artwork that she and docent Marlene Wallace (above right) stood in front of: Floral Garland with Holy Family (Descriptive) by Jan van Kessel the Elder, Flemish, Antwerp 1629-1679.

When we originally started Slow Art Day, we had hoped that museums would integrate a variety of slow looking exercises into their regular programming throughout the year. The Birmingham Museum of Art was one of the first to do that when they pioneered Slow Art Sundays.

We look forward to more innovation from The Birmingham Museum of Art including participation in their 10th Slow Art Day in 2020!

Ashley

In Birmingham, Slow Art Day is every Sunday

We at Slow Art Day are excited to learn that Kristi McMillan, assistant curator of education for visitor engagement at the Birmingham Museum of Art (BMA), recently launched a new free program: Slow Art Sundays.

Slow Art Sundays, led by museum docents, presents participants with one artwork to look at slowly from a collection of 24,000+ paintings, sculpture and multimedia works from around the world.

After gathering in the designated gallery space, visitors are provided with stools for their slow looking. Importantly, the experience does not start with a lecture or context-setting by the docent. Instead, it begins with 5 minutes of silence so that participants can quietly observe the artwork.

Following the quiet looking, there is a period of discussion. Docents kick it off by asking simple non-directed questions like, “What is your immediate response?” or “What part of life does this artwork capture?”

McMillan, who works on ways to engage visitors says she believes “in the power of internal and external collaboration in order to address the visitor experience holistically.”

While the museum has experienced great success with their new, regular program, they are also excited to continue annual Slow Art Day events. The BMA is a veteran host museum. In fact, Caroline Wingate, master docent there, started hosting it in 2010 and has since become a leading member of the global Slow Art Day volunteer team. For Slow Art Day 2013, the BMA has decided to invite participants to look slowly at two different artworks at two different times during the day.

We at Slow Art Day plan to introduce Kristi McMillan and Laurel Fehrenbach, public programs coordinator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Last week we profiled Laurel and her initiative “Is This Art?” that includes a similar slow looking approach.

Part of our mission at Slow Art Day is to support these kinds of events at museums throughout the year – and also to connect progressive museum educators and curators with each other so that they can learn from and help each other. If you know of a museum or gallery pursuing slow programming we should know about, please comment here on this blog post or contact us.

And if you’re in the Birmingham area anytime in the coming year, stop by and experience a Slow Art Sunday. The BMA is free and open to the public as is this program.

-Dana-Marie Lemmer, Slow Art Day Coordinator