Earlier this year, the Gardiner Museum, Canada’s ceramics museum, hosted a Slow Art Day event focusing on the social, political, and environmental themes explored in the exhibition Shary Boyle: Outside the Palace of Me. Education Manager, Farrukh Rafiq, guided attendees in slow looking activities and engaged them in a discussion about the works on display.
As a multi-sensory installation, Shary Boyle: Outside the Palace of Me explores how we see ourselves and each other through drawings, ceramic sculpture, life-sized automatons, two-way mirrors, coin-operated sculpture, and an interactive score.
More information about the exhibit and the Gardiner Museum can be found on the links above and via their social media pages: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
This is the third year that Toronto’s Gardiner Museum has held a slow art event and we can’t wait to see what they come up with next year.
Look not only at what is pictured, but how it is pictured.
What kind of colors has the artist used? Are they bright, muted, or somewhere in between?
Can you see how the color has been applied or is the color smooth and blended?
Is there a sense of deep, moderate, shallow, or indeterminate space? Is that space consistent throughout the picture?
Is space clear and well defined or atmospheric? What about how the picture was painted gives it that quality?
Is there the suggestion of a directional light source, of light coming from a one side or the other?
Can you see lines anywhere, whether painted lines or strong edges created by color-to-color areas? Where are lines used and how?
What other observations can you make?
How is the installation piece different from the paintings?
What is the unifying theme of the installation?
Afterwards, Director Ross Mitchell invited participants to the art gallery where he led a discussion on the aesthetic qualities of the pieces. The event was promoted on Glen Foerd’s website and their Instagram page a month in advance.
An Impromptu Slow Looking Session
As we at Slow Art Day HQ started to write this report, we also decided to take few moments to look slowly at all of the works and have our own discussion about them – and we encourage you all to do the same.
Before reading further, scroll back up and look… slowly. Then come back here to read a little about our thoughts.
We were immediately drawn to this work and to its great sense of movement. We debated whether we thought the two winged figures (angels, birds?) were drawn to the light or coming from the light. And we all enjoyed one of the rewards of slow looking at this painting – the eventual realization that there is a third figure. Overall, slowing down with this painting left us with a feeling of hope.
We debated the flatness of this painting, and whether it’s a painting of a painting. We also were drawn to, and discussed, the richness of the table – the wood is like droplets of water falling into a stream. One of us pointed out that the closely-cropped borders give a sense of tightness. And, in a lighter moment, we all agreed that we wanted to move the lit candlesticks away from the flowers. Ultimately, this work brought us feelings of autumn and a sense of sadness.
This several hundred year old painting brought up the most debate. Some of us do not like portraits of the elite, but the power of slowing down is that everyone gets to go beyond the superficial binary of “like / don’t like” – and discovers a new relationship to the artwork. As we looked and then talked, we noticed and discussed a number of things. Several of us were drawn to her facial expression. Is she smirking? We noticed her white dress, shoes, translucent sleeves, and colorful shawl (is that an LGBTQ flag?) and parasol – and also noticed how her ring is displayed prominently. Is the artist making a proto modern-day statement about gender, sexual orientation, marriage? Unlikely. We don’t know, but we are free to see what we see.
We were all immediately drawn to this piece, yet it took us to very different places. For some, this felt like a city at night, with the reflections in the table like lights in a river. For others, this was a library of mid-century modern shelves – the doors opening to reveal mirrors asking us to look deeply within ourselves.For yet others, each of these tiles represented the infinity of possibilities, including the unlimited number of genders.
We at Slow Art Day HQ are happy to see Glen Foerd’s participation for a second year, and look forward to whatever they come up with for Slow Art Day 2023.
Johanna, Jessica, Ashley, and Phyl
P.S. – The Slow Art Day HQ team is getting together this summer in the United States and we are planning to visit Glen Foerd in addition to other NY and Philadelphia museums.
For their first Slow Art Day, Casa Regis, a non-profit association and centre for culture and contemporary art in Valdilana, Italy, featured local artists in a video and social-media-based event.
On April 10, 2021, art photographer and founder of Casa Regis, Mikelle Standbridge, uploaded a series of short videos of different artistic installations on the organization’s Instagram page.
The videos featured a soundscape of birds chirping, as Mikelle briefly introduces works by local artists Sissi Castellano, Daniele Basso, Carla Crosio, Michela Cavagna and herself. Note: the artists were selected and chosen in part because of the interesting juxtaposition of their work against the backdrop of the eighteenth-century building in which Casa Regis is located.
Below you can find pictures of the featured installations, links to the videos, and a brief description of each.
Sissi Castellano‘s silkworm cocoon installation entitled‘ ‘I AM NOT AN ARTIST‘, is based on the Japanese Mingei philosophy of objects, which the artist follows. The Mingei approach simulatenaously focuses on the function and aesthetic value of common household objects.
You can view the installation and the above video here.
Sculptor and artist Daniele Basso‘s ‘Hawk’, which comes from a series called Frames, is a stainless steel and white bronze sculpture. The artist plays with effects of mirroring, showing the complexity and the different levels of reality.
You can find a brief explanation and watch above video here.
Artist Carla Crosio‘s installation, entitled Cancer, is made of of marble, bronze and glass and it takes inspiration from her personal life.
At Slow Art Day HQ, we love the use of video for creating slow looking environments. We recommend that our museum educator and curator friends around the world watch some of the short videos that Mikelle created.
We are also happy to report that their inaugural event was so successful that they then planned in-person Slow Art day events for the rest of 2021. Excellent!
We look forward to whatever Casa Regis comes up with for Slow Art Day 2022.
Jessica, Johanna, Ashley, and Phyl
PS: A press release of the event is available in Italian here.
On April 10, 2021, the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, hosted both in-person and virtual sessions for their 7th Slow Art Day.
For the in-person activity, visitors were first introduced to the concept of slow looking, and were then invited to practice what they learned as they walked through the museum. Participants were encouraged to share their experiences on social media and tag the museum with #PMASlowArtDay.
The virtual event consisted of four separate Zoom sessions focused on slow looking, writing, making, and mindfulness.
For the slow looking session, participants were encouraged to use a naturalist’s attention to detail when looking at still life paintings. Using tools like the Google Art & Education app allowed them to zoom in and experience works of art in a different way compared to in-person.
The Slow Making session took the form of a workshop inspired by the work of artist Judith Rothschild. For this session, participants cut and collaged materials to create their own mixed-media work of art, which resulted in the works you see below.
For this session, participants were guided in a communal writing exploration of portraits in the museum’s exhibition Painting Identity. Participants were asked to imagine and write about the subjects’ identity.
For this virtual session, the Yogi, martial artist, and body worker J Miles of Maha Vira Yoga encouraged participants to find their inner calm with a slow, guided look at a selection of works from the PMA’s collection. This section had a more internal approach compared to the other three sessions.
The events were well received, and the virtual participants responded positively to the PMA survey on Slow Art Day:
“The programs will make me more mindful when visiting the museum. I appreciated the opportunities to look more deeply at works of art that I might have otherwise skipped by.”
“A lovely creative and mindful way to start my day”
Participant’s quote after attending the Museum Mindful Session
“Taking time to smell the virtual flowers and using Google Art & Education app to zoom in on every area of a painting; seeing that each component had significance in the painting.”
Participant’s quote after having attended the Slow Looking session
“…slowing down & listening to/reading other participants comments, seeing their creations… is very rewarding and opens new vistas.”
Participant’s quote after having attended the Slow Making session
“Very creative and uplifting. I felt renewed and encouraged, and also came up with some ideas for my own teaching”
Participant’s quote after having attended the Slow Writing session
At Slow Art Day HQ, we want to thank the Philadelphia Museum of Art for hosting yet another wonderful event. The range of activities they designed inspire us and educators around the world to consider creating multiple workshops and experiences for Slow Art Day.
We look forward to whatever creative designs the Philadelphia Museum of Art comes up with in 2022.
Johanna, Jessica, Ashley, and Phyl
PS. For further information on the museum’s events you can follow their social media accounts: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.
For their 5th Slow Art Day, the Artichoke Gallery at MelonRouge Eatery in Magaliesburg, South Africa, organized an event featuring different art forms by three South African artists:
Handmade Damascus art knives by Bertie Rietveld
An oil painting by Evarné van Niekerk
A pen-drawn labyrinth artwork by Lorraine Reister
Visitors were given a “Meet the Maker” bio of each artist, and were guided around the artworks by facalitator Hanolet Uys, himself an artist.
As part of the event, visitors were also given two blank canvases, acrylic paint, oil, and black permanent markers and were invite to create their own art.
Below are images of the featured artworks.
Following the tour, participants discussed the artworks and artists around a table outside.
In their discussion of the art, participants reflected around the changed meaning of art in the context of a pandemic:
” The Pandemic made me look at art as a bare necessity and not as a ‘”luxury” as before”
“I started an art piece before the pandemic – and the outcome after a year was totally different than what I anticipated beforehand”
The Gallery, which has always been good at creating video artefacts of their event, produced a short TikTok video this year. We recommend that museum educators and other Slow Art Day designers watch it below:
We at Slow Art Day HQ are fans of the Artichoke Gallery and love the effort they put into designing their event every year.
We very much look forward to whatever they come up with in 2022.
Johanna, Jessica, Ashley, and Phyl
P.S. You can follow Artichoke Gallery’s updates on Facebook
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
For their 8th annual (and 2nd virtual) Slow Art event, the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) in Washington DC, invited visitors to take part in a Slow Art Week, which opened on April 2 and culminated in a virtual gathering on April 10, facilitated by a museum educator.
The NMWA created a virtual collection, “(Anything But) Black and White”, for the week of activities. The Museum’s aim with this collection was to remind that life is rarely clearcut, and that we should seek to discover and embrace nuance, variety, and difference. The selected artworks were available to view online throughout the week, and were on display in the museum for those who could visit in person.
The final event of Slow Art Week, held on Saturday the 10th, featured lively conversation about the experience of slow looking. To facilitate more intimate dialogue with the group the museum used breakout rooms, which is a great tool during virtual sessions.
The NMWA provided participants a detailed PDF with instructions to review before joining the session on Saturday 10th.
We encourage museum educators and curators to review the PDF above to get a sense of the design of the whole event. We will highlight just a few things here.
We particularly liked the four guiding questions the NMWA asked participants to consider ahead of the Saturday session. Those questions were the following:
How might art help you appreciate perspectives other than your own?
What are your first impressions or assumptions based on? What do you need for your opinions to evolve or change?
Have you experienced a shift from binary to spectrum thinking about a topic in the last year? What influenced that change in thinking?
How can we seek to “find the gray” in the world around us?
Also in preparation for the Saturday session, the close looking PDF provided various entry points for participants, including prompts for kinesthetic and visual learners. The aim was to give participants the opportunity to approach the process of slow looking in way(s) most comfortable for them. Some of the provocations are listed below.
Consider the artwork’s details. Roll up a sheet of paper to create a viewfinder. Look at the artwork through it to isolate and consider the artwork’s parts.
Arrange things you find around your home to make a temporary found-object sculpture that is inspired by your favorite choice. Take a picture of your sculpture. Post it to social media and tag @womeninthearts and @slowartday.
Create a bank of words and phrases that come to mind as you look at an artwork.
Slow Art Week was well received:
“For the NMWA session I did the independent slow looking first, then attended the Zoom meeting. All of it was rewarding. I enjoyed the chance for interaction in the small groups. Hearing other people talk about their observations, questions, ideas, etc. is a reminder to me that I miss things even when looking closely and/or I interpret what I see differently than other people. Above all what was most meaningful to me was the opportunity to “commune” with other, like-minded (art-minded) people. For a short time I felt less alone. What I enjoyed about the day overall (attended Slow Art Day at both NMWA and Philadelphia Museum of Art) is that I allowed myself to have a whole day for art things, which was like medicine.”
“If you want to learn about and get to know a person, you spend time with them. The same is true with works of art. Time to look, time to pause, time to breathe. Time to process and to just be. NMWA’s works of art deserve this, and so do we. These works can become our life-long friends.”
“I participated in the independent slow looking and in the Zoom meeting. For me, both were important, I guess one needs time to look in your own times and places, and you also arrive prepared to the meeting. The meeting is also important because it is the opportunity to share and to listen to other experiences and views. For me both are learning opportunities and experiences.”
Participant’s quote in response to the moderator’s questions: What element(s) of Slow Art Day did you take part in—independent slow looking, Zoom meeting, both? Which element(s) did you find most rewarding. Why?
“I did not do the independent slow looking exercise since I only decided to participate a short while ahead of enrolling in the session. During the Zoom meeting, I found the conversation that you facilitated thoughtful and respectful, with time given in between words for collective observation. When you added information about the works, it was artfully done, with just the right amount so as to further the looking dialogue that was happening between us.”
We at Slow Art Day HQ would like to thank the NMWA for their long-lasting commitment to Slow Art Day, and love how creative and inclusive their Slow Art Week was. The pandemic has proven quite isolating for many, and we agree, as one participant mentioned, that enjoying art slowly is “like medicine” for the soul.
We look forward to seeing what the NMWA comes up with for Slow Art Day 2022 (and, again, encourage museum educators to review their detailed PDF for ideas and inspiration).
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’).
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.
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.
For their fourth Slow Art Day, the MASS MoCA (Museum of Contemporary Art), in North Adams, Massachusetts, produced a self-guide leaflet for in-person visitors and organized a virtual event for participants at home.
For visitors to MASS MoCA on April 10th, the museum offered a Slow Art Day Self-Guided Itinerary that challenged visitors to take an unhurried look at MASS MoCA’s exhibitions.
Before starting their tour, visitors were invited to try a “forest bath” outside the museum. Below are the guidelines from the leaflet:
“Start your slow experience by putting your phone away; plan on going back through the museum after this tour to take photos. Settle into being at the museum by taking in a few deep breaths. As you do so, observe any tensions in your body and release them. Put on hold any distracting thoughts like ‘I have to see everything!’ or ‘What is this place?’ Next, take a few moments to engage in a forest bath to increase relaxation and awareness.
First, take 3–4 deep breaths in/out.
Stand noticing your feet touching the ground.
Look up to enjoy the sky; feel the light on your face.
Walk around slowly and take notice of the ground.
Notice the trees above, then the trees in the distance.
Notice and feel sunlight streaming through the trees and take in the smell.
If you are feeling ambitious, take a moment to move your body to mimic the trees above. What would it be like to contort yourself the way these trees have changed to grow upside down? (One option could be to try the yoga tree and mountain poses).”
The leaflet featured five artworks from the museum, each accompanied by slow looking prompts:
1. TREE LOGIC. Natalie Jeremijenko.
2. HOW TO MOVE A LANDSCAPE. Blane De St. Croix.
3. IN THE LIGHT OF A SHADOW. Glenn Kaino.
4.DISSOLVE James Turrell.
5. IN HARMONICITY, THE TONAL WALKWAY. Julianne Swartz.
After completing the tour, participants were encouraged to discuss their observations with friends and family, especially if visiting in a group.
For the online event, the museum launched virtual material as part of “MASS MoCA From Home.” Resources included two art “how-to” videos, featuring projects that focused on being present with the art-making process. Watch the videos below and try the projects for yourself.
As the final part of the program, MASS MoCA also produced a guided meditation that focused on the painting ‘Indian Summer – Four Seasons‘ by Wendy Red Star. Watch it below.
At Slow Art Day HQ, we love the way MASS MoCA incorporated nature and mindfulness in their event for both onsite and offsite participants – giving everyone an opportunity to slow down in different ways.
We are excited for their 5th Slow Art Day in 2022!
On April 10, the museum invited participants to watch the below video showcasing the sculptures.
We recommend that museum educators and Slow Art Day fans around the world watch this simple and lovely slow looking video. The video is also accessible through the Museum’s website and social media channels: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.