Payal Thiffault and Michelle May, founders of Juniper Rag magazine and Slow Art Day pioneers going back to the founding, held their 2023 Slow Art Day at The White Room Gallery in Worcester, MA. They invited both the public and the following New England-based artists whose work was on exhibition at the gallery:
Curtis Speer, Newport, RI
Scott Boilard, Worcester, MA
Howard Johnson, Jr., Worcester, MA
John Pagano, Paxton, MA
Sue Swinand, Worcester, MA
Tara Sellios, Boston, MA
Participants arrived for the event and began slowly looking at the artwork, with questions and discussions organically began as everyone looked at the artwork. Having the artists present created a lot of additional excitement.
Viewing began with a look at Scott Boilard’s surrealist painting, ‘Nightmares of Time’, which incorporates figurative imagery and appears to illustrate tension, passion and an emotional journey that the viewer can piece together in many different ways. Attendees were intrigued by the subject matter, the techniques used and the feeling of motion in the piece. Uniquely, the artist had the opportunity to talk about his concept in painting the work and how it related to self-expression and the feelings that come from societal pressure. Discussing his art so intimately was a great kick-off to the day.
Visitors also viewed work by Howard B. Johnson, Jr. who creates landscapes of symbolic references and double entendres that keep the viewer’s eye moving all over the art. Humor, visual taunts and esoterica left many viewers with endless questions.
They then moved on to fine art photographs by Tara Sellios and Curtis Speer and ended the viewing with paintings by Susan Swinand and John Pagano.
Viewers reported leaving with in-depth insights and reflections on all of the work. The hosts said that they found it rewarding to see the different perspectives, from art educators, conservators, engineers and doctors.
We love the way Michelle May and Payal Thiffault continue to lead the Slow Art Day movement – and continue to keep their own minds open to constant and ongoing learning. We look forward to seeing what they come up with for Slow Art Day 2024!
Participants were first invited to look slowly at the following five artworks:
“Enderroc” by Ignasi Aballí
“Rinzen, Subito despertar” by Antoni Tàpies
“Eco de una carta inacabada” by Elena del Rivero
“Movil Home” by Mona Hatoum
“Dialegs de Llum” by Josep Grau-Garriga
After the slow looking exercise, art therapists Aura Pizarro, Joaquim Basart and Maribel Perpiñá led the group in a facilitated discussion using gestalt psychotherapy, which focuses on one’s present life rather than on past experiences. Through the discussion, participants shared reactions to the art and discovered common themes of friendship, play, family, pain, and happiness.
Slow Art Day is founded on the principle of being present in the moment, and we at HQ love to see how MACBA and the Fundacion La Casa Ambar combined Slow Looking with Gestalt Art Therapy. The Fundacion La Casa Ambar also mentioned that they offer therapy to everyone, irrespective of economic means — and radical inclusivity is another shared principle with Slow Art Day.
We are excited to see what the MACBA and the Fundacion La Casa Ambar come up with for Slow Art Day 2024.
For their first Slow Art Day, the British Museum, in London, UK, collaborated with the Can Do Project, a skills-development programme for people aged 16-35 with a disability or long-term health condition, run by the resendential care company Leonard Cheshire.
The week-long Zoom-based slow looking program was initiated by the British Museum’s Volunteer Coordinator for Access, Equality and Young People, Jessica Starns, along with Leonard Cheshire’s Programme Coordinator, Deborah Sciortino.
During sessions, participants were invited to take a long look at objects from the museum collection, and observe their shapes, contours and colors. These ‘Can Doers’ then gave their opinion on what they believed the objects were used for. Afterwards, a brief history about the object was shared by a facilitator to spark further discussion. In the final session, participants were asked to choose their favorite object and create a short presentation about it. Alongside looking at objects slowly, topics such as equality and diversity, employability skills, helping visitors to make sense of their visit to the museum, and online safety on social media were covered with help from the Leonard Cheshire Marketing Team.
On April 10, 2021, the events culminated with a presentation of the participants’ favorite objects in collaboration with the Keiken Collective, which worked with the group to develop object reveal Instagram filters and create digital postcards using 3D scanned museum objects on the 3D & AR platform Sketchfab. The collective took inspiration from the fact that the British Museum has been selling postcards for over one hundred years. The presentations were pre-recorded at home by participants, then played for the group in the live session.
Thomas Winter, the Digital Marketing Volunteer at Leonard Cheshire, wrote a blog post about the events that is worth reading.
At Slow Art Day HQ, we are excited that the British Museum, together with the Can Do Project and the Keiken Collective, designed such an inclusive Slow Art Day event. It inspires all of us when educators and organizations collaborate to design new kinds of slow looking experiences.
We look forward to seeing what the British Museum comes up with for Slow Art Day in 2022 (and would love to see another collaboration).
Jessica, Johanna, Ashley, and Phyl
P.S. The British museum has an extensive volunteer programme which you can view here.
For their first Slow Art Day, the MO Museum in Vilnius, Lithuania, organized a free multi-lingual international event on Zoom as part of their MO Conversations program. On 10 April 2021, the museum hosted five conversation groups throughout the day to discuss ‘Interior XI,’ an artwork by Romanas Vilkauskas, in English, Russian, or Lithuanian.
Participants were invited to join a session in their preferred language and look slowly at the artwork before joining a discussion with one of the facilitators: Karen Vanhercke for English; Simona Košinskaitė and Justina Kaminskaitė for Lithuanian; and Irina Leto for Russian.
The aim was to encourage participants to connect with a single artwork for an entire hour, and no prior knowledge of art was required. The facilitators were well versed in the “visual thinking strategy” (VTS) discussion technique, which they used for the sessions.
Participants loved the event and left positive feedback:
Looking at, instead of reading about, the art: the practice of ‘slow art’ transformed my experience and gave me a deeper connection.
Actually, the major takeaway from today’s Zoom call, was my change of perception! In one hour the artpiece changed in front of my eyes. In the beginning it was just an artwork, but in the end it was a story.
The discussion made me appreciate it on different levels: peeling away at the layers of expression… It is truly a great piece, and great to see how timeless and flexible art can be.
At Slow Art Day HQ, we are excited that the MO Museum designed such an inclusive slow art event in three different languages. We encourage museum educators to consider multi-lingual options for future Slow Art Day events, and we look forward to whatever they come up with 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 first Slow Art Day, the National Gallery Singapore, in Singapore, invited participants to join one of two events hosted by the Gallery:
Slow Art Online: a virtual 60-minute slow-looking program
Slow Art Plus: an in-person 90-minute slow-looking and mindfulness program
The Slow Art Online virtual program featured slow-looking exercises followed by discussions, facilitated by the Gallery’s docents. Started during the pandemic, this program has become so popular that it is now a regular part of the Gallery’s calendar throughout the year. For details about future sessions, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the Slow Art Plus in-person event, visitors participated in mindfulness exercises and were invited to look slowly at a selection of artworks, including Georgette Chen’s Lotus In A Breeze (1970).
Dr. Mabel Yap, a trained mindfulness practitioner, guided participants through mindfulness exercises that she designed to engage the senses. This was followed by a group discussion about the intersection between visual art and emotional wellness in modern Southeast Asian art. The way the mindfulness exercises slowed down the participants and helped them connect to the art explains why this approach has deservedly become a big part of Slow Art Day events around the world.
Interested participants snapped up free tickets to both programs rapidly, and people both new and familiar with the Gallery had positive feedback.
“I didn’t realise how much we can observe and gain from art by being mindful. I liked that the various exercises helped to guide us and provided variety.”
“(I really enjoyed) viewing the art piece at length and noticing more details… and hearing others’ perspectives how the paintings were relevant to their experience.”
“Fusing the concepts of mindfulness and art! Wonderful exercises with the facilitator. Very interactive.”
“(I really enjoyed) how I’m stretched to think and look at the art piece in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise.”
At Slow Art Day HQ, we love that the National Gallery Singapore has decided to produce ongoing virtual sessions. Our mission from day one has been to use the annual event as a way to inspire regular slow looking activities throughout the year.
We were also glad to see yet another museum integrate mindfulness into their Slow Art Day.
We look forward to what the National Gallery Singapore come up with next year.
Johanna, Jessica, Ashley, and Phyl.
P.S. You can check out the Facebook and Instagram page of National Gallery Singapore for more information about upcoming events.
On April 10th, the Justice Arts Coalition (JAC) in Silver Spring, Maryland, hosted their first Slow Art Day event. The JAC is a nationwide network connecting incarcerated artists, teaching artists, arts advocates, and allies.
They hosted a virtual slow-looking Zoom session that featured three works of art from their inaugural virtual exhibition Inside & Out, which features work by 30+ incarcerated and formerly incarcerated artists:
Jody E. Borhani d’Amico, ‘My friend’. Acrylic.
Harry T. Ellis, ‘Women Working’. Oil on canvas.
Shani Shih, ‘Needle at the Bottom of the Sea’. Pen & Ink on Bristol paper.
The event was advertised on social media ahead of time, and participants were invited to a Zoom session where they looked slowly at the works and then discussed their understanding of the art and of creativity and justice.
The session was well received by participants:
“When I look at art in general, I tend to be really analytical, but this was a great opportunity to really slow down and get into my feelings around art. I really enjoyed reflecting on this new way of understanding and connecting to art.”
Slow Art Day Participant
“I love this picture. Every time you look at it (I confess to have seen it before) you see something new. I see it as a rescue of the fawn but you could see it as a baby stolen from its mother. The sun is coming through the trees. That’s optimistic. But there are also lots of nets or fences around. Keeping people in? Or keeping people safe?
Participant’s thoughts on “About My Friend”, by Jody E. Borhani D’Amico
At Slow Art Day HQ, we love JAC’s vision of “shaping public dialogue around the intersection of the arts and justice”, and their focus on community-building through art. Their Slow Art Day event, and their aim to support the creativity of incarcerated artists, remind us that both slow art and human connection do not require any expertise; just curiosity and a willingness to see them in new ways.
We look forward to a second Slow Art Day with the Justice Art Coalition in 2022. If you are interested in remaining updated with the artists and work at JAC, you can follow them on their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages.
[Note: Slow Art Day 2021 is coming up Saturday, April 10 – read the 2020 report for ideas on how to design your slow looking events.]
In this interview, Annalisa Banzi, Ph.D. (researcher in museum studies, psychology and neuroscience at CESPEB-Bicocca University) shares some ideas on “Wellness and Museums” with Elisabetta Roncati (art influencer), and focuses on Slow Art Day as a great example of programs that help with mental health.
Banzi and Roncati discuss the powerful effect of slow looking and how Slow Art Day is radically inclusive – i.e., allows people to include themselves in the art experience.
Moreover, Banzi argues that Slow Art Day has become a useful way to enhance people’s mental wellbeing during the pandemic *and* has given an important way for museums to interact with visitors all over the world.