Slow Art for Educators at the Smithsonian

For their second Slow Art Day, The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art in Washington, D.C., organized a virtual slow looking workshop specifically for art educators focused on the Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849). The aim of the session was to share slow looking ideas and skills that can be applied as teaching methods.

Detail of Katsushika Hokusai. Thunder God. Edo period, 1847. Ink and color on paper. 126.9 x 53.8 cm (49 15/16 x 21 3/16 in). Courtesy of Freer Gallery of Art.
Katsushika Hokusai. Thunder God. Edo period, 1847. Ink and color on paper. 126.9 x 53.8 cm (49 15/16 x 21 3/16 in). Courtesy of Freer Gallery of Art.

After a brief introduction by Education Specialist Jennifer Reifsteck, Faylinda Kodis, high-school Visual Educator, led the slow looking activity. BoBeen Chung, Program Assistant for the Department of Engagement and Visitor Experience, supported by sharing links for participants in the chat. The structure of the session is outlined below.

1. Start with a relaxation and meditation “eye palming” activity

2. Observe Hokusai’s “Thunder God” for 10 minutes – without prior knowledge of the work (and without distractions, including mobile phones).

3. Write observations on Hokusai’s artwork using the following prompts:

  • Describe: What did you see?
  • Analyze: Why do you think the artist made certain decisions in this artwork?
  • Interpret: What is the message, story, or theme of this artwork?
  • Inquire: What would you like to know about this artwork?

4. Discussion of the artwork and observations

Jennifer Reifsteck closed the day’s program by sharing a brief history of the Freer and Sackler’s Galleries, information on Hokusai’s collection, and where to find lesson plans and useful material for educators on the Gallery’s website.

We encourage educators to view the recording of the session and this Google doc highlighting the participants’ reflections.

Screenshot from the beginning of the Zoom session.

The event was attended by 53 participants from all over the world, including Romania, France, India, Austria, and several states across the United States: Virginia, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Connecticut, Florida, California, Rhode Island, and New York.

Participants loved the event, and left positive feedback:

“Congratulations and THANK YOU for today’s work and the follow-on resources. What lovely teamwork and expertise to share with us educators. Thanks to all participants, too!”

Participant’s quote from Zoom’s chat

“These resources/sharings are some of the BEST things that have come out of the pandemic, RIGHT?  Bless your good work!”

Participant’s quote from Zoom’s chat

“Amazing! Thank you, I am very inspired by this educational slow looking technique.”

Participant’s quote from Zoom’s chat

“Thank you for this wonderful approach to perception.”

Participant’s quote from Zoom’s chat

“Excellent, very informative & inspirational lessons on slow looking with Hokusai at Freer with you. Thank you so much.”

Participant’s quote from Zoom’s chat

“Thank you for all of this. It was very informative and of great benefit for me and my teaching going forward.”

Participant’s quote from Zoom’s chat

“Therapeutic to slow look. I appreciate this platform to collaboratively slow look and appreciate out loud. So I’m curious if the Freer or other art museums are offering more mornings like this to bring folks together for the shared experience. Now that the nation is ZOOMING as never before, it unleashes some more possibilities.”

Participant’s quote from Zoom’s chat

At Slow Art Day HQ, we are excited that the Smithsonian designed a slow art event specifically for educators, which advances our mission of equipping educators with the skills to implement slow looking in their teaching.

We look forward to seeing what they come up with in 2022!

Johanna, Jessica, Ashley, and Phyl

Forest Bathing + Mindfulness at MASS MoCA

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.

Slow Art Day Self-Guided Itinerary

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.

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Natalie Jeremijenko, Tree Logic, 1999. 6 flame maple trees, 8 35 feet telephone poles, stainless steel planters and armature, aircraft table and drip irrigation system, photo: Zoran Orlic. Courtesy of MASS MoCA
Blane De St. Croix. HOW TO MOVE A LANDSCAPE. Building 4, 1st floor. Courtesy of MASS MoCA.
Glenn Kaino. IN THE LIGHT OF A SHADOW. Building 5.
Courtesy of MASS MoCA.
James Turrell. DISSOLVE. Building 6, 2nd floor. Courtesy of MASS MoCA.
Julianne Swartz. IN HARMONICITY, THE TONAL WALKWAY. Building 10, 2nd floor.

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.

Slow virtual Art-making video: Paper Pulp Clay. This project is inspired by Louise Bourgeois’ Untitled.
Slow virtual Art-making video: Frozen Watercolors. This project is inspired by James Turrell’s Dissolve.

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.

SLOW LOOKING MEDITATION video with Wendy Red Star’s Indian Summer – Four Seasons

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!

Johanna, Jessica, Ashley, and Phyl

Meditation on Color: Slow Art Day in Dubai

For their second Slow Art Day, the Jameel Arts Centre, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, hosted an in-person slow looking and meditation event dedicated to Hiwa K’s work ‘My Father’s Colour Period.’

In April, (pre-registered) participants were invited to the centre for a free slow looking meditation event, led by Palestinian artist and designer Faissal El-Malak. The session focused on ‘My Father’s Colour Period‘, an instillation by Hiwa K, which is currently on display at Jameel Arts Centre as part of the solo exhibition: ‘Hiwa K: Do you remember what you are burning?

Hiwa K. ‘My Father’s Colour Period’, from the solo exhibition by Hiwa K. ‘Do you remember what you are burning?’ 11000×500.
Courtesy of Jameel Arts Centre. Photo by Daniella Baptista.

The instillation is based on the artist’s memories:

“A rumor spread in 1979 that the state-owned television station would show a film in color despite the fact that most televisions were black and white. Unlike in cities with Arab inhabitants, the majority of the people in the Kurdish area of Iraq still didn’t have color TV sets.

So my father decided to cut a sheet of colored cellophane and stick it on the screen of our TV at home. It stayed a whole week until he switched it to another color […] After a while, I realized that my father was not the only one making his own color TV. Many other people in the Kurdish area had devised their own unique filters.”

Hiwa K. Quote taken from the artist’s website.
Hiwa K. My Father’s Colour Period’ from the solo exhibition ‘Do you remember what you are burning?’ 11000×500.
Courtesy of Jameel Arts Centre. Photo by Daniella Baptista.

On April 10, participants were encouraged to wear comfortable clothing and bring yoga mats or blankets to sit on. They first looked slowly at the installation, then closed their eyes and participated in a meditation on color. Participants were guided through various steps to explore the idea of shades and nuances in color. After the meditation, participants had the opportunity to discuss their emotions and reflections on the experience.

Visitors watching the installation by Hiwa K. ‘Do you remember what you are burning?’
Courtesy of Jameel Arts Centre. Photo by Daniella Baptista.

Following the meditation, participants were given a guided tour of the current exhibitions at the Centre, including the remainder of the solo exhibition.

The event was part of an ongoing series at the Centre, which focuses on promoting engagement with art as a wellness practice. The Centre had a similar theme for their first Slow Art Day in 2020, which was a virtual and guided meditation. It can still be experienced here.

If you would like to know more about events at Jameel Art Centre, you can follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

At Slow Art Day HQ, we love the way Faissal El-Malak and the team at Jameel Art Center designed their 2021 Slow Art Day. The photos of visitors watching the installation and the inclusion of meditation and yoga mats makes us wish we could have been there.

And as we look slowly at this installation, we find ourselves eagerly anticipating how future artists will help us see the Covid-19 pandemic in new ways.

We look forward to whatever the Jameel Art Centre comes up with for their third Slow Art Day in 2022.

Johanna, Jessica, Ashley, and Phyl

Red Zenith asks: What is Your Definition of Slow Art?

For their first Slow Art Day, the online platform Red Zenith Collective launched on April 10, 2021 the project ‘What is Your Definition of Slow Art?‘ with a day-long series of four virtual activities dedicated to the meaning and potential of slow art.

These activities included:

  • An Instagram interview about slow art and sustainability.
  • A downloadable PDF with slow looking prompts, available to participants throughout the day.
  • A collaborative video project: ‘What is Your Definition of Slow Art?
  • An art meditation on the painting ‘Flamenco Singer‘ (Sonia Delaunay, 1916).
Sonia Delaunay, Flamenco Singer, 1916

Red Zenith Collective was founded by two Polish artists, Marta Grabowska and Zula Rabikowska as a platform for women, female-identifying and non-binary creatives with a link to Central and Eastern Europe. The Slow Art Day event was conceptualized and realized by Marta Grabowska, who is also a slow art activist.

Participants were first invited to watch an Instagram interview on definitions of slow art, including how to cultivate sustainability of slow looking in art and curatorship. Marta Grabowska interviewed Veronika Cechova and Tereza Jindrova, curators at the Entrance Gallery in Prague, Czech Republic – the first artistic space in Prague to include ecological sustainability and the environment in its long-term program.

Watch the recorded interview here.

Grawbowska also created a terrific ‘Guide to Slow Looking: Slow Art Exercises – Pandemic Edition.’ We highly recommend all Slow Art Day educators and curators take a look at this and learn from her approach.

The final event of the day was a Zoom art meditation on the painting ‘Flamenco Singer‘ by a Russian-French artist Sonia Delaunay. The meditation was the first in a series of art meditations written by Grabowska, who wrote the script. The meditation lasted 20 minutes and was scripted based on primary and secondary sources of the artists and their work.

Participants loved the program, and left very positive feedback:



Amazing way to focus your attention and learn a bit of art history. 

Shane Hart


A very memorable experience. Allowed me to be mindful and really enjoy the vibrant artwork.

Julia 


Great idea to marry meditation practices and art! I want more! 

Anonymous


I wasn’t sure what to expect, as the name of the artist was not released until the last minute, but it was a gorgeous experience. The koshi bells were mesmerising! Both the writer and the provider are very knowledgeable and managed to create an alternative education setting that captivated us greatly!

Anonymous


At Slow Art Day HQ, we are impressed by and excited to learn more about Marta Grabowska’s ongoing research – perhaps even as part of the 2022 Red Zenith Collective Slow Art Day!

– Johanna, Jessica, Ashley, Phyl

5-in-1 at Albany Institute’s First Slow Art Day

For their first Slow Art Day, the Albany Institute of History and Art in Albany, NY, hosted five interconnected virtual events:

  • Social media slow looking activity
  • Word clouds from the virtual activity
  • Slow panning video
  • Wellness workshop
  • A “look & learn” for families

On April 10, the museum started their Slow Art Day by sharing three artworks to Instagram.

Viewers were asked to respond with one-word descriptions of the images, which the museum turned into word clouds to illustrate the feelings evoked. “Breezy”, “depth” and “freedom” were frequent responses.

The museum also produced a slow looking video that features the sculpture “The Fist” by Alice Morgan Wright. Viewers were encouraged to find a quiet space, silence their technology, take a few deep breaths, and observe the sculpture for one minute in silence. The video slowly circles the sculpture, allowing viewers to see it from every angle. At the end of the minute, the video moderator guides participants through thought provoking questions about the sculpture. View the video below and try this slow-looking activity for yourself.

Slow looking video of Alice Morgan Wright, ‘The Fist’, 1921. Video produced by The Albany Insitute of History and Art.

For the Zoom-based wellness workshop ‘Making Meaning: Meditating on Artwork as Wellness’, participants were guided through an hour of exploring, viewing, and discussing works of art with licensed art therapist Chloe Hayward. They were also invited to share an object from their personal space as a vehicle for connecting to the artworks. The session ended with a guided meditation.

People responded positively to the digital events hosted by the Albany Institute, with one participant calling them “invaluable at this time”. Victoria Waldron, Education Assistant at the Albany Institute, said the Albany Institute’s first Slow Art Day program was a success, with 60+ combined participant and social media interactions.

At Slow Art Day HQ, we love that the Albany Institute of History and Art chose to host five connected events for their first Slow Art Day, and are already excited to see what they plan for Slow Art Day 2022.

– Johanna, Jessica, Ashley

Slow Looking Meditations with the National Gallery

During the spring 2020 Covid19 lockdown, the National Gallery in London began releasing 5-minute long art meditation videos on YouTube in order to promote mental wellbeing among the public.

5-minute Meditation: Bonington’s ‘An Estuary in Northern France’, The National Gallery, YouTube

Written by Christina Bradstreet, Courses and Events Programmer at the National Gallery, the meditation videos were produced at home by members of the gallery’s digital team and promoted across social media platforms.

So far, the slow looking video-series has included meditations on:

Turner’s ‘Rain, Steam, and Speed’

Redon’s ‘Ophelia among the Flowers

Rosa Bonheur’s ‘The Horse Fair’

Bonington’s ‘An Estuary in Northern France’

Zurbarán’s ‘A Cup of Water and a Rose’

A true slow looking pioneer, Bradstreet is a powerful advocate at the National Gallery for slow programming throughout the year. When we asked her how she first became aware of the power of slow looking, she recalled how she felt as she walked home after attending her first mindfulness class:

“I felt acutely aware of the crunch of my footsteps on the gravel, the air on my skin, the bird song – and I thought, “wow! maybe mindfulness can really help us to savour the sensory details of paintings.”

Christina Bradstreet

Her positive experience inspired her to design a range of events at the gallery, such as finding wonder in familiar paintings like Van Gogh’s ‘The Sunflowers’, mindful looking, drawing sessions, and, during the lockdown, the above meditation videos.

National Gallery visitors enjoying a slow looking activity (pre-lockdown).
Picture courtesy of the National Gallery.

The first two slow looking videos have been an enormous success, with an average of 16,000 hits each on Youtube, and a total of 260k hits and counting across the gallery’s social media platforms.

Viewers have also given strongly positive feedback:

“Well done. Please do more.”  

*Delightful*”

“Fabulous meditation! Thank you so much for these slow looks.” 

“Soul touching and relaxing with a new breath of freshness.”

“I’ve seen this painting many times but I never saw the hare, or the people at the side of the river [in Turner’s ‘Rain, Steam, and Speed’]. Thank you so much!” 

Participant Quotes

Bradstreet also shared with us some thoughts on the design of these 5-minute videos:

Rather than simply offering a slow looking experience, I’m interested in choosing meditation techniques that connect with the paintings content or how it was painted, so that the art and the meditation enhance one another. For example, in the video on Rosa Bonheur’s The Horse Fair, I explore the theme of the commotion of the busy horse fair as a metaphor for the busy mind, and think about how we might stay mindful when the world is chaotic around us. Clearly, these themes can be taken much further in a longer meditation. However, we have kept these short, partly because many of our audience will be beginners at meditation, and partly because we don’t want to add to online fatigue!

Christina Bradstreet

The National Gallery has truly captured the essence of slow looking within these meditation videos, and I have loved incorporating the short art meditations into my own workday as a way to relax. I recommend that you do the same.

I and the whole Slow Art Day HQ team hope that these videos inspire more slow looking around the world. We can’t wait to see what Christina Bradstreet and the National Gallery in the UK design for Slow Art Day 2021.

– Johanna

Art and Wellness: Zoom Webinar with the Frost Art Museum

For their 8th Slow Art Day, The Patricia & Philip Frost Art Museum in Miami, FL, hosted a live webinar conversation focused on art and wellness with artist Carol Brown Goldberg, facilitated by Miriam Machado, Curator of Education at the Frost Art Museum (click on the image below to watch the webinar).

Slow Art Day Webinar: ‘A conversation with artist Carol Brown Goldberg on her series Tangled Nature and her exhibition at the Frost’. Screenshot: Johanna

The conversation between Machado and Brown Goldberg was themed around “the meditative power of creating art through line and color”. Among other things, Brown Goldberg said that entangled lines can be seen as a metaphor for understanding our own lives. She illustrated her comments by using two of her artworks as examples: Extravagant Eden 8 (2015) and Maggie on My Mind (2015).

Carol Brown Goldberg, Extravagant Eden 8 (2015), Pen and Ink on Paper, 11 x 18 inches.
Carol Brown Goldberg, Maggie on My Mind (2015), Acrylic on Canvas, 79 x 58 inches

Viewers shared their own reflections and questions with Machado and posted comments on Florida International University’s (FIU) social media pages. When they were asked if the webinar was helpful in thinking about art and wellness, an impressive 96.15% responded “yes”.

Brown Goldberg said that many might come out of the current Covid19 lockdown with a renewed appreciation of the power of slow looking with art, including how it can impact overall health and wellness.

Though 18% of participants were from the FIU community (including professors, staff, and students), most were from out-of-state and even from a range of countries:

  • 39% from Florida
  • 37% from the Maryland/DC area (where the artist resides)
  • 21% from across the U.S. (CA, NJ, NY, MA, MN, VA)
  • 3% from outside the U.S. (Germany and the United Arab Emirates)

Further, an amazing 60% of the viewers had never visited the Frost Art Museum, which is a testament to how virtual webinars can bring new audiences to museums.

As Slow Art Day Blog Editor, I absolutely loved this webinar and the reflective dialogue between Machado and Brown Goldberg, and recommend it to anyone wishing to engage in a deeper reflection around art, wellness, science, color and lines.

All of us at Slow Art Day look forward to The Frost Art Museum’s 9th Slow Art Day in 2021.

– Johanna

Mindful Slow-Looking with The Fotomuseum

For their 5th Slow Art Day, The Fotomuseum in Antwerp, Belgium, provided a virtual slow-looking mindfulness exercise (in Dutch) for people at home during the Covid19 pandemic.

Title picture of the instructions for the event Slow Art Day at Home organised by the Fotomuseum, Antwerp.

Participants were encouraged to choose an image, drawing or photo to look at for 5-10 minutes and find a comfortable seated position. The Fotomuseum outlined 5 stages for its meditative slow-looking activity:

1) Relax

“Close your eyes. Pay attention to your breath, and put one hand on your stomach to feel it. If your mind wanders, return to your breath. Breathe in for 4 seconds and out for 6. Repeat this 5 times.”

2) Look at your artwork

“Open your eyes and look at the artwork with the same alertness you had for your breath. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do you notice?
  • What colors, composition, shapes and materials do you see?
  • Does the artwork remind you of events from your own life?
  • Would anyone else notice the same things as you?

If your mind wanders, try to return to the image.”

3) Breathe

“Close your eyes a second time, and return focus to your breathing. Take a few deep breaths so you feel the air flow deeply into your lungs, and then breathe as normal again. Pay attention to any thoughts about the artwork, but try to not lose yourself in them. Return to your breathing again.”

4) Look a second time

“Open your eyes and look at the artwork for the second time.

  • What stands out to you now?
  • Do you notice anything new?
  • Does the artwork take on a new meaning for you?”

5) Reflect

“Take a moment to reflect on the exercise.

  • Did you notice yourself thinking or looking in a different way?
  • Do you have a new or different connection with the artwork?”

The original in-person event planned by the museum attracted interest from over 150 prospective attendees, and the online instructions were shared to Facebook with 50+ interactions.

At Slow Art Day HQ we have loved using these thoughtful instructions for our own slow-looking. Try them out at home for yourself!

We look forward to The Fotomuseum’s 6th Slow Art Day in 2021 ― hopefully in their actual museum.

– Johanna

Note: The above instructions were translated from the original Dutch.

PS – You may want to take a look at the webinar they did for Slow Art Day last year.

Inhotim Brazil Slows Down for Art and Nature

2019 was the first year Slow Art Day came to Brazil’s largest foundation of contemporary art, Inhotim, which is also one of the largest outdoor art centers in Latin America. Located in Brumadinho (Minas Gerais), just 60 km (30 miles) away from Belo Horizonte, the Institute has a total area of 1942.25 acres in the biome of the Atlantic Forest.

Renan Zandomenico, educator and mediator, began the Slow Art Day experience in the central area of the Institute, where he says the memory of the past and the present combine in diverse species groups, and where the main tree, Enterolobium contortisiliquum, names the space.

After leaving the central area, the Slow Art Day visitors walked slowly over to their first artwork, Bisected triangle, Interior curve, 2002, by Dan Graham.

“Walking along the lakes slowly and seeing the integration of art and nature, we entered and stayed in Dan Graham’s Bisected triangle, Interior curve, 2002. Slowing down allowed us to experience how Graham’s distorted glass subverts the colors and shapes of the trees and buses and of the other artworks surrounding the area,” said Zandomenico (see photo below).

Slow Art Day 2019 participants looking out and through Dan Graham’s Bisected triangle, Interior curve, 2002 (photo by Daniela Paoliello)

The program continued by slowly entering nearby pavilions which house the works La intimidad de la luz en St Ives: Inhotim, 1997, by Argentine artist Victor Grippo, and Black ³, 2008, by North American artist Robert Irwin. In the pavilions, Zandomenico asked the participants to slow down and contemplate the nuances of light while also listening to the “breath of nature.”

They then went to their final artwork Im Here, But nothing, 2000, by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Her work allowed them to “pause and search for details and memories through the ultra-violet and domestic atmosphere” created by Kusama’s art.

They finished Slow Art Day in the garden with conversation and a breathing exercise next to the blue palm (Bismarckia nobilis). The participants talked about how slowing down surprised them and allowed them to see and be inspired by art and nature (and art in nature) in new ways.

Inhotim was clearly able to provide Slow Art Day 2019 participants with a powerful meditative and multi-sensory experience. We look forward to their 2020 participation.

– Ashley

Meditative Slow Art Day 2019 at Butler Gallery

For Slow Art Day 2019, Butler Gallery in Kilkenny, Ireland invited visitors to slow down, focus, and connect with artworks in the exhibition: Poulaphouca: New Paintings & Works on Paper by Wicklow-based, Texas born artist Sam Reveles.

The event began with a guided meditation facilitated by Suzanne Martius, Hatha Yoga practitioner. 

Guided meditation facilitated by Suzanne Martius.

This was followed with a Slow Art looking session and guided discussion facilitated by Jean Mann, Interim Learning and Public Engagement Curator at Butler Gallery.

Jean Mann, Interim Learning and Public Engagement Curator at Butler Gallery, facilitating slow observation of artwork “Elemental Span, 2018” by artist Sam Reveles.

We look forward to what Butler Gallery comes up with for Slow Art Day 2020.

– Ashley