For their first Slow Art Day, the Hafnarborg Art Museum in Hafnarfjörður, Iceland, shared a selection of sketches by artists Eiríkur Smith and Elías B. Halldórsson to Instagram between the 4th and 9th of April, 2020.
Their slow-looking event aimed to help participants ease pandemic stresses. Viewers were invited to look slowly at the monotone artworks, then were encouraged to create their own sketches as a way to ground themselves in the present.
The Museum’s thoughtful captions addressed the importance of talking about mental wellbeing:
Art mirrors our experience, helping us cope with our situation through the basic human emotions expressed in the artwork, whether that be happiness, sorrow, anxiety or loneliness.
Some may feel a sense of anxiety during this ban on public gatherings, as stress or pressure to act or do something productive can be felt in the air. Therefore, we urge you to take a moment to sit down and put a pencil to paper without worrying too much about the result, only focusing on the process itself and being in the now.
Captions to the The Hafnarborg Museum’s Slow Art Day Instagram Posts, April 2020.
The posts were liked 55+ times and the theme resonated with the viewers, with one participant commenting “Vel orðað” (“Well Said”).
At Slow Art Day HQ, we are impressed by the Hafnarborg Art Museum’s sensitivity in addressing the mental health issues affecting people during the pandemic. The power of art to both bring people together and help manage stress during uncertain times are themes that we have seen throughout Slow Art Day 2020 events.
We look forward to what the Hafnarborg Art Museum comes up with for Slow Art Day 2021.
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.
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:
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.”
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.
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.”
“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!”
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!
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.
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).
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.