For their fifth Slow Art Day, The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, CA, invited the public via Instagram to look slowly at Narcisse-Virgile Diaz de la Peña’s ‘The Approaching Storm.’
The event was inspired by the Norton Simon’s regular Mindful Looking sessions, where visitors focus on looking at one artwork for one hour.
Viewers were guided by two prompts:
Step inside this scene and sit under the light.
How does it feel? In times of uneasiness, where do you find light?
We’d also like to note that the museum provided an unusually good description of the artwork – not filled with jargon but instead with accessible, compelling, and even poetic words.
”In the midst of an approaching storm, a beacon of light shines down through a gunmetal sky onto a rocky landscape. A lone woman by the rocks nestled in the middle of the scene reminds us that we are part of this earth. At right, a tree is bent and blasted but does not break.”
Description of ‘The Approaching Storm’, The Norton Simon Museum, Slow Art Day 2020.
Mariko Tu, Manager of Youth and Family Programs at the Norton Simon Museum, said that slow-looking visitors loved the experience and the post was liked 600+ times.
The Slow Art Day HQ team also participated. We imagined ourselves in this scene; felt the soft warmth of the light, and really immersed ourselves in the calm before the storm. Although the lone woman in the painting seemed small, we came to believe that she is filled with strength and courage from the light despite the dark skies.
We look forward to whatever The Norton Simon 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.
Guidelines for the slow-looking were created by Amy Briggs Kemeza, Tour Programs Managerat the ICA. On April 4, they were shared to Instagram, Facebook, and the museum website, where they could also be accessed via a PDF.
Participants could choose artwork in their own home for slow-looking, or use one of the suggested artworks from the ICA’s collection such as Caitlin Keogh, Blank Melody, Old Wall (2018).
The easy-to-follow instructions involved mindful breathing, slow-looking, and stream-of-consciousness note-taking which were well received across the board – with the Instagram post receiving 530+ likes. For anyone wishing to recreate the experience, the material can still be accessed on Instagram, Facebook, and the museum’s website.
One Instagram user commented:
“Happy Slow Art Day! I like the slow art from (artist) Caitlin Keogh very much! Thank you for sharing her work with us in slow motion during this global event, and it fits well with quarantine schedules as it invites us to slow down and enjoy the discoveries art can offer.”
The whole Slow Art Day HQ team was excited by the clear and compelling design of their slow looking instructions as well as by the decision to encourage participants to slowly look at artworks in their home.
We look forward to whatever the ICA Boston comes up with for Slow Art Day 2021.
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:
“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.”
“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?”
“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.
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.
For their 5th Slow Art Day, the Georgia Museum of Art in Athens, Georgia, combined two meditative art techniques by artist Anna Bogatin Ott: Slow Looking and Slow Drawing.
For the slow looking activity, participants were invited to look closely at the painting Aurora by Anna Bogatin Ott, and were guided by prompts via a PDF file, such as:
“How do the repetitive marks guide your gaze around the painting?”
“Imagine the painting so far away it becomes a speck, then zoom in so close that it’s touching your nose.”
Since Ott’s art is inspired by nature, participants were also encouraged to reflect on similarities between the colors of the painting and nature.
“I engage all my senses, dissolve into surrounding sounds, become immersed in the nature’s logic of being, and then, from memory, I recreate my experiences in drawings and paintings.”
Anna Bogatin Ott
For the slow drawing part of the event, participants were encouraged to draw horizontal lines while trying to stay in touch with their physical sensations — focusing attention on the sound of their breath, the feel of the texture of the paper, and the visual effect of negative and positive space between the lines. The activity became a mindful way of remaining present through a multi-sensory art experience.
Pre-event Virtual Jigsaw Puzzle
Leading up to the main event, the museum shared a virtual interactive jigsaw puzzle of their featured painting to their Facebook page. Several participants completed the jigsaw, and the post reached 647 readers.
Without being formally promoted, their event was a social media success with over 2000 Instagram impressions and 185 Facebook interactions.
The Slow Art Day HQ team has loved participating in these mindful activities. They made us feel centered and at peace, which is a big part of what Slow Art Day is all about.
We look forward to seeing more of The Georgia Museum of Art’s immersive events – hopefully for Slow Art Day 2021.
Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) in West Bretton, UK hosted their third Slow Art Day, “Mindful Moments on Slow Art Day: To Breathe” by Kimsooja, a multi-disciplinary conceptual artist based in New York, Paris, and Seoul.
Participants were invited for a private viewing of Kimsooja’s immersive installation in the historic chapel at YSP, which used light and mirrors to explore the meditative qualities of space. The mirrored floor and diffraction film in the windows responded to changes in natural light, generating a kaleidoscope of changing colors and reflections.
This year’s event was part of a program of mindfulness and art events developed by Art and Wellbeing Practitioner Rachel Howfield Massey and Mindfulness Instructor Sally Edward of Kindmind. Together they invited the group to take off their shoes and stand, sit, and lie on the mirrored floor for forty minutes and notice the changes around them and within their own bodies.
The group silently experienced moments of awe and joy when light flooded the space, and periods of quiet contemplation as the intensity of light changed from moment to moment.
After the event, participants enjoyed hot drinks and pastries in the YSP Restaurant and took part in a gently facilitated discussion. They reported feeling a sense of heightened emotions and expansiveness. Here’s what one participant said:
“I feel like we have been on a journey and travelled far and back safely. How lovely the simplicity of this – simple yet so powerful. I feel very relaxed and empowered with a new tool – how to ‘to be’ with art.”
We look forward to seeing what mindful and immersive experiences the Yorkshire Sculpture Park programs for Slow Art Day in 2020.
Participants looked for 10 minutes at each artwork and then had a group discussion about the experience (and a light lunch). The museum sold special tickets for Slow Art Day at $10 each (including the food) and sold out the event.
L’Amoreaux wrote about a common part of the Slow Art Day experience – the surprising nature of slow time and of focused looking.
When everyone started, I think we were all thinking 10 minutes was an impossible eternity to look at one piece of art. But afterwards, many of us shared how quickly the 10 minutes passed and how surprised we were by what we noticed, especially with pieces we weren’t especially attracted to.
P.S. We are planning a webinar with Nye and L’Amoreaux to discuss the design of their event. More on that soon.
We had a wonderful webinar with the leaders of the Belgian Slow Art Day movement, Katrijn D’ hammers and Tinne Langens.
During the webinar, they also showed this very good 4 minute video that they just produced about their mindfulness and Slow Art program.
Background on Slow Art Day in Belgium
Turns out that Belgium has a wonderful central group – FARO (the Flemish Interface Center for Cultural Heritage) – that facilitates the work of museums, archives, and heritage libraries. FARO offers training, study trips, publications and was launched in 2008. Katrijn has worked at FARO since the beginning and has coordinated the support for Slow Art Day across Belgium from FARO since 2014.
She and her colleague, Tinne Langens, who is the head of Education and Policy Programs at Antwerp’s FOTO Museum, have developed (and are continuing to develop) a set of mindfulness programs that integrate with Slow Art Day but go much further in terms of the creation of new kinds of tools, approaches, and methods.
Listen to the Slow Art Day live podcast recorded Tuesday, September 12, 2017 with Slow Art Day hosts around the world and our special guest Christian Adame, longtime Slow Art Day host and Assistant Education Director at the Phoenix Art Museum. Christian designed and piloted the Slow Art & Mindfulness Summer Series at the Phoenix Art Museum this summer.
He talked us about this pilot program and what they learned and answered questions from listeners.