To celebrate Slow Art Day 2021 when museums were locked down in England, artist Jo Essen, based in Birmingham, UK, organized a slow looking bike ride to Sarehole Mill.
The historical mill, today a museum and bakery, is well-known for its connection with J. R. R. Tolkien, author of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He once lived across the road from the Mill, and it inspired his writings about Middle-earth.
Essen shared an online video from the bike ride, and encouraged others in the pandemic lockdown to get out and do some slow looking. “It was wonderful to be involved in slow looking even when we were not able to visit museums,” said Jo Essen.
So, while the British Museum, Tate Modern, the Norton Simon Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Smithsonian, and many other large museums ran virtual (or in-person events), and while a number of smaller museums and galleries also ran Slow Art Day sessions, 2021 also included Jo Essen and her family looking slowly at nature and architecture.
This report is a fitting final post for 2021, especially as we and the world struggle through yet another wave of the coronavirus. (Note: you can read all of our 2021 published reports, or wait for our 2021 annual report to be published in February of 2022.)
We hope you have a wonderful new year wherever you are in the world. And perhaps take some inspiration from Essen and go out and do some slow looking at nature, architecture, public art, or in museums and galleries, if they are open in your area.
Stay safe and healthy and get ready for yet another year of building the slow looking movement.
For their first Slow Art Day, the gallery ARTualize in Singapore, Singapore, organized a Mindfulness with Paintings session, encouraging participants to combine mindfulness with slow looking.
On the 10th of April, ARTualize opened their two-hour session by introducing participants to some mindfulness techniques. Participants were then invited to look slowly and mindfully at selected paintings, including Low Hai Hong’s 海天一色 (literally: Sky and Sea). This was followed by discussion.
The gallery also hosts regular ‘Mindfulness with paintings’ sessions to get more people to discover the joy of looking at art. Sessions are held every Sunday from 2 to 4 pm.
Paintings on display in the gallery are also available for rent to give people the opportunity to experience the art in their own homes. Exhibited works are changed every two months. Click here to learn more.
At Slow Art Day HQ, our mission since 2010 has been to build a slow looking and mindfulness movement around the world. As a result, one of our goals has been to use the annual event to inspire museums and galleries to host regular slow looking sessions throughout the year.
We are happy to see that ARTualize are both participants and leaders in this movement and look forward to whatever they come up with for Slow Art Day 2022.
Johanna, Jessica, Ashley, and Phyl
P.S. If you would like to follow ARTualize’s updates, you can follow them on their Facebook page.
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 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 6th Slow Art Day, the Foto Museum (FOMU), in Antwerp, Belgium, organized four virtual slow looking sessions featuring two photographs:
Lynne Cohen, Recording Studio, 1987.
Martine Franck, Quartier de Byker, Newcastle upon Tyne, Royaume-Uni, 1977.
Each virtual session opened with a warm welcome from a guide, and introductions from participants.
Without giving any details of the photographs, the guide shared each one and invited participants to look slowly and freely discuss their thoughts.
At the end of the session, all participants were guided through a mindful full-body check to reconnect to their physical surroundings.
The participants enjoyed the slow looking and were eager to share their reflections, both about the pictures and the sessions.
“It’s a nice way to interact with strangers.”
“I was surprised that the time went by so quickly!”
“Nice food for thought with lots of different perspectives.”
At Slow Art Day HQ we are really impressed with FOMU’s commitment to hosting not one – but four – sessions in one day. Bookending each event with an introduction round and a mindful cooling-down activity is a great structure that we hope other museums adopt for a future Slow Art Day.
We look forward to what FOMU comes up with for their 7th Slow Art Day in 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!
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 email@example.com.
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.
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?’
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.”
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.
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.
For their first Slow Art Day on April 10, 2021, Open to Being, a community-building organization based in Arlington, Virginia, hosted a virtual slow looking event and set of interactive exercises.
Theresa Esterlund, the founder of Open to Being, led a 45-minute session focused on artist Foon Sham’s outdoor sculpture ‘Ridge’ (2018), and participants were invited to join via Zoom or Facebook Live.
After looking slowly at the sculpture for 7-10 minutes, participants were invited to share and discuss their observations using the following questions and creative prompts:
What did the experience feel like to you?
What surprised you?
What inspired you?
What sparked your curiosity?
What do you remember the most?
Write a 6 word story or Haiku
Use scraps of paper or other materials to build something
Take a photo
Design a symbol
The event was well received, and participants felt that the program was very accessible:
“I really appreciated the way your program unfolded. I did feel like I was transported to the park in a way, it was engaging in that we could almost compare notes with each other as guests on Zoom.”
With 25 years of experience in science, history, and art museum education, Esterlund is also an artist who now teaches yoga and meditation alongside her work with Open to Being. She sees a clear connection between slow looking at art and mindfulness:
“Looking at art slowly is an opportunity to practice mindfulness – being with everything that’s going on at any given moment and experiencing everything without judging or getting caught up in it. That kind of experience can lead to openings, which might be experienced long after the program. The emphasis was on the experience, with the artwork as a pathway and essential element of that experience, rather than on the art itself.”
At Slow Art Day HQ, we love it when hosts integrate slow looking, mindfulness and play. We can’t wait to see what creative design Esterlund comes up with for Slow Art Day 2022.
For Slow Art Day, Grounds For Sculpture (GFS) in Hamilton, New Jersey, hosted nearly 1,000 participants and provided them with meditative prompts to use while slow-viewing the sculptures.
On April 10, all visitors were encouraged to do a slow looking activity using the following instructions created by Libby Vieira da Cunha, Manager of Group Visit and School Programs at Grounds For Sculpture:
1) Pick any sculpture on the grounds that interests you
2) Challenge yourself to look at the sculpture for 5 minutes – set a timer and allow yourself to slow down
3) While taking a slow look, ask yourself the following questions:
Take a deep breath. Walk around the sculpture and let your eyes move slowly around the artwork – from where it touches the ground all the way up to the sky.
What do you notice? Make three observations based on what you noticed.
Think of a story or experience this sculpture reminds you of – anything that comes to mind.
Think of a friend that you want to share this sculpture with, why does this person come to mind?
What do you notice about the sculpture now that you did not see at first glance? How does this change your impression of the sculpture?
If you’re with others share your responses with each other. Did they have similar or different thoughts on the sculpture?
If you’re up for the Slow Art Day challenge, then repeat this exercise with two other sculptures
What new question might you pose for slow looking? Add it to your next slow look.
Throughout the day, facilitators also walked between different groups, inviting them to discuss the artwork ‘Dorian’ by artist Bruce Beasley (pictured below).
Ahead of the event, it was advertised on Facebook and Instagram, receiving more than 600 likes from the public. The in-person activity was very well received, and experienced by a total of 952 visitors from across the country – from Arizona, California, Minnesota, and many states along the east coast.
Participants shared that they found the experience fun, stimulating, reflective, special, interesting, insightful, and meditative:
“The fact that you can see it (the artwork) from so many different perspectives makes it more beautiful.”
Slow Art Day Participant
“I felt a closer bond to my friend doing it as we expressed our experiences”
Slow Art Day Participant’s quote
“Allows for seeing hidden beauty”
“I was able to reflect and learn something new”
Slow Art Day Participant’s quote
At Slow Art Day HQ, we were excited to see Grounds for Sculpture bring out nearly 1,000 people for their first annual event. We also appreciated GFS’ enthusiasm, creativity and attention to detail. And their poster (pictured above) is terrific.
We can’t wait to see what they come up with for their second Slow Art Day in 2022.