For its 10th Slow Art Day, the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) in Washington DC celebrated a week of events. And because the museum’s historic building was closed for a major renovation until October 2023, the April 2023 events were hosted virtually.
For Slow Looking Week, the NMWA published a PDF with slow looking prompts and instructions, which is viewable below.
The theme for this year’s events was “A Growing Collection,” featuring recent acquisitions by the NMWA from 2021 and 2022. For the week, a selection of the artworks were uploaded to the NMWA’s Lightbox: 2023 Slow Art Day virtual art gallery. These could be viewed by participants in the week leading up to the 15th, when the NMWA hosted a Zoom meeting where all artworks could be discussed live.
Ahead of the Zoom meeting, all participants were encouraged to consider questions about the role of the art museum, including:
Which museum collection has spoken most to you? What about it resonated with you? Whose faces and voices were represented?
What should an art museum’s collection look like?
What do you want to see more of in art museums? Less of?
During the Zoom meeting, the group was divided into breakout rooms, in which each person was invited to select an image from the Lightbox options, and the whole group was asked to discuss using the Harvard Project Zero prompts See/Think/Wonder.
Following this, all groups came back together to share experiences of and reflect on process of looking together. Attendees called in from Canada, the United Kingdom, DC, FL, IL, MD, NJ, and NY. For 60% of the attendees, 2023 was their first Slow Art Day experience.
At the end of the Zoom event, participants were asked what they enjoyed the most about the slow looking experience. Here’s a selection of their answers:
“Hearing other people’s experiences and seeing more through their eyes.”
“Talking with just a few people at a time. I could talk a bit more than normal.”
“The shared experience; the opportunity to give over to LOOKING, observing, talking, and reflecting.”
“Breakout session, taking the time to understood what and why each of us chose specific artworks & how we all came with different background and observations.”
Everyone said that they would love to attend another Slow Art Day.
We at Slow Art Day are big fans of the NMWA – for many reasons including that they are real leaders in the global Slow Art Day movement. We hope more museums imitate their weeklong activities. And now that the NMWA has reopened, we look forward to what they come up with for Slow Art Day Week 2024.
This Shanghai Slow Art Day is being organized by Curious Together at the UCCA Edge gallery – the Shanghai section of a leading contemporary art museum in China.
The event will be based on the exhibit called “Painting Unsettled,” which features the work of eight Chinese-born artists who are reinvigorating painting in the face of global uncertainty and technological change. At the event, participants will look at 5 pre-selected works from the exhibition and then will meet to discuss their impressions.
Based in Shanghai, Curious Together is dedicated to fostering a sense of community and curiosity through the exploration of art. During the city-wide lockdown in Shanghai, when people were forced to stay at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Curious Together hosted an International Slow Art Day on Zoom based on artwork from longtime Slow Art Day leader National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington D.C.
According to Curious Together organizer, Tamara Afanasyeva, this slow art event “brought participants a sense of joy and connection.” That led to Curious Together hosting more slow art events online during the remainder of the two-month lockdown, which “provided a much-needed outlet for people to come together and experience art,” said Afanasyeva.
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).
In a terrific feature-length article published yesterday, the Washington Post writer Kelsey Ables covered slow looking, Slow Art Day, our message of radical inclusivity, and encouraged readers to sign up to one of the 90+ venues around the world for this year’s global event.
Participating museums like the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the National Museum of Women in the Arts are featured in the article, as is our friend, Jennifer Roberts, an art history professor at Harvard.
Further, the article highlighted a key element of our mission: increasing the accessibility of museums. From the beginning, we’ve believed that slow looking is an act of radical inclusivity where the viewer includes themselves, rather than being lectured to or told how to look. This radical inclusivity we believe is key to opening up museums and galleries to many more people.
For its 7th Slow Art Day celebration, The National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington D.C. turned the day into a whole week of events, featuring 10 women, half of whom are artists of color: Andrea Higgins, Graciela Iturbide, Frida Kahlo, Susan Katz, Yayoi Kusama, Amy Lamb, Delita Martin, Alison Saar, Amy Sherald, and Mickalene Thomas.
Participants in their Slow Art “Week” were invited via the museum website and social media platforms to select and spend 10 minutes with five portraits from among the works of the 10 artists. They were then asked to join a Zoom discussion to reflect on their slow looking experience. A detailed image of Frida Kahlo’s ‘Self-portrait dedicated to Leon Trotsky’ (1937) was also made accessible on the Google Arts & Culture platform and shared as a Facebook post.
The Slow Art Day events were part of the ongoing initiative NMWA at Home, which features an amazing range of art resources – from online exhibitions to Spotify playlists – which can be accessed here. A PDF with instructions for the Slow Art Day specific events is available here. You can also explore more of the NMWA collection here.
One of the featured artists for their Slow Art Week was Amy Sherald, who works to reclaim portraiture and turn it into a celebration of African American individuality. Strongly inspired by Frida Kahlo’s themes and her use of color, Sherald’s art is a critique of historical black representation in both portraiture and photography and seeks to promote black selfhood.
Amy Sherald has also spoken a lot about her work. We’ve included quotes below and encourage you to watch the short YouTube video ‘Amy Sherald: In the Studio.’
“My work is about taking blackness past the stereotypes and opening it up to the imagination.”
“These people have let go of that idea of being watched. They’re there to meet your gaze in a different way. And it’s a critique on historical black representation, whether it be in photography or painting.”
Amy Sherald, quote from Hauser & Wirth’s ‘Amy Sherald: In the Studio’ (YouTube).
The whole Slow Art Day HQ team loves Amy Sherald’s work and we are excited to see such focus on the reframing of conventional art history.
Participants also loved the NMWA’s Slow Art Week. One said it was one of the most “well-planned online (or offline) events they had experienced.” And unlike the previous years when the events were in the museum, this year people from all over the world – from California to the United Kingdom – were able to participate in their great program.
“This has been a super experience in so many ways: the quality of the seeing/interpretation; the generosity of listening/talking; and the sheer excitement of talking to a group of women I do not know in another country in another time zone, in this moment.”
We loved participating in the NMWA’s program and learning so much more about the 10 featured women artists. The Slow Art Day team looks forward to seeing more Slow Art Week (or maybe month?) events at the NMWA in 2021.
– Johanna, Phil and Ashley
P.S. We also have watched with admiration as the NMWA has recently started handing out water and snacks from their museum entrance as one way to support the international protests against racism and police violence.
The National Museum of Women in the Arts is a longtime leader in the Slow Art Day movement, and they are hosting again this year. Based in Washington, DC, this wonderful institution takes seriously how to help its audience learn how to slow down and really see art by women.
On their Slow Art Day page, they begin by quoting the wonderful Georgia O’Keeffe:
“…to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time”
We couldn’t agree more. Good friendships require time and so does the art of looking at art.
The museum also suggests several other reasons people should participate in Slow Art Day:
To break out of your typical “go, go, go” routine.
To learn about yourself, fellow participants, and the creative expressions of women artists.
To make discoveries about and forge connections with artwork.
For Slow Art Day, their staff will make artwork suggestions and provide questions to consider as you slow down and look.
So, if you are based in DC, or traveling there on Slow Art Day 2018, we hope you will consider going to the National Museum of Women in the Arts.
You can register here for their event, which is free with museum admission.