The Birmingham Museum of Art in Birmingham, Alabama participated in their 9th annual Slow Art Day, where Master Docent Marlene Wallace won new converts to the art of slowing down by observing and discussing 5 selected paintings from the museum’s collection.
A first-time participant (above left) from the University of Alabama was so inspired that she will be writing a paper about the artwork that she and docent Marlene Wallace (above right) stood in front of: Floral Garland with Holy Family (Descriptive) by Jan van Kessel the Elder, Flemish, Antwerp 1629-1679.
When we originally started Slow Art Day, we had hoped that museums would integrate a variety of slow looking exercises into their regular programming throughout the year. The Birmingham Museum of Art was one of the first to do that when they pioneered Slow Art Sundays.
We look forward to more innovation from The Birmingham Museum of Art including participation in their 10th Slow Art Day in 2020!
The Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, CA, a long-time participant in Slow Art Day, saw great success again this year by helping participants slow down to enjoy the single painting GoGo Days Are Over. Enjoy The Party While It Lasts by Juan Carlos Quintana.
Nancy Hampton, Slow Art Day docent, led an open-ended discussion with a group of 10 visitors. Nancy reported that two of the participants, who lead a program for incarcerated women, had deep revelations about art and slowing down. “They saw how art can have a positive effect…[and] were excited about the Slow Art Day approach and how they might delve into looking and wondering.”
We love to hear how Slow Art Day has such applicability for a wide variety of audiences, including the incarcerated. In fact, several years ago an artist in Rome led a Slow Art Day in a prison there, which was reported to be a very powerful experience.
We look forward to Crocker Art Museum’s participation in 2020 – and to more ways to bring slow looking to more people in more settings all over the world.
For their first Slow Art Day, the Byron School of Art Project Space in Mullumbimby – a small Australian town well-known for its artist colony – combined several multi-sensory activities along with food and yoga.
They started Slow Art Day with an artist talk by Marlene Sarroff whose exhibition 365 Days: You Get What You Choose is a meditation on everyday practice. Marlene spoke about her long history of working and exhibiting in artist-run spaces, about finding materials whilst not seeking them, and also about being awake to possibility.
After Marlene’s talk, participants began something organizers called The Slow Art Challenge. The challenge started with five minutes of silent looking at one artwork, then followed that with a group discussion. Next, participants took a few moments to enjoy cups of tea together, and then reconvened in pairs to observe a second chosen work in silence. For the final segment, they listened to music while looking at another artwork, and then held another discussion after that multi-sensory experience.
And as if this were not enough, their Slow Art Day finished with an evening Slow Flow Yoga Class led by yoga instructor Shien Chee from Seeker + Kind yoga studio, their neighbor two doors down. Chee and Meredith Cusack, BSA Project Space Coordinator, wanted to integrate yoga, sound, smells, and sight. They came up with the idea of using the art as a way to talk about drishti (gaze point). As a result, Chee built her class around changing drishti – looking at different works, but also from different positions, and heights. Wow.
The Byron School of Art Project Space had such a good – and creative – first Slow Art Day that participants asked if they would do the exercises for other exhibitions, which they plan to do. They also look forward to participating in Slow Art Day 2020 and we look forward to having them back. They are a wonderful addition to the global slow looking movement.
The Frye Art Museum in Seattle, WA combined looking, drawing, and shared discussion for their Slow Art Day 2019.
The museum chose a single artwork in their current exhibition Tschabalala Self as a focus.
Each person then participated in three connected activities:
a close-looking session
a detailed artwork discussion rooted in Visual Thinking Strategies
a drawing activity and discussion with a partner (to see the drawing activity they used, watch this video here…the drawing assignment begins at about minute 3)
During the drawing portion, one participant noted it was “meaningful to exchange our drawing with a partner, interpret each other’s, then explain our own.” The museum also provided a self-guided form for visitors to lead their own slow looking art exploration.
Caroline Byrd who works in the Education Department at the museum says, “Slow Art Day is an accessible, inventive, and community-oriented opportunity that we continue to look forward to each year.” We couldn’t have said it better and appreciate the creativity they brought to the design of their day.
AX, the Arts and Culture Centre of Sussex in New Brunswick, Canada, held a multi-sensory Slow Art Day 2019 led by artist Deanna Musgrave, who had recently researched and written her Master’s thesis on multi-sensory art experiences.
Musgrave, whose own art was being shown, began by guiding the participants through a relaxation exercise, using sound and voice commands to invite the audience to achieve a trance-like state. She then focused on three pieces of work and encouraged viewers to experience tastes (wine, chocolate, peaches), smell (wine and peppermint), and sounds (recorded instruments) paired with each piece.
According to AX, audience members, ranging in age from 8 to 70, said that the slow multi-sensory session really enhanced their experience.
In other good news, Bonny Hill, Exhibitions Committee Chair at AX said they recently applied for and were awarded a grant to curate and host an exhibition of artists who work in the “slow art” style, using outdated technology and painstaking methods to create contemporary work. That exhibition will launch in early 2020, and perhaps be the focus of their Slow Art Day 2020.
Asia Kuzmiczow, the Artist Manager at Beeldend Gesproken in Amsterdam, designed a wonderful (and sold out) Slow Art Day 2019.
She and her team decided to focus on one artwork for one full hour from the photo exhibition Different Perspectives. My first Slow Art Day test in 2008 was also one hour with one artwork. I subsequently decided to suggest 10 minutes per artwork for the global event to make it more accessible, but still love the one hour format and am glad they used it in Amsterdam.
After 60 minutes of intense viewing, they then enjoyed a delicious lunch prepared by the artist Sook Bae.
Asia and her team received some terrific feedback including:
Slow Art Day for me was literally a delight. A delight because of the invite to sit down, look without thinking, feeding the mind; having food for thoughts. It was a welcoming slow digest.
Shirley Herts, Founder www.msindysolutions.nl
P.S. Beeldend Gesproken (“visual voice” – great name) is organized as a social enterprise with a mission focused on presenting artists who experience mental health problems such as autism, burnout or psychotic symptoms. I encourage you to go visit their site and learn more.
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.
The Oceanside Museum of Art in California reports that they had a “wonderful” multi-sensory Slow Art Day 2019.
The museum developed three self-guided stations aimed at slowly engaging multiple senses – designing multi-sensory experiences is a growing trend in the slow art movement (see the webinar we hosted in January 2019).
The three self-guided stations they created were:
Partner blind-drawing station in their watercolor exhibition
Storytelling station based around Matthew Barnes: Painter of the Night exhibition
Pairing music with paintings in their surrealism exhibition (photo to the left).
They ran Slow Art Day through the weekend and had many more people participate as a result. In fact, Slow Art Day and the self-guided stations were so successful – led to so much visitor participation – that the curatorial staff has asked that stations remain up longer.
The variety of activities – and the multi-sensory element – really allowed visitors to participate in ways that worked for them and that also added a sense of fun.
Andrea Hart, Director of Education and Public Programs at the Oceanside Museum of Art
P.S. I’m particularly pleased with this report given that my mother lived in Oceanside for years and ran a clandestine Slow Art Day at this museum with a few friends when we launched a decade ago.
At the Ulster Museum, Slow Art Day 2019 guides took visitors through the works of Belfast-born artist Gerard Dillon, the British Vorticist movement, and then finished with a screening and discussion of a video art installation examining the political confusion of Brexit by Cornelia Parker – ‘Left, Right & Centre.’
The museum reports the event was quite successful – they had both more staff and more public participation than ever before. They were also proud to have their Slow Art Day event featured by the BBC alongside Tate Modern, Ashmolean Museum (Oxford), Photographer’s Gallery, and Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
Because of the success of their Slow Art Day annual events, the Ulster Museum now runs a monthly ‘Slow Art Sunday.’ They also integrate slow looking sessions into nearly all their new art exhibitions.
Thanks to the Slow Art Team for organizing such a brilliant global event – an event that has now become a regular and important part of our programming.
Charlotte McReynolds, Art Curator, National Museums Northern Ireland