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.
On April 4, 2020, the artworks were shared to the Museum’s Twitter and Instagram Story alongside this 3-2-1 prompt:
Make three observations
Name two experiences the artwork reminds you of, or two people you want to see this
Pose one question to other viewers.
The 3-2-1 prompt was so intriguing that I decided to try it myself while looking at Africano’s “I get hurt”. I included my reflections below in the hope that it might inspire more museums and participants.
Observations: The color-palette is melancholy and, to me, it invokes a sense of stillness. The spacious background of Africano’s painting reminded me of how the current pandemic has hightened feelings of isolation for many people; it is a powerful visualization of how relationship and communication issues create loneliness.
Experiences: I thought of the times when I confronted friends and family members with grief or anger. The central figure’s hand-over-heart gesture made me remember the last time I cried, when I had gotten overwhelmed by all the minor annoyances of life during the pandemic.
Question: The question I would pose to other viewers is this: When was the last time you were honest about your emotions with someone close to you?
The team and I have been encouraged that so many Slow Art Day events during the pandemic fostered a much-needed sense of community through art. We look forward to seeing another great Slow Art Day event from the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, in 2021.
Carrie Mae Weems, Untitled (Playing Cards/Malcolm X) from the Kitchen Table II series, 1990.
Minnie Evans, Untitled, 2012.
Harriet Randall Lumis, The Little Red Bush, circa 1915.
Master docent Doris Potash instructed participants to do three things before the webinar: 1) find a quiet, still space; 2) look at each of the three images for 15 minutes; 3) while looking, ask yourself the following questions:
What’s going on in each artwork? What details do you notice?
If you were in those places, what sounds would you hear? What textures and temperatures would you feel?
What memories and emotions do these artworks evoke?
Each of these artworks was created by a woman. Is there anything about the works that you would associate with a uniquely female perspective?
Doris then moderated a live discussion about the experience.
The two-part session was attended by 23 participants, who gave very positive feedback about the event:
“A lovely way to spend an hour of my social distancing!”
“…a much needed break during these trying times.”
“I was very moved by the art selections and benefitted from this experience greatly.”
The Slow Art Day event was well-received on social media, with over 100 likes on Facebook and Instagram. It sparked so much interest overall that the Museum has since added weekly Slow Art Friday sessions to its regular calendar of events! A recording of the original Slow Art Day session can be found here, and the weekly program description and upcoming fall programs can be found here.
Our mission at Slow Art Day is to inspire museums and participants to embrace slow looking every day. Thus, we are excited that this North Carolina-based museum not only produced a great Slow Art Day but now has made slow looking a weekly activity.
In April of 2020, Slow Art Day veteran Hedy Buzan co-ordinated an event inspired by Wayne Thiebaud’s edible-looking paintings of food.
Sent out as a ‘Super Challenge’ via Mailchimp, Hedy asked participants to make their own sketch of Thiebaud’s ‘Jolly Cones’ with colored or standard pencils. She also provided hints and step-by-step pictures of her own process, which we include below following Thiebaud’s original:
After they completed the challenge, participants were invited by Hedy to send images of their work alongside three observations from the exercise. Following the instructions, Hedy also included this helpful reminder:
“Remember, we are not trying to make a perfect drawing but are using sketching to S L O W down and learn to look.“
The event had several asynchronous participants. One of them, Ellen Brundige, even captured a time-lapse video of her digital drawing, viewable here, the final result of which can be seen below:
Hedy, who helped launch Slow Art Day in 2010, has previously collaborated with the Laguna Art Museum, where the original ‘Jolly Cones’ is exhibited. The Laguna Art Museum had to close this year due to the pandemic but Hedy hopes for further slow looking collaborations.
At Slow Art Day HQ, we have been impressed with the resourcefulness of all the hosts this year as they have found ways to connect people through art across virtual platforms. We love the fun spirit of Hedy Buzan’s challenge and look forward to more innovative Slow Art Day events from this pioneering artist in the future.
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.
For their third Slow Art Day the Frye Art Museum, Seattle, WA, shared slow-panning videos of two artworks from the Museum’s Founding Collection:
Friedrich August von Kaulbach (German, 1850-1920), ‘Rosario Guerrero,’ ca. 1908
In the manner of Edouard Manet, ‘Landscape with Figures,’ not dated.
Slow looking prompts were included in the video descriptions and on the Frye Slow Art Day website. After viewing the artworks, participants were encouraged to share their thoughts by commenting on the posts.
The event was promoted via social media posts and stories on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Compared to other posts by the Museum, the Slow Art Day event had a higher than average reach on Facebook and more engagement across all social media platforms.
Feedback from participants was also positive and showed that the Slow Art Day ethos was passed on. One viewer even wanted to use the exercise in their teaching:
“Thank you! You gave me an assignment for my students to do in our new online art class.”
At Slow Art Day HQ we loved the Frye’s art choices. The panning in ‘Landscape with Figures‘, which integrated movement in different directions, was especially innovative. We also extend special thanks to Caroline Byrd, Education Coordinator, for sharing details about the Frye’s event with us.
We look forward to what the Frye Art Museum comes up with for Slow Art Day 2021.
Below are some excerpts from the original prompts from the Instagram Stories. Why not take a moment to look at each painting to learn a little about the artists and re-live the Art Gallery of Ontario slow art experience?
Figurative paintings like Canaletto’s The Bacino di San Marco, from the Piazzetta are good starting points for close looking. Notice the groups of figures, the gondolas waiting for passengers, the person looking over the balcony down at the square. By looking more slowly, you may get a sense of what a typical day in Venice looked like in the 18th century. They probably didn’t have dolphins around then either….
Hepworth practiced direct carving, which means the artist tried to respect the nature of the material, working to bring out its particular characteristics. What do the vertical forms and the dynamics between them suggest? It’s easy to imagine the forms standing in for humans. What conversation might they be having?
Imagine you could walk into this painting. What would it feel like? What would it smell like? Monet was particularly interested by the effects of fog. He painted over 37 versions of this scene, trying to capture the changes in light and ambience. Have you ever done something over and over again? How does repetition change your experience? Malcolm Gladwell, a Canadian author, famously estimates that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. And hey, there is no shortage of time right now…
Claes Oldenburg sketched food and merchandise displayed in shops in the lower east side of New York and created a series of exhibitions related to the theme of a store between 1963-1967. Nothing was irrelevant, everything could be art. There is definitely a focus on foodie culture lately, especially with more time to be in the kitchen. What is your comfort food? If you were an artist, what kind of food would you immortalize in sculpture?
Odjig, Canadian First Nations artist from the Odawa-Potawatomi nation, uses a graphic style to portray her immediate family during her childhood in Wikwemikong. This artwork shares her first artistic influences – her family. In particular, her grandfather taught her to paint and draw. On sketching excursions, he taught her the stories of her ancestors and the use of the curvilinear design. What better way to depict family connections. How would you represent your family?
In addition to the Instagram event, a post of Monet’s ‘Charing Cross Bridge‘ was also shared to the museum’s Facebook account which was liked 400+ times, and shared by 170 viewers. It was accompanied by general guidelines for slow looking, such as:
Take your time. Look at the texture, colour, shape, symbols, story, and perspective.
Pay attention to how your mind and body respond.”
We are delighted to see museums like The Art Gallery of Ontario rise to the challenge of involving people in slow looking in their own homes. When we started Slow Art Day 10 years ago, we primarily wanted museums to use the web in the service of sending more people into real spaces. Due to Covid19 lockdown restrictions this year, however, most museums had no choice but to rely on virtual platforms, and it is wonderful to see events such as this one still producing amazing engagement with art.
We hope to see yet another wonderful event for Slow Art Day at The Art Gallery of Ontario next year.
For their first Slow Art Day The TarraWarra Museum of Art in Melbourne, Australia featured two very different artworks by Australian women artists: ‘Club Colours’ by Rosalie Gascoigne, and ‘He’ll Be My Mirror’ by Jenny Watson.
To promote the event, Elisabeth Alexander, Marketing and Events Coordinator, created a short teaser ‘slow zoom’ video of ‘He’ll Be My Mirror’, and posted image stories on Instagram and Facebook.
On April 4, participants were directed to a dedicated Slow Art Day page on the Museum’s website to look slowly at full-size images of the two paintings. Shannon Lyons, Education Coordinator, then led an online discussion via the Museum’s social media channels, where participants were encouraged to share thoughts about the artworks and their slow looking experience.
Shannon Lyons shared with us her surprise at how well it went:
From an educator’s perspective, it was interesting to see how willing people were to both delve deeper and give voice to their wonderings online. They actively questioned why aspects of the artworks appeared the way that they did, and why particular elements of the artworks seemed to dominate, hold or demand attention far more than others.
Their first Slow Art Day was a success, with over 5000 impressions and 100+ post engagements across Instagram and Facebook. Further, the average time spent on their dedicated webpage was 6 minutes – dramatically higher than the average time of under a minute for other pages on the site.
The TarraWarra Museum of Art had originally planned to host their first Slow Art Day in-person featuring their newly opened exhibition ‘Making Her Mark: Selected Works from the Collection‘, however Lyons and Alexander had to quickly re-imagine it as a virtual experience due to Covid19.
The whole Slow Art Day team has been impressed with what Elisabeth and Shannon were able to produce – given that it was not only their first Slow Art Day but, of course, also since the pandemic forced a last minute change of plans. We look forward to what they create for Slow Art Day 2021.
Art by Australian Impressionist Bessie Davidson was at the heart of the third Slow Art Day hosted this year by The Bendigo Art Gallery in Victoria, Australia.
On April 4, slow-panned videos of three paintings from the exhibition ‘Bessie Davidson & Sally Smart – Two artists and the Parisian avant-garde’ were shared on the gallery’s website (still images below):
Lecture au jardin (reading in the garden), 1930s.
Fillette au perrouquet (Little girl with parrot), 1913.
An interior, c. 1920.
Staggered images of the paintings were also shared on the gallery’s Facebook page via three posts before, during and after April 4th. Participants were invited to respond by posting comments, thoughts and images of their own works inspired by the slow-looking.
Each Facebook post got more likes than the previous, with the last post receiving 1.2k likes. Several people also sent in beautiful paintings of their own children and interiors.
Suzie Luke, Public Programs and Learning Officer at the Bendigo Art Gallery, said that many participants had “tremendously positive feedback” about the artist, artworks and the gallery itself:
Love that you’re doing this. This is the sort of thing I need to lift my spirits, just like every visit to your gallery has always done. Thank you!
This idea is so great, please keep doing it even when the emergency is over.
Jan Deane; Papageno Ragdoll
Slow Art Day at Bendigo Art Gallery usually consists of slow-looking guided tours by their wonderful volunteers, followed by discussions of the paintings and afternoon tea. This year, it has been inspiring to see the gallery make such a beautiful transition to virtual platforms.
We hope that The Bendigo Art Gallery will host another innovative Slow Art Day in 2021.
For their first Slow Art Day, The Gardiner Museum in Toronto, Canada, hosted an immersive virtual event with a multi-sensory focus.
On April 4, four photos of Linda Swanson’s TEMPLUM OF A PRECIOUS THING OF NO VALUE, A SHAPELESS THING OF MANY SHAPES, 2020, were shared to social media in intervals. An event outline was also available as a downloadable PDF, which can be viewed in full here. Because their session was so well designed, we have included more detail in the excerpted prompts below.
Participants were encouraged to spend 5-10 minutes with each photo, and consider the accompanying prompts and questions:
Imagine yourself seated on the bench next to the installation. Take in the full picture. Let your eyes move slowly around the image as you absorb what you’re seeing.
Focus on each individual element of the work. What kinds of lines and shapes do you notice?
Consider the areas of light and shadow. How does the lighting influence the mood or feel of the installation?
What do you think you’ll see as you move closer? What textures and patterns might appear?
Once again, take in the full picture. Let your eyes move slowly around the image as you grasp this new perspective and information.
What do you notice now that you may not have perceived in the first image? Does this change your impression or understanding of the work?
Shift your attention to the cables. What kinds of shapes and forms do you notice in the negative space around and between the cables?
Consider the weight of the water contained in each membrane. Close your eyes and imagine that your arms are the cables holding them above the ground. What do you experience?
Again, take in the full picture. Let your eyes move slowly around the image as you register the new details.
How does this perspective add to or change your interpretation of the artwork up to this point?
Close your eyes and picture yourself gently pressing a finger against the nylon membrane. Feel the weight of the water shifting. Does it remind you of a sensation you’ve experienced before?
Narrow in on the water droplets that are gathered on the membrane. Imagine poking them with your finger. How would the water feel running down your hand?
For the last time, let your eyes move slowly around the image as you take it in.
What would it feel like to run your fingers through the clay? To pick up a handful.
Close your eyes and imagine the smell of the clay, both dry and wet. What does it smell like? Is it earthy? Musty? Chalky?
Now consider the work as its own ecosystem or world. How would you describe it to a friend? How would you articulate its look, feel, and smell?
This was such a well-designed slow looking session that we hope more people who are reading this on the Slow Art Day website will take the time to go through this event themselves.
The Gardiner Museum is one of many museums that had to quickly re-think how to keep the public engaged with art during the Covid19 pandemic. By using photos and descriptive prompts of the installation from their special exhibition RAW, they successfully produced an imaginative multi-sensory experience – even with the added element of being virtual.
At Slow Art Day HQ, we absolutely love how immersive this event was. It reminded us how powerfully our minds can conjure up the real-life experiences of textures, shapes, weight, and scents.
We very much hope that The Gardiner Museum will continue hosting Slow Art Day events – and in their actual museum space in 2021.
Note: The listed prompts were selected from the original, full list of prompts provided by The Gardiner Museum.