The Universidad Panamericana, Guadalajara campus, located in Zapopan, Mexico, held their first Slow Art Week as a part of their Lead Creative Festival. Lead Creative is a festival that invites young people to seek change through art, and was hosted by Andrea Guadalupe Covarrubias. For the festival, art is broadly defined to include the visual arts, along with instrumental and vocal music, dance, and theater.
With over 1800 participants, this hybrid event had both in-person engagement and social media posts on Facebook and Instagram with an average reach of 700 people per post.
Based on the success of their first Slow Art Day, they plan to hold slow looking sessions throughout the year and not just with visual art, but also with the choir, theater group, and dance artists.
The event was advertised as a part of the Lead Creative festival with the below flyer.
During the event, participants were taken through a step-by-step presentation by Zora Carrier, Executive Director of FMoPA, which we highly recommend curators and educators review and consider for inspiration for their own events.
Participants were first invited to do a body scan — noticing their sensations without judgement. We love this beginning. This is a great way to ground people in their body and senses.
Once they were tuned up, they were then invited to look slowly at two photographs by Paul Caponigro and David Dennard, and think about the following promts for each:
Look carefully at this artwork. What do you notice? Write down your observations. Be thorough.
Carefully review your observations.
Write down any inferences, opinions or conclusions formed because of known facts?
Are there any details that you want to know more about? Write 3-5 additional questions.
What is the context of the image?
What might the photographer be feeling?
Is the image positive, negative or neutral?
Is this image about an idea/concept that we can’t recognize with our five senses?
To finish the session, all participants were asked to do some breathing exercises and write a gratitude note to a person of their choice, guided by a three-step prompt:
Step 1: Focus on the recipient. Spend a few moments thinking about the note recipient—what they did for you; what they said; what it meant—focusing on the feel of the paper, colors, or what mental images come to mind when you think about the person.
Step 2: Be specific and personal. Think about the thing you’re most grateful for out of your relationship with the person.
Step 3: Think about how it made you feel—then and now. Don’t feel restricted by making it look ‘good’ as long as you can communicate your gratitude. Art is subjective, and this won’t be criticized.
In our own slow looking of these two photographs, we were particularly captured by the juxtaposition of the lush, first photograph with the spare moonscape-like second photograph. Then, after several minutes, we looked at the caption and realized that the artist of the first one is the subject of the second one. That brought added joy to the slow looking experience.
We recommend that all Slow Art Day educators and curators do as we did, and go through Carrier’s presentation. As much as possible, look with a child’s naive eye.
We are very happy to welcome FMoPA to the global Slow Art Day, and can’t wait to see what they come up with for Slow Art Day 2023.
Johanna, Jessica, Ashley and Phyl
PS. When we started Slow Art Day, almost no museums offered regular slow looking programming. We are happy to see that FMoPA not only participates in the global Slow Art Day, but also runs monthly slow looking events.
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).
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.