Looking, Writing, Making, and Mindfulness at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

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.

Printed Textile Swatch (detail), 1935–59, made by Soieries F. Ducharne
Printed Textile Swatch (detail), 1935–59, made by Soieries F. Ducharne (France, 1920–1972), 2014-144-190a. Picture used to advertise the Slow Art Day event on the Philadephia Museum of Art website in April.

The virtual event consisted of four separate Zoom sessions focused on slow looking, writing, making, and mindfulness.

Slow Looking

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.

Detail of Antoine Berjon, 1819.
Still Life with Flowers, Shells, a Shark’s Head, and Petrifications. Oil on canvas, 42 1/2 × 34 9/16 inches (108 × 87.8 cm) [from the Slow Looking Zoom session hosted by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2021]

Slow Making

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.

Participants engaging with art during the Slow Making workshop

Slow Writing

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.

Portraits from the exhibition Painting Identity

Museum Mindfulness’

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.”

Participant’s quote

“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.

The Importance of Friends: Slow Art with Sørlandets Kunstmuseum

For their second Slow Art Day, Sørlandets Kunstmuseum in Kristiansand, Norway, hosted a live slow looking event on Facebook, featuring Else Hagen’s artwork named Veninner (in English: ‘female friends’, alt. ‘girlfriends’).

Else Hagen. Venninner, unknown date.
Oil on canvas, 60 x 49,5 cm.
AKO Kunststiftelse/Tangen-samlingen.
©Else Hagen/BONO 2021

On April 10, participants could tune in to the live 30 minute event on the museum’s Facebook page. The session was facilitated by Hanne Aamodt and Karoline Skomedal, respectively head tourguide and tourguide at the museum.

Participants were given an introduction to Slow Art Day, and then invited to observe the painting for seven minutes, using automatic writing as a slow looking tool (automatic writing means writing down words that come to mind without thinking about it). Afterwards, the facilitators shared some of their own thoughts and gave participants a set of prompts to use while studying the painting for seven *more* minutes.

The prompts included:

  • What shapes, colors and materials do you see?
  • What details do you notice?
  • What is going on in the painting?
  • Does the artwork remind you of something from your own life?
  • If you were at the place depicted in the artwork, what sounds would you hear? What surfaces, smells and temperatures would you feel?

The event was well received, and participants left comments like this after the live session:

“This was a great experience! I recommend it 🧡 Thank you very much!”

Participant’s quote on Facebook

The session was recorded and shared to YouTube. The video is included below for you to watch.

Slow Art Day 2021: Dypdykk i maleriet “Venninner” av Else Hagen. Video produced by Sørlandets Kunstmuseum.

At Slow Art Day HQ, we love the subject of this painting. Friends supporting each other is obviously a relevant theme during the ongoing pandemic, and we appreciate the warmth of this artwork.

If you would like to see more from Sørlandets Kunstmuseum, you can find them on their Facebook and Instagram pages.

We look forward to seeing what the Sørlandets Kunstmuseum has in store for Slow Art Day 2022.

Johanna, Jessica, Ashley, and Phyl

Open to Being Slow in Virginia

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.

Foon Sham. Ridge. 2018. Public installation located in Oakland Park, Arlington, Virginia.
Photograph by Theresa Esterlund.

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:

Questions

  • What did the experience feel like to you?
  • What surprised you?
  • What inspired you?
  • What sparked your curiosity?
  • What do you remember the most?

Creative prompts

  • Write a 6 word story or Haiku
  • Use scraps of paper or other materials to build something
  • Take a photo
  • Design a symbol
  • Draw

Pictures and notes submitted by the participants in response to the creative prompts

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.”

Participant’s comment

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.”

Theresa Esterlund

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.

-Johanna, Jessica, Ashley and Phyl

PS. You can view a recording of the event, and check out the Open to Being Facebook page for more information about upcoming events.

5-in-1 at Albany Institute’s First Slow Art Day

For their first Slow Art Day, the Albany Institute of History and Art in Albany, NY, hosted five interconnected virtual events:

  • Social media slow looking activity
  • Word clouds from the virtual activity
  • Slow panning video
  • Wellness workshop
  • A “look & learn” for families

On April 10, the museum started their Slow Art Day by sharing three artworks to Instagram.

Viewers were asked to respond with one-word descriptions of the images, which the museum turned into word clouds to illustrate the feelings evoked. “Breezy”, “depth” and “freedom” were frequent responses.

The museum also produced a slow looking video that features the sculpture “The Fist” by Alice Morgan Wright. Viewers were encouraged to find a quiet space, silence their technology, take a few deep breaths, and observe the sculpture for one minute in silence. The video slowly circles the sculpture, allowing viewers to see it from every angle. At the end of the minute, the video moderator guides participants through thought provoking questions about the sculpture. View the video below and try this slow-looking activity for yourself.

Slow looking video of Alice Morgan Wright, ‘The Fist’, 1921. Video produced by The Albany Insitute of History and Art.

For the Zoom-based wellness workshop ‘Making Meaning: Meditating on Artwork as Wellness’, participants were guided through an hour of exploring, viewing, and discussing works of art with licensed art therapist Chloe Hayward. They were also invited to share an object from their personal space as a vehicle for connecting to the artworks. The session ended with a guided meditation.

People responded positively to the digital events hosted by the Albany Institute, with one participant calling them “invaluable at this time”. Victoria Waldron, Education Assistant at the Albany Institute, said the Albany Institute’s first Slow Art Day program was a success, with 60+ combined participant and social media interactions.

At Slow Art Day HQ, we love that the Albany Institute of History and Art chose to host five connected events for their first Slow Art Day, and are already excited to see what they plan for Slow Art Day 2022.

– Johanna, Jessica, Ashley

What’s in a Name? Titles and Emotions at MART

On April 10th, the Museo di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto (MART) in Rovereto, Italy, organized a virtual Slow Art Day event that focused on re-titling artworks based on participants’ emotional experiences of slow looking.

Images of three artworks from the MART collection were emailed to the 15 registered participants ahead of joining a Zoom session. Once in the virtual session, participants were given 45 minutes to look slowly at three artworks. They then split into 3 discussion groups, each led by a coordinator, that focused on the emotions and observations of the participants while viewing the works. Participants were then asked to give each artwork their own title based on emotions experienced during the slow looking. The day after the session, participants were sent a brief profile of each artwork that included the emotional titles, the actual title, and the name of the artist, date, and art movement.

Below is one of the artworks along with a word cloud of the emotional titles given by the participants. Some of these translate to: “Disgust”, “Towards tomorrow?”, “Artist’s self-portrait”, “Who am I?”.

Arnulf Rainer, Splitter, 1971
Pastel and oil on photography, cm 60,5 x 50,5, Mart
Titles assigned to the artwork by the participants.

The event was well recieved by all the attendees, with one participant commenting:

“See how this way of following art stimulates a lot of creativity in us. Beautiful. We are like amateur jazz improvisers, extemporizing on a score!”

Participant Quote

That’s right. Slow looking is like jazz improvisation. We love this design of MART’s first official Slow Art Day event and hope that others decide to copy this.

Note that their Slow Art Day was not their first slow looking series. In 2020, local art enthusiast and MART member Piero Consolati approached Denise Bernabe, the Membership Coordinator at MART, about the possibility of organizing slow art sessions. Thanks to their initiative, MART has hosted nine slow art sessions since May 2020, which are now held monthly at the museum (so far, mostly virtually).

At Slow Art Day HQ we are delighted that slow looking has become a staple activity for the MART Museum. Denise Bernabe and Piero Consolati share updates with us about the status of slow art at MART throughout the year.

We look forward to MART’s continued events throughout the year, and their celebration of Slow Art Day in 2022.

– Johanna, Jessica and Ashley