Slow Art with LUAG in Bethlehem, PA

For their first Slow Art Day, Lehigh University Art Galleries (LUAG) in Bethlehem, PA, invited the public to learn more about artworks in the Gallery’s collection, such as Romare Bearden’s Firebirds, 1979.

Romare Bearden, American (1914-1988), ‘Firebirds,’ 1979.
Lithograph on paper, 66/300. Gift of George P. Kramer. LUG 83 1021

On April 4, 2020, the event was promoted across social media, and also shared as an email invitation.

Participants were given access to a wide range of material on the Gallery’s Slow Art Day webpage, including prompts for ‘Firebirds’, short videos created by Lehigh students, and downloadable coloring pages.

The Gallery also hosted a series of “Art in Dialogue” presentations, featuring sessions such as ‘The Stories that Pictures Tell’ and ‘Visual Journaling’.

Slow Art Day “Art in Dialogue” presentations hosted by Lehigh University Art Gallery, 2020.

The event engaged 3,392 people in total through various channels. The email invitation was opened by 1110 people, and the Instagram and Facebook posts together reached 2,200+ people. 

At Slow Art Day HQ, we love the range of activities organized for LUAG’s first Slow Art Day. We want to thank Stacie Bennan, Curator of Education, for creating such an innovative and involved set of activities.

We really look forward to what she and her team come up with for Slow Art Day 2021.

– Johanna and Ashley

P.S. You can check out more of the Lehigh digital art collection on their Artstor page.

Fossil Interpretations at the RPM in Hildesheim

For their second Slow Art Day, the Roemer and Pelizaeus Museum (RPM) in Hildesheim, Germany, produced short videos about three objects by artist Gerd Hjort Petersen that were part of the exhibit “Begegnung mit Gerd Hiort Petersen und Hans Munck Andersen” [Encounter with Gerd Hiort Petersen and Hans Munck Andersen].

Gerd Hjort Petersen,”Sea Urchin Fossil 1″, 2015. Photo: Sh. Shalchi.
Denmark, Bornholm, stoneware, owned by the artist. (Click here to see this and the other videos.)
Gerd Hiort Petersen, “Sea Urchin Fossil 2”, 2011. Photo: Sh. Shalchi.
Denmark, Bornholm, stoneware, owned by the artist. (Click here to see this and the other videos.)
Gerd Hiort Petersen, “Rock Shell”, 1993.  Photo: Sh. 
Shalchi. Denmark, Bornholm, stoneware, collection Claßen. (Click here to see this and the other videos.)

Short texts promoting the objects and Slow Art Day were shared before the videos went live. Then, on April 4, the three videos were shared to Facebook and the Museum’s website, featuring brief commentary by Dr. Andrea Nicklish, Curator of the Ethnological Collection. They received 350+ views, and are still available to watch on the Museum’s website.

At Slow Art Day HQ, we love the focus on shapes, materials and textures in this event. The videos recreated the experience of viewing the objects in the actual museum space, and gave a sense of their sizes, intentionally exaggerated by the artist.

We look forward to what the Roemer and Pelizaeus Museum come up with for Slow Art Day 2021.

– Johanna and Ashley

Slow Looking Eases Pandemic Stress in Iceland

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.

Eiríkur Smith, Untitled Sketch. The Hafnarborg Art Museum Collection.
Elías B. Halldórsson, Pesky Saint. The Hafnarborg Art Museum Collection.
Elías B. Halldórsson, Fragmented Self. The Hafnarborg Art Museum Collection.

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.

– Johanna and Ashley

Slow Looking at American Art with the MCA, Chicago

For their second Slow Art Day, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (MCA), Illinois, featured five arworks by American artists from the MCA Collection.

CA Collection Artwork #1 Deana Lawson, American, b. 1979 “Sons of Cush,” 2016 Inkjet print, and mounted on Sintra Framed: 44 × 55 3/16 in. (111.8 × 140.2 cm) Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Restricted gift of Emerge, 2018.19
MCA Collection Artwork #2 Nicholas Africano, American, b. 1948 “I Get Hurt,” 1980 Acrylic, magna, oil, and enamel on Masonite Framed, approx.: 36 × 71 1/8 × 4 in. Collection MCA Chicago, 1980.42
MCA Collection Artwork #3 Jack Pierson, American, b. 1960 The Call Back, 1995 Chromogenic development print 30 × 20 in. (76.2 × 50.1 cm) Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Restricted gift of The Dave Hokin Foundation, 1995.119.1
MCA Collection Artwork #4 Joshua Nathanson, American, b. 1973 Is it late yet?, 2015 Acrylic and oil stick on canvas 84 × 61 1/16 in. (213.4 × 155.1 cm) Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Gift of Mary and Earle Ludgin by exchange, 2016.9
MCA Collection Artwork #5 Gertrude Abercrombie, American, 1909–1977 The Courtship, 1949 Oil on Masonite Framed: 28 × 31 ¾ in. (71.1 × 80.6 cm) Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Gift of the Gertrude Abercrombie Trust, 1978.56

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.

– Johanna

Slow Looking Meditations with the National Gallery

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.

5-minute Meditation: Bonington’s ‘An Estuary in Northern France’, The National Gallery, YouTube

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:

Turner’s ‘Rain, Steam, and Speed’

Redon’s ‘Ophelia among the Flowers

Rosa Bonheur’s ‘The Horse Fair’

Bonington’s ‘An Estuary in Northern France’

Zurbarán’s ‘A Cup of Water and a Rose’

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.”

Christina Bradstreet

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.

National Gallery visitors enjoying a slow looking activity (pre-lockdown).
Picture courtesy of the National Gallery.

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.”  

*Delightful*”

“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!” 

Participant Quotes

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!

Christina Bradstreet

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.

– Johanna

Slow looking with the Frye Art Museum

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.

Friedrich August von Kaulbach (German, 1850-1920), Rosario Guerrero, ca. 1908.
Oil on canvas, 49 1/2 x 37 3/8 in. Founding Collection, Gift of Charles and Emma Frye, 1952.082
In the manner of Edouard Manet, ‘Landscape with Figures,’ n.d.
Oil on canvas, 18 x 15 in. Founding Collection, Gift of Charles and Emma Frye, 1952.109

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.”

Participant Quote

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.

– Johanna and Ashley

Art Gallery of Ontario Hosts 6th Slow Art Day

For their sixth Slow Art Day The Art Gallery of Ontario, Canada, invited the public to look slowly at five artworks, accompanied by prompts, via their Instagram Story:

  • Canaletto, ‘The Bacino di San Marco, from the Piazzetta‘, c. 1735.
  • Barbara Hepworth, ‘Two Figures’, 1943.
  • Claude Monet, ‘Charing Cross Bridge, brouillard‘, 1902.
  • Claes Oldenburg, ‘Ice Cream Soda with Cookie‘, 1963.
  • Daphne Odjig, ‘Odjig Family: Father, Grandmother, Stanley, Daphne, Donald, Winnie, Xmas, Dec 25th‘, 1986.

Re-Live the Experience

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?

Canaletto

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….

Canaletto, The Bacino di San Marco, from the Piazzetta, c. 1735. Oil on canvas, Unframed: 48.8 × 81.8 cm. Gift of the Ludwig Mond Estate, 1926. © Art Gallery of Ontario, 829.

Hepworth

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?

Barbara Hepworth, Two Figures, 1943. Redwood, strings, 61.2 x 31.4 x 21 cm. Gift of Sam and Ayala Zacks, 1970. © Bowness, 71/88

Monet

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…

Claude Monet. Charing Cross Bridge, brouillard, 1902. Oil on canvas, 73 × 92 cm. Gift of Ethel and Milton Harris, 1990. © Art Gallery of Ontario 90/161

Oldenburg

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?

Claes Oldenburg, Ice Cream Soda with Cookie, 1963. Alkyd paint on plaster and glass, stainless steel, chinaware, paper, painted tray, 29.2 x 34.9 x 26 cm. Gift of the Sydney Lawrence Wax Family Trust, 2011. © Claes Oldenburg 2011/272

Odjig

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?

Daphne Odjig, Odjig Family: Father, Grandmother, Stanley, Daphne, Donald, Winnie, Xmas, Dec 25th, 1986. Acrylic on canvas, 121.9 x 101.6 cm. Purchase with assistance from Greg Latremoille and the Estate of Mary Ash, 2016 © Estate of Daphne Odjig, 2016/39.

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:

  • Get comfortable…
  • 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.

– Johanna

Impressionist Interiors at The Bendigo Art Gallery

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.
Bessie Davidson, Lecture au jardin (reading in the garden), 1930s, oil on plywood 94 x 114 cm. Collection of Max Tegel, New South Wales.
Bessie Davidson, Fillette au perrouquet (Little girl with parrot), 1913, oil on canvas 92 x 73 cm.
Collection of Carmel Dyer and Allen Hunter. Image courtesy of Bonhams.
Bessie Davidson, An interior, c. 1920, oil on composition board  73.1 x 59.7 cm.
Gift of Mrs C Glanville, 1968, Art Gallery of South Australia.

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.

– Johanna and Ashley

Gardiner Museum Hosts Sense-ational Slow Art Day

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:

View of Linda Swanson’s TEMPLUM OF A PRECIOUS THING OF NO VALUE, A SHAPELESS THING OF MANY SHAPES, 2020, Clay, water, metal, nylon, wood.
Part of the RAW Exhibition at The Gardiner Museum. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

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?
View of Linda Swanson’s TEMPLUM OF A PRECIOUS THING OF NO VALUE, A SHAPELESS THING OF MANY SHAPES, 2020. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

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?
View of Linda Swanson’s TEMPLUM OF A PRECIOUS THING OF NO VALUE, A SHAPELESS THING OF MANY SHAPES, 2020. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

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?
View of Linda Swanson’s TEMPLUM OF A PRECIOUS THING OF NO VALUE, A SHAPELESS THING OF MANY SHAPES, 2020. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

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.

– Johanna

Note: The listed prompts were selected from the original, full list of prompts provided by The Gardiner Museum.




Slow-Looking with The ICA, Boston

For their third Slow Art Day, The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Boston, MA, designed a slow-looking event for participants to try at home.

Guidelines for the slow-looking were created by Amy Briggs Kemeza, Tour Programs Manager at the ICA. On April 4, they were shared to Instagram, Facebook, and the museum website, where they could also be accessed via a PDF.

Participants could choose artwork in their own home for slow-looking, or use one of the suggested artworks from the ICA’s collection such as Caitlin Keogh, Blank Melody, Old Wall (2018).

Caitlin Keogh, Blank Melody, Old Wall, 2018. Acrylic on canvas, 84 x 63 inches (213.4 x 160 cm). Fotene Demoulas and Tom Coté Art Acquisition Fund and Anonymous Art Acquisition Fund. Courtesy the artist and Bortolami, New York. © Caitlin Keogh

The easy-to-follow instructions involved mindful breathing, slow-looking, and stream-of-consciousness note-taking which were well received across the board – with the Instagram post receiving 530+ likes. For anyone wishing to recreate the experience, the material can still be accessed on Instagram, Facebook, and the museum’s website.

Guidelines to the ICA Boston slow-looking event, created by Amy Briggs Kemeza, Tour Programs Manager at ICA Boston. Available here.

One Instagram user commented:

“Happy Slow Art Day! I like the slow art from (artist) Caitlin Keogh very much! Thank you for sharing her work with us in slow motion during this global event, and it fits well with quarantine schedules as it invites us to slow down and enjoy the discoveries art can offer.”

The whole Slow Art Day HQ team was excited by the clear and compelling design of their slow looking instructions as well as by the decision to encourage participants to slowly look at artworks in their home.

We look forward to whatever the ICA Boston comes up with for Slow Art Day 2021.

– Johanna and Ashley