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

Spring in the Air at Frye Art Museum

For their fourth Slow Art Day, the Frye Art Museum, in Seattle, Washington, partnered with King County Library System and invited participants to a virtual artwork discussion on the theme of spring.

Visitors at Frye’s museum. Photo credit: Devon Simpson

The session was led by Caroline Byrd, Education Coordinator at the Frye Museum. Visitors joining the event on April 10 were invited to focus on two artworks:

  • An untitled oil painting by Norwegian artist Hans Dahl (1849-1937)
  • Clouds and Windblown Hay by Charles Burchfield (1863-1967).

You can view videos featuring discussion of both artworks on the Museum’s Frye From Home blog:

Hans Dahl. Untitled. 1883-1915. Oil on canvas. 65.41 x 49.53 cm. Photo Credit: Mark Woods. Courtesy of Frye Art Museum
Charles Burchfield. Clouds and Windblown Hay. 1954-64. Watercolor on paper.101.6 x 76.2 cm.
Photo Credit: Jueqian Fang. Courtesy of Frye Art Museum

The theme of spring was highlighted in two senses: through the season itself, portrayed in the paintings, and the concept of fresh beginnings.

Combining prompts for close looking and conversation, the discussion was designed to create a personal connection with the artworks while building a community among participants. Using the prompts, participants uncovered visual clues and provided their own ideas and insights to the discussion. Those that did not feel comfortable joining the group discussion were encouraged to write down or sketch their responses.

Participants were invited to continue exploring the artworks by visiting the Frye’s online collection database or by diving into a reading list provided by the King County Library System.

The event was attended by 25 participants, ranging in age from teens to older adults. Their feedback was positive.

The class was interesting and enriching. It challenged me to look at the art in different ways. Appreciated the opportunity for people to share their thoughts and observations. What a great mental and visual break!! Thank you!” –

Program Participant

Caroline Byrd also found the event rewarding. We include her reflection on the event below.

Even I, as the facilitator, found new perspectives I had never thought about before! Thank you, as always, for allowing the Frye to be part of global Slow Art Day! Especially in these uncertain times, we look forward to the opportunity to slow down, look closely, and spend some time with a work of art.

Caroline Byrd, Education Coordinator, Frye Art Museum

At Slow Art Day HQ, we love the enthusiasm for slow looking that shows in every aspect of the event organized by Caroline Byrd. We want to thank Caroline and the Frye for being once again part of our global event and we are already excited about seeing what they come up with for 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.

Red Zenith asks: What is Your Definition of Slow Art?

For their first Slow Art Day, the online platform Red Zenith Collective launched on April 10, 2021 the project ‘What is Your Definition of Slow Art?‘ with a day-long series of four virtual activities dedicated to the meaning and potential of slow art.

These activities included:

  • An Instagram interview about slow art and sustainability.
  • A downloadable PDF with slow looking prompts, available to participants throughout the day.
  • A collaborative video project: ‘What is Your Definition of Slow Art?
  • An art meditation on the painting ‘Flamenco Singer‘ (Sonia Delaunay, 1916).
Sonia Delaunay, Flamenco Singer, 1916

Red Zenith Collective was founded by two Polish artists, Marta Grabowska and Zula Rabikowska as a platform for women, female-identifying and non-binary creatives with a link to Central and Eastern Europe. The Slow Art Day event was conceptualized and realized by Marta Grabowska, who is also a slow art activist.

Participants were first invited to watch an Instagram interview on definitions of slow art, including how to cultivate sustainability of slow looking in art and curatorship. Marta Grabowska interviewed Veronika Cechova and Tereza Jindrova, curators at the Entrance Gallery in Prague, Czech Republic – the first artistic space in Prague to include ecological sustainability and the environment in its long-term program.

Watch the recorded interview here.

Grawbowska also created a terrific ‘Guide to Slow Looking: Slow Art Exercises – Pandemic Edition.’ We highly recommend all Slow Art Day educators and curators take a look at this and learn from her approach.

The final event of the day was a Zoom art meditation on the painting ‘Flamenco Singer‘ by a Russian-French artist Sonia Delaunay. The meditation was the first in a series of art meditations written by Grabowska, who wrote the script. The meditation lasted 20 minutes and was scripted based on primary and secondary sources of the artists and their work.

Participants loved the program, and left very positive feedback:



Amazing way to focus your attention and learn a bit of art history. 

Shane Hart


A very memorable experience. Allowed me to be mindful and really enjoy the vibrant artwork.

Julia 


Great idea to marry meditation practices and art! I want more! 

Anonymous


I wasn’t sure what to expect, as the name of the artist was not released until the last minute, but it was a gorgeous experience. The koshi bells were mesmerising! Both the writer and the provider are very knowledgeable and managed to create an alternative education setting that captivated us greatly!

Anonymous


At Slow Art Day HQ, we are impressed by and excited to learn more about Marta Grabowska’s ongoing research – perhaps even as part of the 2022 Red Zenith Collective Slow Art Day!

– Johanna, Jessica, Ashley, Phyl

A “Light Bulb” Moment at McMaster Museum of Art

For their 8th Slow Art Day, the McMaster Museum of Art in Hamilton (ON), Canada, hosted a slow looking Zoom session led by McMaster BFA students Donna Nadeem, Julianna Biernacki and Jill Letten, and it focused on their own work and on art by John Hartman, a McMaster alumni.

John Hartman, O’Donnel Point, 1993, Oil on linen. Gift of the artist © John Hartman

On April 10, participants were invited to look slowly at the painting by John Hartman, followed by discussion. Donna, Julianna and Jill, graduating BFA students, also showed and discussed their own work, part of the McMaster Museum of Art’s upcoming exhibition for graduating students: QUIXOTIC. Meaning “all that is deemed idealistic, starry-eyed and impractical”, the word ‘quixotic’ inspired all pieces in the exhibition (Curator’s Statement by Alexis Moline).

The event was well received, with the Instagram post being liked 70+ times. Participants also left glowing feedback:

“I’m so thrilled to look at more than just the subjects and colors. I’ve never been good at interpretation but this has been the light bulb moment I was looking for.” 

Participant feedback

We love this quote, and hear this all the time from Slow Art Day attendees — simply slowing down to look creates “light bulb” moments.

You can find out more about the QUIXOTIC exhibition on the Museum’s Instagram. Their Facebook and Twitter pages are also great places to find out more about its collections and events.

At Slow Art Day HQ, we want to thank the McMaster Museum for the long-time leadership they have provided to the Slow Art Day movement, including this year’s creative design, featuring work by former and current students at the University.

We are already excited about seeing what they come up with for 2022.

-Johanna, Jessica, Ashley

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

Incarcerated Artists with the Justice Art Coalition

On April 10th, the Justice Arts Coalition (JAC) in Silver Spring, Maryland, hosted their first Slow Art Day event. The JAC is a nationwide network connecting incarcerated artists, teaching artists, arts advocates, and allies.

They hosted a virtual slow-looking Zoom session that featured three works of art from their inaugural virtual exhibition Inside & Out, which features work by 30+ incarcerated and formerly incarcerated artists:

  • Jody E. Borhani d’Amico, ‘My friend’. Acrylic.
  • Harry T. Ellis, ‘Women Working’. Oil on canvas.
  • Shani Shih, ‘Needle at the Bottom of the Sea’. Pen & Ink on Bristol paper.
Jody E. Borhani d’Amico, My friend.
Harry T. Ellis, Women Working, oil on canvas.
Shani Shih, Needle at the Bottom of the Sea. Pen & Ink on Bristol paper.

The event was advertised on social media ahead of time, and participants were invited to a Zoom session where they looked slowly at the works and then discussed their understanding of the art and of creativity and justice.

The session was well received by participants:

“When I look at art in general, I tend to be really analytical, but this was a great opportunity to really slow down and get into my feelings around art. I really enjoyed reflecting on this new way of understanding and connecting to art.”

Slow Art Day Participant

“I love this picture. Every time you look at it (I confess to have seen it before) you see something new. I see it as a rescue of the fawn but you could see it as a baby stolen from its mother. The sun is coming through the trees. That’s optimistic. But there are also lots of nets or fences around. Keeping people in? Or keeping people safe?

Participant’s thoughts on “About My Friend”, by Jody E. Borhani D’Amico

At Slow Art Day HQ, we love JAC’s vision of “shaping public dialogue around the intersection of the arts and justice”, and their focus on community-building through art. Their Slow Art Day event, and their aim to support the creativity of incarcerated artists, remind us that both slow art and human connection do not require any expertise; just curiosity and a willingness to see them in new ways.

We look forward to a second Slow Art Day with the Justice Art Coalition in 2022. If you are interested in remaining updated with the artists and work at JAC, you can follow them on their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages.

Johanna, Ashley, and Jessica

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

A Slow Look at Landscapes with the MSV

For their first Slow Art Day, the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley (MSV) in Winchester, Virginia, shared slow-panning videos of two artworks to Facebook.

Click on the paintings below to watch the videos.

Vance Barry, ‘Cocktail Hour, Star Gables Motor Court’, 22.5 x 24″, 2016-2017. Oil on panel.
The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley. Click on the painting to watch the video.

Sally Veach, ‘Autumn Ascension’, 48 x 48″, 2018. Oil on canvas in silver leaf frame.
Shown at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley as part of the 2019 Exhibition: ‘Ghosts of a Forgotten Landscape: Paintings by Sally Veach‘. Click on the painting to watch the video.

The videos were accompanied by prompts, and viewers were invited to respond in the comments.

We have included the prompts below. Why not watch the videos and try some slow looking?

Prompt to the Vance Barry video:

Think about the landscape features you see. What colors and shapes do you notice? How would this landscape sound if you were there? What, if anything, is missing from the landscape?

Prompt to the Sally Veach video:

Think about the colors you see and the shapes you notice. Take a deep breath and look again. Do you notice a different shape or color this time?What time of year do you think the artist is trying to convey? Does this painting remind you of anything you’ve seen out in the world? How does it make you feel?

In total the videos reached 800+ people. Several participants left comments on Facebook, describing Sally Veach’s paintings as “breathtaking”. One viewer also noted that ‘Autumn Ascension’ made him think of the chill of fall before an incoming storm.

Thank you to Mary Ladrick, Director of Education, and her team for hosting a great first Slow Art Day event. The 2020 pandemic meant that museums and galleries had to host virtual events this year, but the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley really rose to the challenge.

We look forward to what they come up with for Slow Art Day 2021.

– Johanna and Ashley

Rubens for Lent at Sint-Pauluskerk

For their third Slow Art Day, the Sint-Pauluskerk in Antwerp, Belgium, produced a slow-panning video of Peter Paul Rubens’ painting ‘The Flagellation of Christ’.

Narrated by Wilfried Van den Brande, with text by Rudi Mannaerts, the video features the stunning inside of the church and a commentary on Rubens’ artwork (click on the photo below to watch).

The nave, or central part, of Sint-Pauluskerk

Previously on loan to the Doge’s palace in Venice, the painting returned to Antwerp in time for the Slow Art Day event. Since Easter fell on the week following Slow Art Day this year, the painting’s theme of Christ’s suffering fit in well with the pre-Easter church calendar.

Peter Paul Rubens, The Flagellation of Christ, 17th century. Sint-Pauluskerk, Antwerp.

Many thanked the church for sharing the video, and several explicitly talked about how much they missed visiting the actual church. The Facebook video was viewed 2,535 times.

At Slow Art Day HQ, we are delighted that the thoughtful connection between the event hosted by Sint-Pauluskerk and the Easter holiday was so well received.

We hope that Sint-Pauluskerk will be able to open its doors for Slow Art Day 2021.

– Johanna and Ashley