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

Japanese Women Artists: Slow Art Day at the Gardiner Museum

For their second Slow Art Day, the Gardiner Museum in Toronto (ON), Canada, created a slow looking video that focused on two ceramic sculptures by renowned Japanese women artists:

  • Fujikasa Satoko Hiten; Seraphim, 2016 Stoneware with white slip glaze.
    The Diana Reitberger Collection
  • Hattori Makiko. Ryū: Flow, 2017 Unglazed porcelainous stoneware
    The Diana Reitberger Collection
Fujikasa Satoko Hiten; Seraphim, 2016 Stoneware with white slip glaze. 23 1/4 x 25 1/8 x 17 3/4 in. The Diana Reitberger Collection

Hattori Makiko. Ryū: Flow, 2017 Unglazed porcelainous stoneware.
The Diana Reitberger Collection

On April 10, the museum invited participants to watch the below video showcasing the sculptures.

We recommend that museum educators and Slow Art Day fans around the world watch this simple and lovely slow looking video. The video is also accessible through the Museum’s website and social media channels: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

For those interested in the history of Japanese women sculptors, we recommend this article published in Pen [ペン]: Japan’s Female Ceramists Celebrated on the International Stage.

Slow Art Day 2021 video created by the Gardiner Museum. Music: White Lotus by Kevin Macleoud


While watching the video, participants were given the following prompts to better engage with the artworks:

Seraphim

  • Outline the sculpture with your eyes, noticing each bump and curve.
  • Trace the outline of the shadow at the base of the sculpture.
  • Look at the negative space created around and within the piece. What shapes do you see?
  • Observe the different areas of shadow and light. Try to identify all the various tones of grey, white, and black.
  • What would you title this piece?

Ryū: Flow

  • Look at the object as a whole. What does it look like to you? Does it remind you of anything familiar?
  • Observe the texture of the piece from a distance. What do you think it will look like up close?
  • What do think this piece would feel like to touch? Imagine resting your hand against it.
  • Pick a point along one of the little ribbons and follow it with your eyes, weaving among the spirals and folds. What shapes can you create?
  • Imagine picking up the sculpture. How heavy do you think it would be? Feel its weight in your hands.
  • If you were picking a spot to display this piece, where would you put it? Close your eyes and visualize it there.


Participants responded well to the video. We include some of their comments below:

I love experiencing the movements in such quietness. Thanks for showing us!

Participant’s quote


Wonderful pieces, beautifully shot! I could see the flow and feel the texture.

Participant’s quote.


Both beautiful pieces, a very meditative relaxing view of each individually. I really enjoyed looking at these two pieces in this way.

Participant’s quote


Such a lovely escape.

Participant’s quote


It is SLOW ART DAY… and the Gardiner Museum has released this wonderful 5 minute video designed to help us pause and reflect in the midst of our busy lives. What a great idea!

Participant’s quote



We at Slow Art Day HQ loved the video and the prompts. The mindful connection with the ceramic sculptures recreated and enhanced the experience.

We are considering a global tour of Slow Art Day museums, perhaps starting next summer. We would definitely love to visit the Gardiner Museum and see these beautiful sculptures in person.

And, of course, we look forward to what the Gardiner Museum comes up with 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.

Relax and Re-energize: Slow Art Day at Galleria l’Arte di Seta

For their first Slow Art Day, the Galleria l’Arte di Seta, in Ljubljana, Slovenia, organized a mindful Zoom session on April 10, featuring three different paintings:

  • Camille Pissarro. A Creek in St. Thomas (Virgin Islands), 1856.
  • Auguste Renoir , Jeune Espagnole jouant de la guitare, 1898.
  • Vasily Kandinsky, Composition 8 (Komposition 8), 1923.
Camille Pissarro. A Creek in St. Thomas (Virgin Islands), 1856.
Oil on academy board, 24.5 x 32.2 cm, Courtesy of National Gallery, Washington.
Auguste Renoir , Jeune Espagnole jouant de la guitare, 1898.
Oil on canvas, 55.6 x 65.2 cm. Courtesy of National Gallery Washington
Vasily Kandinsky, Composition 8 (Komposition 8), 1923.
Oil on canvas, 140.3 x 200.7 cm. Courtesy of Guggenheim Museum.

Participants joined the two-hour Zoom session, which included 10 minute observation of each of the three paintings, followed by discussion.

Lidija Drobež, founder of Galleria l’Arte di Seta, was positively surprised by the enthusiasm and depth of insight from the participants. In fact, to foster even deeper discussion, she said the gallery might focus on one or two pieces of art next year.

Several participants left wonderful feedback.

“When I heard the title of event I was sceptical. After the session I can say that it was not only relaxing and reenergising but it gave me a lot of insights about myself.”

Ana Tijssen – Slow Art Day participant

“I joined the session out of simple curiosity. For the first time in my life I took more time to view a painting: I discovered things which took me by surprise. What I take out of whole event, is how diverse insights participants obtained and yet our conversation was open and positive all the time.”

Monika K. – Slow Art Day participant

“The more I was focusing on the paintings, the more it made me realise how everything is connected in life. For example – much more than being fond of traveling, I am fond of living in foreign countries and during the Slow Art Day session I realised why. When I allowed myself to stop and take time to be with the painting it was only then when I could feel a deeper connection and a sense of familiarity. It is the same with foreign countries – traveling through them seems like rushing through the gallery from one famous painting to another – the experience may appear fleeting and empty. Living in a foreign country, on the contrary, is like taking time to get to know the “painting” in depth, which feels meaningful and enriching.”

Anja Humljan – Slow Art Day participant

“I really appreciated the event, because it created the possibility of valuing different ways of seeing. One was to connect with myself and rediscover the joy of personal discovery almost like a child. And, of course, last but not least, I really enjoyed the insights and comments of other participants.”

Nenad Filipovic – Slow Art Day participant

Due to the enthusiastic response to the event by participants, the Gallery plans to organize an in-person event later this year once they can re-open. Visit their Instagram account to stay updated with their work.

At Slow Art Day HQ, we love the passion for slow looking that Lidija Drobež and her participants show. We must admit that our original design for Slow Art Day was to have participants look for one hour at one painting, but we decided that might be too intimidating. Yet, we still know the power of even slower looking, and are thus excited to see what Lidija Drobež comes up with for 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

Van Gogh in Mississippi for Slow Art Day 2020

For their second Slow Art Day, the Mississippi Museum of Art shared a slow-panning video of Vincent van Gogh’s “Daisies, Arles” (1888).

The video featured close-ups of the painting alongside commentary by Victoria Meek, Associate Curator for Family and Studio Programs. The painting is her favorite artwork from the Mississippi Museum of Art exhibition “Van Gogh, Monet, Degas and Their Times,” which was postponed due to the pandemic.

Title: Art Moment | Vincent van Gogh’s “Daisies, Arles,” 1888.
Artwork: Oil on canvas, 13 x 16 1/2 in. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, 2014.207. Copyright Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Photo: Travis Fullerton

McKenzie Drake, Assistant Curator of Public Programs and Community Engagement, said that the video was well-received across social media, with 830+ views and likes on Instagram and Facebook.

One person posted a picture of roses as a thematic connection, and others praised our education staff for providing insightful interpretation of the work. We were pleased to have produced something that could allow our audience to take a closer look at one of the iconic works on view.

McKenzie Drake, Assistant Curator of Public Programs and Community Engagement

Following the positive feedback on the video, the Museum created a new “Mindful Art Moment” video series on their Facebook page, encouraging viewers to think differently about what they see in works of art.

At Slow Art Day HQ, we are excited to see the Museum build new programs based on the success of its Slow Art Day initiative. This is core to our mission: use the annual event to encourage museums to adopt year-round programming.

We look forward to seeing what the Mississippi Museum of Art has in store for Slow Art Day 2021.

– Johanna and Ashley

Slow Looking and the 19th Amendment in Asheville

The Asheville Art Museum hosted its third Slow Art Day with a virtual slow looking webinar focused on three works by women artists in honor of the 19th Amendment’s 100th anniversary:

  • 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.
Carrie Mae Weems, Untitled (Playing Cards/Malcolm X) from the Kitchen Table II series, 1990, printed 1999, gelatin silver print, edition 2/5, 26 ¾ × 26 ⅞ inches. Museum purchase with funds provided by 2004 Collectors’ Circle, 2004.24.04.91. © Carrie Mae Weems, courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery.
Minnie Evans, Untitled, not dated, colored pencil on brown paper, 11 ¾ × 9 inches. Gift of Randy Siegel, 2012.08.42.
Harriet Randall Lumis, The Little Red Bush, circa 1915, oil on canvas, 24 × 28 inches. Given in honor of Dorothy Hamill on her birthday, October 12, 2000, 2000.14.21.

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.”

Participant Quotes

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.

-Johanna and Ashley

Experimental Slow Looking Session with MART in Italy

The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Rovereto and Trento (MART), Italy, hosted its first experimental Slow Art Day session via Zoom.

The virtual session was attended by a select group of MART members who discussed 4 artworks from the museum’s permanent collection, including Osvaldo Licini’s Bilico (1933) and Fortunato Depero’s Chiesa di Lizzana (1923).

Osvaldo Licini, Bilico, 1933. Part of the Augusto and Francesca Giovanardi Collection: “La Magnifica Ossessione”, MART.
Fortunato Depero, Chiesa di Lizzana (Lizzana), 1923, MART, Fondo Depero. Photo: MART Photographic Archive and Media Library.

Five days before the session, Denise Bernabe, Membership Coordinator at MART, emailed participants images of the artworks along with a brief explanation of slow looking (without disclosing the artists or the titles of the works).

During the hour and a half session, Bernabe facilitated a relaxed discussion in which participants made personal and emotional remarks about the artworks based solely on their immediate slow-looking responses. All participants loved the experience and, as a direct result of this session, the MART is planning to continue integrating slow-looking with future events.

The event was instigated by local art enthusiast Piero Consolati, who has been a MART member for several years and frequently participates in museum events. The session was made possible through his interest in slow looking, which prompted him to approach the staff at MART about hosting an event.

Public engagement with both art and museums is something that Slow Art Day strongly promotes, and the MART event is a beautiful example of the important role art enthusiasts can play in initiating events and furthering the slow art movement throughout the community. At Slow Art Day HQ, we are very excited to hear about the MART’s slow-looking Zoom session, and are thankful to Consolati for reaching out to us with the details.

We look forward to hearing about future slow looking events hosted by MART hopefully also for Slow Art Day 2021.

– Johanna

Jigsaws and Meditative Drawing with the Georgia Museum of Art

For their 5th Slow Art Day, the Georgia Museum of Art in Athens, Georgia, combined two meditative art techniques by artist Anna Bogatin Ott: Slow Looking and Slow Drawing.

Slow Looking

For the slow looking activity, participants were invited to look closely at the painting Aurora by Anna Bogatin Ott, and were guided by prompts via a PDF file, such as:

  • “How do the repetitive marks guide your gaze around the painting?”
  • “Imagine the painting so far away it becomes a speck, then zoom in so close that it’s touching your nose.”
Anna Bogatin Ott (American, b. Ukraine 1970), Aurora (River Wanderings 7714), 2014 – 15. Acrylic on canvas, 48 x 48 inches (122 x 122 centimeters). Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia; Gift of the artist, GMOA 2017.34.

Since Ott’s art is inspired by nature, participants were also encouraged to reflect on similarities between the colors of the painting and nature.

“I engage all my senses, dissolve into surrounding sounds, become immersed in the nature’s logic of being, and then, from memory, I recreate my experiences in drawings and paintings.”

Anna Bogatin Ott

Slow Drawing

For the slow drawing part of the event, participants were encouraged to draw horizontal lines while trying to stay in touch with their physical sensations focusing attention on the sound of their breath, the feel of the texture of the paper, and the visual effect of negative and positive space between the lines. The activity became a mindful way of remaining present through a multi-sensory art experience.

Slow Drawing Instructions (PDF) for Slow Art Day, 2020, by The Georgia Museum of Art.

Pre-event Virtual Jigsaw Puzzle

Leading up to the main event, the museum shared a virtual interactive jigsaw puzzle of their featured painting to their Facebook page. Several participants completed the jigsaw, and the post reached 647 readers.

Virtual jigsaw of Anna Bogatin Ott’s Aurora, available: www.jigsawplanet.com. Courtsey of The Georgia Museum of Art. Screenshot by Johanna.

Without being formally promoted, their event was a social media success with over 2000 Instagram impressions and 185 Facebook interactions.

The Slow Art Day HQ team has loved participating in these mindful activities. They made us feel centered and at peace, which is a big part of what Slow Art Day is all about.

We look forward to seeing more of The Georgia Museum of Art’s immersive events – hopefully for Slow Art Day 2021.

-Johanna and Ashley