NMWA Turns Slow Art Day into a Week of Activities

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, ‘It Made Sense…Mostly In Her Mind,’ Oil on canvas, 54 x 43 inches, 2011; Promised Gift of Steven Scott, Baltimore, in honor of the artist and the 25th Anniversary of the National Museum of Women in the Arts; Photo courtesy of the artist.

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.”

Amy Sherald, quote from the NMWA Blog.

“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.”

U.K. Participant

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.

Drawing Encourages Slow Looking at The Hirshhorn

The Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, one of the Smithsonian Institution’s 19 museums in Washington, DC, participated in its second annual Slow Art Day by merging two of their existing programs that encourage slow looking: How to Look at Art and Hirshhorn/DRAW.

The museum’s Slow Art Day event led 150 participants through four simultaneous 30-60 minute sessions paired with a single artwork. Participants were given tips on how to slowly enjoy artwork without having any background information on the work. They were also provided with seats and drawing materials, and were invited to slow down and enjoy the works through drawing.

Participants drawing one of the selected works at the Hirshhorn’s Slow Art Day event.

A Smithsonian Fulbright Fellow participant stated:

“I am extremely grateful for the family-friendly drawing programs – my kids benefited more than I did! My 10 year-old spent 45 minutes drawing (she forgot that she said she was hungry) and was very proud of herself.”

We love to hear how Slow Art Day events foster joy and creativity, and can’t wait to see what The Hirshhorn has in store for Slow Art Day 2020.

– Ashley

Slow Down with Women Artists

The National Museum of Women in the Arts is a longtime leader in the Slow Art Day movement, and they are hosting again this year. Based in Washington, DC, this wonderful institution takes seriously how to help its audience learn how to slow down and really see art by women.

On their Slow Art Day page, they begin by quoting the wonderful Georgia O’Keeffe:

“…to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time”
—Georgia O’Keeffe

We couldn’t agree more. Good friendships require time and so does the art of looking at art.

The museum also suggests several other reasons people should participate in Slow Art Day:

  • To break out of your typical “go, go, go” routine.
  • To learn about yourself, fellow participants, and the creative expressions of women artists.
  • To make discoveries about and forge connections with artwork.

For Slow Art Day, their staff will make artwork suggestions and provide questions to consider as you slow down and look.

So, if you are based in DC, or traveling there on Slow Art Day 2018, we hope you will consider going to the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

You can register here for their event, which is free with museum admission.