Visitors looking at artworks in Stampede

Settle In & Savor at the DAM on Slow Art Day

The DAM invites you to summon your inner turtle for our inaugural Slow Art Day, an international event with the simple mission to help more people discover for themselves the joy of looking at and loving art. On April 14, people all over the world will visit museums and galleries to look at art slowly, lingering with five works of art for 10 minutes each and then joining back up for a conversation about the experience. Though simple in design, you might be surprised at the discoveries that happen just by taking the time to look.

What are the benefits of slowing down with art?

I am the first to admit that I don’t always linger in front of works of art when I am exploring a museum, and that’s okay. There’s more than one way to “do” the museum. It can be fun to make like a grasshopper and hop from painting to painting, stealing a quick glance before moving on to the next work on display, or avoiding those that don’t grip us at first glance.

But what can happen when we dial down the tempo and settle in to look, to really see, the piece that the artist so carefully and creatively constructed?

  • We see more when we spend more time with a work of art. Think of it like juicing an orange – there’s always a bit more to squeeze out!
  • We experience an art work more deeply and connect with it in unexpected ways.
  • We reset our pace, which can be hectic in our daily lives, and engage in the present moment.

Is a picture made in a single moment? No, it is built up piece-by-piece, just like a house. And the spectator – is his looking done in a single moment?

– Artist Paul Klee

Is Slow Art Day for me? How does it work?

Visitors of all ages can connect with art by slowing down and taking the time to look, and a museum educator will be at the event to share some fun, creative, and useful ideas for slow looking. Here is a snapshot of the event:

  • 11-11:15 am: Meet in the lower level of the Hamilton Building to get the scoop on Slow Art Day and to pick up a few slow looking tips and itinerary suggestions from museum staff.
  • 11:15 am-12:30 pm: Explore the galleries on your own, looking at five art works for ten minutes each.
  • 12:30-1 pm: Reconvene in the lower level to share and discuss the experience.

Can’t make it to Slow Art Day? Tips for savoring art on your own.

Whether you can make it Slow Art Day or not, you can savor art on your own, wherever you are.

  • Get comfortable. Pull up a stool or chair, if available, and settle in. Close your eyes, feel the weight of your body in the seat, and take a few deep breaths to calm the mind and body.

  • Scan the artwork. Pretend that your eyes are powerful laser beams and scan the work, from top to bottom, left to right. Where do your eyes want to settle or return? What catches your attention? Do you notice anything different about the work when you slightly squint?

  • Embrace the space. What do you see when you are within arm’s reach of the work versus a few feet back? What changes when you stand on one side of the work and then the other? If it’s three-dimensional, what do you notice as you move around the piece? Stoop down to gaze up at the work – what changes?

  • Check out the material. Do you see any trace of the artist’s hand in the work (i.e. thick brushstroke)? What textures do you notice on the surface of the piece?

  • Fire up your senses. What would it sound/smell/feel like to be in the work?

  • Challenge yourself. What might happen when you slow down with a work that you don’t think you like when you first see it? What do you think of it after spending 10 minutes with it?