In our fast paced, 24/7 connected, multitasking world many important skills atrophy. For example, the practice of art appreciation has eroded to the point that now the average interaction with a work of art is about 10 seconds. Establishing a personal connection with a piece takes a bit of careful contemplation, deliberate exploration, and self reflection.
Back in 2008, Phil Terry, the CEO of Collaborative Gain - a pioneer in customer experience, was contemplating this sad phenomenon while visiting the exhibition “Action/Abstraction” at the Jewish Museum in New York. As he spent an hour in front of Hans Hofmann’s Fantasia (1943) he got the idea for Slow Art Day - a movement to encourage people to slow down, get to know a piece or two of art and hopefully make a more personal connection. Terry explains "When people look slowly at a piece of art they make discoveries. They discover the art of discovery - i.e. by looking slowly they find that they can see so much more than by looking for only a few seconds. They also discover that they can participate in the art experience - i.e. that they can see and experience art without an expert (or expertise) and that they have a lot to say about the art after a period of contemplative looking." What began as an experiment involving a handful of his friends at New York's Museum of Modern Art in the summer of 2009 has grown to be an annual international phenomenon. This year Slow Art Day is April 8th, 2017 with volunteers hosting events at 176 venues around the globe.
There are no hard rules that the hosts must follow - just get participants to spend 10-15 minutes each with selected art pieces in order to give them the opportunity to connect. Since different art and different venues are all unique, no two Slow Art Day events are exactly the same.
I've been involved since 2010, playing the host at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) here in Virginia Beach. Each year has been more rewarding than the last. As a group we've explored every kind of artwork imaginable from traditional media such as paintings and sculptures to videos, 3D printed jewelry and clothing. I give participants the list of works to explore, some encouraging questions and tips to help guide them, and an hour in the galleries to explore each piece in no particular order. During that hour I float around seeing how everyone's doing and try to help if they seem to get stuck. After the hour is up, we head off as a group to a local restaurant and talk about our experiences. The conversation is amazing! Everyone has had something to say and without fail they've all managed to make a personal connection to at least one piece in the set.
For the readers here in Hampton Roads, please join me at 11:00am this Saturday at Virginia MOCA. For everyone else, go to the Slow Art Day web site and find a supporting nearby venue. Experience the transformative power that slowing down, exploring and connecting with art can have. You'll be happy you did.