By Tamera Abate

It’s not what you look at that matters it’s what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau

Slow Art Day is a global event with a simple mission: help more people discover for themselves the joy of looking at and loving art.

Slow Art Day was founded in 2009 by Phil Terry, an e-commerce entrepreneur. Terry began working with a team of volunteers and selected museums to develop a format that invites the public to contemplate five works of art, as selected by the participating museums, for ten minutes each, then gather afterwards to discuss their experiences.

Terry’s idea sprang from his visit to the Jewish Museum in New York in 2008 when he decided to spend a full hour with Hans Hofmann’s painting Fantasia (1943). At the end of the hour he noticed that he felt energized and how “these micro-experiences can be transformative and go much deeper than a quick look.”

Research shows that the average person looks at a piece of art for less than 30 seconds and that included reading the label and for a large percentage of visitors, taking a selfie. In our smartphone instant gratification culture we sometimes find ourselves darting from one painting to another because we feel obligated to see every piece of artwork. If you have only an hour to spend in an art museum try spending the first 30 minutes wandering and the second 30 minutes with a compelling painting, choose one that draws you in instead of the painting you think you’re supposed to see because it’s famous. You might just emerge from this experience feeling refreshed and inspired rather than depleted.

Some questions to ask yourself when looking at a piece of art:                 

  • What is the first thing you notice about this artwork?
  • Does this make you think of anything you’ve seen before or someone you’ve met, or a place you’ve been?
  • What do you see that makes you say that?

To experience your very own Slow Art Day right here in the Methow Valley, visit the Winthrop Gallery or Confluence Gallery, choose up to five paintings, ask for a chair and sit with each painting for at least ten minutes each then notice what happens as you begin to be able to actually see what you’re looking at. Go solo or make it an outing with friends and have a discussion afterward about your newfound discoveries. You might be surprised at what you find.