art outside the box | the freer | sackler blog

They Came. They Saw. They Took Their Time.

Taking part in Slow Art Day in the Freer Gallery.

Taking part in Slow Art Day in the Freer Gallery.

David Nash is program assistant in the Education Department at Freer|Sackler.

On Saturday, April 27, ten enthusiastic visitors joined Education Specialist Hillary Rothberg and me for Slow Art Day. Joining more than 250 other museums worldwide, we looked at four objects for fifteen minutes each and thought deeply about what the objects represented and how they were crafted. We examined a third-century frieze that depicts the life of the Buddha and sketched it in the gallery. Looking through handmade telescopes, we gazed at ancient scenes of romance and destruction on Japanese screens. We circled four Guardian Kings and looked closely at them from four directions, and we listened to a recording of a piano playing a soft nocturne as we looked upon night scenes from the nineteenth century.

After our time in the galleries, we made our way to Teaism and enjoyed a casual lunch, sharing our thoughts on art and what we’d seen over a slow and delightful meal. Everyone expressed what art means to them and how they were affected by the day’s activities. We took our time listening to each other and offering comments.

Finally, as lunch ended, twelve newly acquainted friends parted ways. Each went on his or her separate path, back to the normal pace of life. However, with memories of this day as a guide, perhaps each will continue the practice of looking at art slowly.

We hope you’ll join us for next year’s Slow Art Day on April 12, 2014!

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Slow Down for Art!

Up Close and Slow: Taking a good look at a work of art at Freer|Sackler.

Visitors take a good look at a work of art at Freer|Sackler (photo by Cory Grace).

Hillary Rothberg is an educator at Freer|Sackler.

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

The above quote is this year’s motto for Slow Art Day—and how true it is. While we may all look at an object together, what we see as individuals varies widely. And it is that subjectivity that makes art such a powerful tool. Some see the intricacy of design and technique in a piece of art; others see the emotion and poignancy in the story told by that piece. By slowing down and really taking time to view a work, we can deliberate on art in a meditative style, exploring its depth and meaning, and can understand better its craftsmanship.

On Saturday, April 27, the Freer and Sackler Galleries will take part in the rapidly growing Slow Art Day movement. We, along with more than 250 other art venues across the globe, will lead a group in looking at art objects. Then, we will discuss what we’ve discovered over lunch. It’s an opportunity to see and think deeply, and to share with each other the meaning of art in our lives.

Want to learn more about Slow Art Day? Check out this interview with founder Phil Terry on the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s blog, Eye Level.

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