Think back to the last time you visited a museum—was it a blur? Today is Slow Art Day, a worldwide event encouraging us to slow down and engage in thoughtful and deep exploration of all kinds of artwork. Celebrate Slow Art Day by finding a participating institution near you, or use these tips any day of the year to make your next trip to a museum more mindful.
1. Take it slow
Often, museum visits can feel rushed—there’s always so much to see! During Slow Art Day, museums organize special tours or events where visitors are encouraged to spend ten full minutes in front of a single work of art. After viewing five different works, visitors discuss their experiences with other participants and museum docents. The silent contemplation may be a difficult challenge, or a welcome change, but it’s a sure way to connect to art in a more meaningful and powerful way than most visitors are used to.
2. Bring your meditative practice to the museum
When visiting a museum, sometimes snapping a photo for Instagram can become more important than observing the art itself. When the mind is preoccupied with “likes” and digital profiles, it isn't truly present. Fortunately, meditating before arriving at the museum will prime your mind for art-viewing by sharpening your focus and helping to clear away distractions. At the Rubin Museum of Art, visitors are invited to sit with meditation leaders like Sharon Salzberg for a weekly mindfulness meditation session inspired by a work of art in the museum collection. Afterwards, they can take a gallery tour to see the inspirational art in person. Visitors find that this not only enhances their mental clarity, but also deepens their connection to the art.
3. Bring a sketchbook
Everybody remembers Mona Lisa’s smile, but most people struggle to recall the setting and details of the most famous painting in the world. Whether it’s the Louvre or the Rubin Museum of Art, students are often encouraged to spend time sketching the paintings and sculptures that intrigue them—not to practice their art skills, but to get them to look closer at the details: the complex color of a sky, the figure off in the distance… After taking the time to draw a sketch yourself, you’re bound to remember the details of a work and have a greater appreciation for its creation.
4. Visit a limited number of exhibitions
One way to break the habit of rushing through a museum visit is to limit the number of exhibitions you’ll see. By setting a limit for yourself, you’ll feel more inclined to sit with the artworks, read all the wall labels, and try out the tips above. Although you’ll have to sacrifice seeing everything, put the FOMO aside, and you’ll develop a greater understanding and mindful connection to the ones you do choose to see.