Butler Art Institute Takes It Slow

By Zach Mosca
Jambar Contributor

For most, April 6 is just another day, but for art enthusiasts, it’s a day for appreciating art and looking deeper into pieces to gain new perspectives on them.

Slow Art Day is a holiday celebrated by art museums around the world, and this year the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown was one of many to partake in the festivities.

According to Butler Director of Education Joyce Mistovich, this was the museum’s third year of participating in it in hopes of increasing Butler attendees’ appreciation for art.

“It is an opportunity to slow down, really engage and truly look at a work of art,” Mistovich said.

She said people spend less than a minute looking at individual pieces of art in a museum, rather than taking time to stop and really look into them.

“Studies have shown that most people when they come into museums spend about 15 to 30 seconds looking at a work of art. They walk in, go into a gallery and walk by. With Slow Art Day, the thrust is really engaging and truly looking at a work of art,” Mistovich said.

Upon entering, attendees were given a brochure listing seven pieces of art in the museum, one for each room on the bottom floor.

When attendees got to a piece, a docent told them a bit about it and pointed out details that most people wouldn’t notice at first glance.

In addition, the brochure contained two questions related to each piece for people to think about while they observe them.

For example, one of the pieces in the brochure was “The Rail Splitter” by Norman Rockwell. One question asked what the observer noticed about the perspective.

The painting features a young Abraham Lincoln standing in a field of leaves holding an axe. If one looks at the perspective, they will notice that Lincoln appears at a low angle, making him appear to be giant. This could symbolize power.

A lot of the people who participated in Slow Art Day left with a whole new outlook on works of art, and have taken interest in looking at pieces more closely.

Museum attendee Johanna Slivinske said while she already took time to look at art more slowly, she never tried to understand the stories behind the pieces and Slow Art Day got her interested in that.

“A lot of times, I’ll view art in a slow manner already; however, I don’t always get the artist’s story behind it. So, I think that after this, I’ll probably be more interested in what the artist’s intent was instead of just my own interpretation,” Slivinske said.

The piece that stood out most to Slivinske was “After the Hunt” by William Michael Harnett. It is a photorealistic painting showcasing a variety of dead animals hanging on a door along with a plethora of hunting supplies.

She said she has a much broader interpretation of the painting now that she’s been guided by a docent.

“What I see now is that there are multiple ways to interpret it and I’m curious as to what the painter’s intent actually was,” Slivinske said.

Janet Tarpley attended Slow Art Day with her friend, Eleanor Napier. The piece that stood out to them the most was “The Little Dancer” by Robert Henri.

At first glance, it just looks like a portrait of a woman, but after studying the context of the piece and the time period it was made, one will discover a new meaning.

“[The docent] pointed out a lot in the background like the colors and the angles of the picture that I wouldn’t normally look at,” Napier said.

“We left with the story of a girl rather than just a girl … I think we left with more information about the painting itself and a connection to the artist as well,” Tarpley said.