came from an observation that visitors to Yorkshire Sculpture Park, in common with most galleries and museums, spend very little time engaging with the artwork – research from the National Gallery revealed the average to be under two minutes for any artwork.
Research shows that a 30-minute visit to a gallery can measurably reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol in saliva. We also know that slowing down, taking time and noticing what is going on around us and within us has beneficial effects. So what would happen if that short visit was enjoyed at a slower, more mindful pace? Could we intervene in people’s usual habits and introduce ways to slow down?
is one of the solutions we have developed. It is a regular monthly event for any members of the public to come and experience mindfulness and art in the outdoors and in the galleries.
The question we are interested in is: ‘can we use mindfulness practices to move from being a passive observer to a more active engagement with the artwork?’
The two-hour session involves some guided meditation and some suggestions about how to mindfully engage with art. People look at the artworks they are drawn to, and are supported to move into a state of active looking or listening. We encourage people to encounter the artwork as a direct experience. There is no need for knowledge or experience, you don’t have to ‘get it’ you only have to notice what is going on for you.
This process has led to some heartfelt responses from people:
‘I will think more about why I need to come here and how to get the most out of it. I didn’t realise before today why I liked coming. I didn’t know how to do it on purpose, it just sometimes worked on it’s own and sometimes didn’t. I was probably here but not here, that’s why it didn’t work.’
‘An extraordinary experience that should be offered to all!’
‘I don’t understand art… particularly sculpture. I read the info, I look at it, I don’t really get it. What we did today was different – I really did feel I was engaging with it’
‘A new way of looking – you don’t need to know who the artist is, what you think it’s about – you can just get lost in it
‘We all feel inadequate as to how informed a response is but this exercise suggests that authenticity of response is experienced when prepared by mindfulness.’
‘A time to relax, contemplate and absorb. To feel what the artist is trying to say and what it says to you. The course re-aligns why we come here to YSP. To slow down.
Rachel Massey, Arts and Wellbeing Coordinator