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A weekly series focused on Bloomington-Normal's arts community and other major events. Made possible with support from PNC Financial Services.

The world's only citywide Slow Art Day is in Bloomington-Normal

An empty art gallery with white walls and black floors. Colorful paintings and photographs on three adjacent walls surround a black leather sofa on wheels.
courtesy of
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Hangar Art Co.
The Hangar Art Co. (pictured) serves as a central hub for the 2023 Slow Art Day. From 2-4 p.m. Saturday, the gallery and event space hosts a reception with small bites by Mystic Kitchen.

Here are the basics of Slow Art Day: Visit any location on a list of participating museums and galleries, show up on Saturday and look at five pieces of art — slowly. The goal is to spend 5-10 minutes per piece. Think Cameron from "Ferris Bueller’s Day Off" staring intently at “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.”

Micaela Harris is director of communications at the McLean County Museum of History. The museum will have some works by celebrated local artist Harold Gregor on display this Saturday, part of a citywide Slow Art initiative. Harris said the Slow Art movement started in 2010 in New York galleries and museums, then quickly spread around the world.

“Now it is celebrated on all seven continents, including Antarctica,” she said.

Encouraged by the success of events like First Fridays in downtown Bloomington, gallery owner Pamala Eaton organized a Slow Art Day in Bloomington several years ago. In 2022, a handful of galleries garnered support from the city of Bloomington and kicked off the only coordinated Slow Art event in the world.

This year, the count of participating Twin City venues has more than doubled.

“The folks overseas have just been blown away by the participation of our local art community and the city’s involvement in helping to promote it,” said Santino Lamancusa, who operates the Hangar Art Co. in downtown Bloomington.

Harris said the arts community’s ability to mobilize and produce an event at this scale is a testament to its rich history, especially in downtown Bloomington.

“We’ve got 12 galleries within six blocks of each other,” she said. “Artists can be attributed with revitalizing that area after the mass exodus with the opening of Eastland Mall in the 1970s. Whether or not it’s been on people's radar, there has always been a lot of art in downtown Bloomington. That proximity and tight-knit community is what lends itself so well to this event.”

Harris and Lamancusa said what makes this event different is its low-stakes, open door atmosphere. Entrance is free and there’s no pressure to buy anything. Many artists will be on hand to talk about their work and to encourage folks to take time with each piece they look at.

“For us at the Hanger Art Co., there’s really not a whole lot different on the day,” Lamancusa said. “We’ve tried to create an environment where folks are welcome to come and experience the art. You don’t have to know anything about art to enjoy it. There’s no right or wrong way to do it.”

Organizers created an interactive map of all participating locations, including the downtown galleries, Illinois Art Station, BCAI Cultural Arts and Humanities and sculptor Tom Kirk’s sculpture park and personal residence. From 2-4 p.m., stop by the Hangar Art Co. for a reception, with a cash bar and small bites provided by Mystic Kitchen.

Lauren Warnecke is a reporter at WGLT. You can reach Lauren at lewarne@ilstu.edu.
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