Tibetan Sand Mandala on View at UMass

“Healing the Earth”: Tibetan Sand Mandala on View at UMass Fine Arts Center Concert Stage

The Asian Arts & Culture Program at the UMass Amherst Fine Arts Center opens its 20th Anniversary season with an outstanding event that speaks to transformation and healing of our planet and ourselves. The Fine Arts Center Concert Hall stage hosts Healing the Earth: the Tibetan Sand Mandala, a visual artwork exploding with color and design, created on by eleven Tibetan monks.

Among all the artistic traditions of Tantric Buddhism, painting with colored sand ranks as one of the most unique and exquisite. In the Tibetan language this art is called dul-tson-kyil-khor.  The literal translation means a “mandala of colored powders.” This week come see eleven Tibetan monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery at work as they use traditional instruments to lay down the finest grains of colored sand to produce a work of art that explodes with color and detail.  This unique event happens at UMass Fine Arts Center in Amherst, MA from Wednesday, September 25th – Friday, September 27th, 2013 and highlights the power of the healing arts to ignite peace and tolerance throughout the world.

Over a period of days, millions of grains of sand are painstakingly laid into place in a circular design – a mandala – drawn on a flat platform.  The mandala, using traditionally prescribed symbols, geometric shapes, and images, is used as a tool for re-consecrating the earth and its inhabitants.  The experience of viewing this sand mandala will be particularly educational for those interested in, or studying, math and geometry, visual arts and color theory, world cultures, community values and traditions, and respect for the environment.

Sand Mandalas are an ancient Tibetan art form that were used to teach compassion, environmental relations and impermanency. With Tibet being one of the last ancient civilizations, teaching kids the history behind this ancient art form can supplement their global awareness of world civilizations and cultures. Witnessing the making and destruction of one of these amazing sand mandalas joins art and history together into a creative and tactile demonstration.

Though the beauty of the sand mandala stands on its own, it is also a testament to the dedication and discipline of the monks, who work on the image for ten consecutive hours each day.  Traditionally, most sand mandalas are deconstructed shortly after their completion, which is seen as a reflection of the impermanence of life.  This raises some interesting questions about the mandala’s “status” as art: if it can only be displayed once, will it be remembered?  What makes this work of art valuable, if it is made of sand and was not made by a famous artist?  What can we learn from this type of art and the perspective that art does not need to last forever in order to make a positive impact on a community?  Kids might enjoy brainstorming other art projects that are impermanent, yet carry a valuable message.

During the closing ceremony, half the sands are distributed to the audience as a symbol of healing blessings, and the remainder is swept up and placed in an urn.   The sand in the urn is carried and deposited in a nearby body of water, and, it is believed, the waters carry the sand’s healing blessings to the ocean, which in turn spreads the blessings throughout the world.

Those who wish to attend the closing ceremony should arrive by 4pm on Friday, September 27th.

Visitors will have several opportunities to view the mandala.  General public viewing will be from 1pm to 6pm on Wednesday (9/25) and Thursday (9/26) and 1pm to 4pm on Friday (9/27). A $5 ticket will allow for multiple entries on the day of purchase.  There is also limited space left in the 9:30am (9/26) and 10:30am (9/27) viewing sessions, after which students may take part in additional art activities and create their own mandalas in the lobby (art activities not available during afternoon showings).  The special ticket price for the morning showings is $3; limited space available.  Tickets for Five College students and senior citizens are $2.  For more ticket information and to purchase, please call 413-545-2116.  UMass Amherst Fine Arts Center Concert Stage, 151 Presidents Dr.  Amherst, MA.

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