Northwest Florida State College welcomes back the Tibetan Buddhist monks from Drepung Loseling Monastery to present a free cultural and artistic exhibition, “The Mystical Arts of Tibet: Mandala Sand Painting” from Tuesday, November 29 to Saturday, December 3, at the Mattie Kelly Arts Center on the college’s Niceville campus at 100 College Boulevard. The event is co-sponsored by the college’s Humanities, Fine and Performing Arts Division and the Mattie Kelly Arts Center Galleries.
The four-day event follows the Buddhist ritual of preparation, creation, and ultimate destruction and return to nature of an intricate work of art in sand. New this year the exhibition will be presented in the Mainstage Theater lobby, rather than the center’s Art Galleries, to provide an enhanced viewing experience for exhibit visitors.
“The massive lobby provides the opportunity for patrons to view the creation of the circular mandala directly from above, viewing through the large circular portal that connects the first and second floors of the Arts Center,” noted art galleries director KC Williams. “Patrons can also view from ground level, allowing for a totally unique experience for this highly visual and interactive exhibition.”
From all the artistic traditions of Tantric Buddhism, that of painting with colored sand ranks as one of the most unique and exquisite. Millions of grains of sand are painstakingly laid into place on a flat platform over a period of days to form the image of a mandala, a sacred cosmogram.
The Mandala sand painting exhibition begins with an Opening Ceremony on Tuesday, November 29 at 12 noon, during which the Lamas consecrate the site and call forth the forces of goodness. This is done by means of chanting, music, and mantra recitation. Following the opening ceremony, the Lamas begin the exhibit by drawing an outline of the mandala on a wooden platform. Each day, the monks will lay the colored sands; each monk holds a traditional metal funnel called a chakpur while running a metal rod on its grated surface. The vibration causes the sands to flow like liquid onto the platform.
Opening Ceremony: Tues. Nov 29, 12 noon
Viewing: Tues., Nov. 29 – 12 noon to 5:00 pm
Viewing: Wed., Nov. 30 to Fri. Dec. 2, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm daily
Reception & viewing: Fri., Dec. 2, 6:00 to 7:30 pm.
Viewing & Closing Ceremony: Sat., Dec. 3, 9:00 am – 11:00 am
Closing Ceremony: Sat. Dec. 3, 12 Noon followed by dispersal of sands at Turkey Creek — returned to nature and the sea.
To date the monks have created mandala sand paintings in more than 100 museums, art centers, and colleges and universities in the United States and Europe. The Tibetan monks previously appeared at the Mattie Kelly Arts Center in 2001, 2005, 2008 and 2013, exhibitions that were among the highest attendance in the Galleries’ 20-year history.
Mandalas have outer, inner, and secret meanings. On the outer level they represent the world in its divine form; on the inner level they represent a map by which the ordinary human mind is transformed into enlightened mind; and on the secret level they depict the primordially perfect balance of the subtle energies of the body and the clear light dimension of the mind. The creation of a sand painting is said to effect purification and healing on these three levels.