About the library Mandala Sand Painting

Bud Werner Memorial Library presented the Yampa Valley with an exceptional community art and cultural program during summer 2010.

Ten Tibetan Buddhist monks from Drepung Loseling Monastery took up residency in Library Hall in order to construct a Mandala Sand Painting from August 14-18, 2010. For five days, the Library presented Steamboat Springs residents and visitors an opportunity for a first-hand experience with a rare and beautiful art form that traveled here from the high Himalayas. Working throughout each day, the monks laid millions of grains of colorful sand into place to form an intricate mandala image. The entire process was open for public viewing, as were the festive opening and closing ceremonies.

Mandala Sand Painting is an ancient art form designed to purify and heal the environment and its inhabitants. From all the artistic traditions of Tantric Buddhism, painting with colored sand ranks as one of the most unique and exquisite. To date the monks have created mandala sand paintings in more than 100 museums, art centers, and colleges and universities around the United States and Europe.

The Mandala Sand Painting began with an 11 a.m. opening ceremony for the community on Saturday, August 14, 2010, during which the monks blessed the site and called forth the forces of goodness. This was done by means of chanting, music and mantra recitation. They then began the exhibit by drawing an outline of the mandala on their wooden platform. They spent the following days skillfully placing the colored sands using 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.

Throughout the week, a variety of community events complemented the monks’ residency at the Library. The entire community was invited to participate in a hands-on Community Sand Painting that was constructed next to the monks’ mandala – authentic sand painting tools were on hand for everyone to try this ancient art form. On Thursday, August 12, 2010, the library hosted a screening of Blessings, a documentary film about the lives of 3,000 Tsoknyi Nangchen Buddhist nuns in eastern Tibet. On Monday, August 16, 2010, the monks hosted a lecture at The Buddhist Center of Steamboat Springs. On the evening before they finished their Mandala Sand Painting in Library Hall (Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 7 p.m.), the monks performed Sacred Music/Sacred Dance  at Strings Music Festival.

The residency ended with a tradition that illustrates the impermanence of life: The monks destroyed their Mandala Sand Painting shortly after completion on the evening of Wednesday, August 18, 2010. The sands were swept up and placed in an urn during a community closing ceremony – after which half the sands were dispersed among members of the audience and the rest were sent down the Yampa River to carry a healing blessing to the ocean and the rest of the world.

In the Library’s ongoing spirit of inclusiveness, entry into the world-class Mandala Sand Painting exhibit was unrestricted and free of charge – allowing people of all ages and walks of life an opportunity to spend quiet contemplative time to observe and interact with the monks as the piece emerged. English-speaking monks were on hand to translate for educational question and answer sessions.

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