Opening Ceremony Begins February 10 at 1:30 p.m.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (February 2, 2017)—As the centerpiece of the education gallery component of Secrets of Buddhist Art: Tibet, Japan, and Korea, a mandala sand painting will be constructed by Tibetan Buddhist monks in the Frist Art Museum galleries from February 10 to 14, 2017. The opening ceremony is on February 10 at 1:30 p.m. and will feature music, chanting, and dance that purifies the space for the creation of the mandala. The monks will continue working on the mandala during the Frist Art Museum’s regular hours for five days.

Mandalas are elaborate circular designs that are intended to represent the universe or a cosmic order. The making of temporary sand mandalas is an expression of devotion unique to Tibetan Buddhism. The seven Tibetan monks from Drepung Loseling Monastery, operating in exile in Karnataka State, India, are taking time away from their lives of religious contemplation and study to share their cultural traditions with visitors to the Frist Art Museum. The monks will create a mandala of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, out of millions of grains of colored sand.

The monks will work in the education gallery of the Buddhist art exhibition, which is titled Ritual in Action: Making a Mandala, and is devoted to explaining the significance and symbolism of the mandala of Avalokiteshvara. On May 7, 2017—a Free Family Festival Day—they will return to ritually destroy the mandala in a beautiful closing ceremony.

The Frist Art Museum is committed to helping people see their world in new ways,” says Megan Robertson, Frist Art Museum associate curator of interpretation. “This program and the resulting mandala are a beautiful reminder that the religious traditions on view in Secrets of Buddhist Art are from a living practice. We hope that visitors will come away from the exhibition with a greater interest in and understanding of Tibetan art and culture.”

The Meaning of Mandalas
From all of the artistic traditions of Tantric Buddhism, that of painting with colored sand ranks as one of the most exquisite. Millions of grains of sand are painstakingly laid into place on a flat platform over a period of days or weeks to form the image of a mandala. No glue is used to produce the beautiful, but ephemeral work of art.

Mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning “sacred cosmogram.” These cosmograms can be created in various media, such as watercolor on canvas, wood carvings, and so forth. The most spectacular and enduringly popular, however, are those made from colored sand.

In general, all 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 the 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.

The mandala sand painting begins with an opening ceremony, during which the monks consecrate the site and call forth the forces of goodness. This is done by means of chanting, music, and mantra recitation.

The monks will begin by drawing an outline of the mandala on the wooden platform. On the following days they will lay the colored sands. Each monk will hold a traditional metal funnel called a chakpur while running a metal rod on its grated surface. The vibration will cause the sands to flow like liquid onto the platform.

Traditionally most sand mandalas are destroyed shortly after their completion. This is done as a metaphor for the impermanence of life. The sands are swept up and placed in an urn. To fulfill the function of healing, the remains are carried to a nearby body of water, where they will be deposited. The waters will then carry them to the ocean, and from there they will be spread throughout the world for planetary healing.

Daily Schedule:*

Friday, February 10
1:30 p.m. Opening ceremony
The monks will begin their residency by consecrating the site of the mandala. This visually and acoustically striking ceremony will feature chants, music, and mantra recitation.

2:00 p.m. Drawing of the lines
After the opening ceremony, the monks will start drawing the line design for the mandala. This is tedious and exacting work that will take about three hours to complete.

5:00 p.m. Mandala construction begins
Throughout the residency, the monks will pour millions of grains of sand into place over a period of days, using traditional metal funnels called chak-pur. This ancient spiritual art practice purifies and heals the environment and its inhabitants.

7:00 p.m. Mandala construction ends for the day

Saturday, February 11
10:00 a.m. Mandala construction resumes
5:00 p.m. Mandala construction ends for the day

Sunday, February 12
1:30 p.m. Mandala construction resumes
5:00 p.m. Mandala construction ends for the day

Monday, February 13
10:00 a.m. Mandala construction resumes
5:00 p.m. Mandala construction ends for the day

Tuesday, February 14
10:00 a.m. Mandala construction resumes
5:00 p.m. Mandala construction ends

*All times are approximate and contingent on the successful completion of the previous steps of mandala consecration and construction.

Exhibition Credit
Secrets of Buddhist Art: Tibet, Japan, and Korea was organized by the Newark Museum and curated by Katherine Anne Paul, PhD.

Sponsor Acknowledgment
The Frist Art Museum gratefully acknowledges our sponsors: Platinum, the HCA Foundation on behalf of HCA/TriStar Health; Supporting, The Nissan Foundation and Korea Foundation; Hospitality, Union Station Hotel. We also thank our 2017 Frist Gala Nirvana and Mandala Society Patrons. The Frist Art Museum is supported in part by the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts.


Buddy Kite: 615.744.3351, ”
Ellen Jones Pryor: 615.243.1311, ”

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About the Frist Art Museum
Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the Frist Art Museum is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit art exhibition center dedicated to presenting and originating high-quality exhibitions with related educational programs and community outreach activities. Located at 919 Broadway in downtown Nashville, Tenn., the Frist Art Museum offers the finest visual art from local, regional, national, and international sources in exhibitions that inspire people through art to look at their world in new ways. The Frist Art Museum’s Martin ArtQuest Gallery features interactive stations relating to Frist Art Museum exhibitions. Information on accessibility can be found at Gallery admission is free for visitors 18 and younger and for members; $12 for adults; $9 for seniors and college students with ID; and $7 for active military. College students are admitted free Thursday and Friday evenings (with the exception of Frist Fridays), 5:00–9:00 p.m. Groups of 10 or more can receive discounts with advance reservations by calling 615.744.3247. The galleries, café, and gift shop are open seven days a week: Mondays through Wednesdays, and Saturdays, 10:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m.; Thursdays and Fridays, 10:00 a.m.–9:00 p.m.; and Sundays, 1:00–5:30 p.m., with the café opening at noon. For additional information, call 615.244.3340 or visit

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