See sand painting, explore Tibetan culture March 17-24 at the Paine

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Tibetan monks will visit the Paine Art Center and Gardens in Oshkosh this month for a week-long residency, offering a unique experience to explore another culture through the arts.

Mystical Arts of Tibet is March 17-24, presented by the Paine in partnership with The Grand Oshkosh. The monks will paint a sacred sand mandala using millions of grains of colorful sand at the Paine, and give a performance of music and dance at The Grand.

Courtesy of Mystical Arts of Tibet

The performance at the Grand, Sacred Music, Sacred Dance for World Healing, combines multi-phonic chanting, music, and dance with colorful, intricate costumes. Tickets for the performance at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 23, may be purchased through The Grand Oshkosh, 100 High Ave.

The monks are practicing Buddhist monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery, currently located in south India and first established near Lhasa, Tibet in 1416. They are genuine monks taking time from their life-long devotion to contemplation and study to participate in the Mystical Arts of Tibet tour. Through Mystical Arts of Tibet, they hope to contribute to world peace and healing using their sacred art, and raise awareness of the endangered Tibetan civilization as well as support for the Tibetan refugee community in India.

The Paine features a variety of programs included with admission throughout the week for people of all ages to connect with the cultural experience on a deeper level. For a full schedule and descriptions, visit www.thepaine.org.

Courtesy of Mystical Arts of Tibet

The mandala sand painting, held in the Conservatory at 1408 Congress Ave., begins and ends with special ceremonies that the community is invited to attend. The monks will first draw the lines of the mandala, and each day visitors will see it progress as the monks paint it with colorful sand. The activities begin 1:30 p.m. Sunday, March 17.

Mandalas have their roots in the Tantric legacy of Buddhist India, extending back thousands of years. “Mandala” is a Sanskrit word meaning “sacred cosmogram.” Mandalas can be created using a variety of media, but the most popular are those made from colored sand.

Mandalas are used as tools for reconsecrating the earth and healing its inhabitants. They are formed of geometric shapes and ancient spiritual symbols. All mandalas have outer, inner and secret meanings, and their creation is said to affect purification and healing on these three levels.

Guided meditation will be held every morning around the unfolding sand mandala in the Conservatory, beginning 6:45 a.m. Monday, March 18. Both beginners and practitioners are encouraged to join, and the fee includes return admission on the same day.

Visitors are invited to expand their learning about Tibetan culture with a series of lectures presented throughout the week. Tibetan monks will give lectures on meditation, kindness, healing, death and other topics. Michael Baltutis, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh religion professor, and Constance Kassor, Lawrence University religion professor, will speak about Tibetan Buddhism, sand mandalas and more.

Local faith leaders will welcome the monks immediately before the opening ceremony for the mandala on Sunday, March 17. They will also lead a discussion on Saturday, March 23, where visitors may reflect on the week’s activities with one another.

And, a community art project invites visitors to be inspired and express themselves. Visitors can create prayer flags, mini mandalas and other artworks inspired by Tibetan culture in the Studio, located in the lower level of the Paine mansion. The prayer flags will be hung up throughout the week.

A prayer flag is a colorful, rectangular cloth often found strung along mountain ridges in the Himalayas. In Tibetan culture, they are used to promote peace, compassion, strength and wisdom. The flags do not carry prayers to gods, which is a common misconception. Tibetans believe the prayers are blessings for all beings, and that by hanging flags in high places, the wind carries those blessings to the world.

Ken Cravillion Photography

Accompanying the week of activities is the Paine’s current exhibition, Tibetan Portrait: The Power of Compassion, on view in the mansion. The photography exhibition by Phil Borges features portraits and stories of Tibetan individuals — from nomads of the remote Himalayas to the Dalai Lama, leader of Tibetan Buddhism.

Admission to Mystical Arts of Tibet is $10 adults, $5 youth (ages 5-17) and free for Paine Members. To become a Paine Member and experience the entire week for free, sign up at www.thepaine.org/support/membership. Membership includes free admission to exhibitions, events and other activities for a whole year, plus discounts and more perks!

On Monday, March 18, admission is free for everyone courtesy of Community First Credit Union, the lead sponsor of Mystical Arts of Tibet. Meditation and related programs are included in the free admission.

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Noell Dickmann Paine Art Center and Gardens Civic Contributor

The Paine Art Center and Gardens is a historic estate in Oshkosh that serves as a multi-faceted museum for learning and inspiration. Visit www.thepaine.org for more information about exhibitions, events and activities offered throughout the year.

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