Thursday, April 12, 2018

Awakening the Divine at the Georgia Museum of Art

Some of the mandalas created by participants at "Awakening the Divine"

There it is again.

Beep! Beep! Beep! How does the relentless ring of an alarm always seem to invade the best of dreams? Morning people spring out of bed prepared for the day, while others need a miracle to make it out of the house on time. The Georgia Museum of Art recently offered a workshop for all kinds of people to wake up —in the spiritual sense. “Awakening the Divine,” a mindfulness workshop, was also scheduled for the convenient evening hour of 6 p.m. For many, the experience was a much more welcome wake-up call than their daily alarm.

The workshop began with a short history of mandalas. Many different cultures have created circular designs throughout history. Humans were likely first inspired to draw circles from looking at the sun and moon. This workshop drew inspiration from Images of Awakening: Buddhist Sculpture from Afghanistan and Pakistan,” an exhibition that highlights the Buddhist artistic heritage of ancient Gandhara. Many other religions around the world have also found significance in mandalas. From Tibetan monks to Navajo Indians, the ritualistic production of these designs is often intended to produce healing.[1]

Psychologists today have discovered the many positive effects of creating mandalas. The instructor of the workshop, licensed physiologist Debra P. Avis, included a few in her presentation. This practice may prevent writers block or aid in decision-making. Mandalas symbolize the self in Jungian psychology.[2] By creating a mandala, an individual works to find a place in the world. In conjunction with mindfulness, a well-studied practice with many benefits, the process teaches one to focus on the task at hand. At the end of the workshop, visitors left with completed, unique mandalas — as unique as their individual dreams and aspirations, which they may now pursue with renewed focus.

Gone are the days when art museums were only spaces to observe a painting on the wall (though the museum does offer ample time and space for this activity with Slow Art Day on the calendar for April 14). Additionally, curators of education create experiences that call upon visitors to interact with art in new ways. In recent years, the Georgia Museum of Art has increasingly offered opportunities for visitors to participate in art making. Workshops in acrylics and tapestry weaving employ local artists and give members of the Athens community an opportunity to benefit from the resources on campus. Whether it is making mandalas, paintings or tapestries, visitors can find what makes their days a bit brighter at the museum.

McKenzie Peterson
Intern, Department of Communications

[1] Krippner, S. (1997). The Role Played by Mandalas in Navajo and Tibetan Rituals. Anthropology of Consciousness, 8(1), 22-31. doi:10.1525/ac.1997.8.1.22
[2] Psychology of the Mandala. (2018, April 11)

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