Visiting Tibetan monks show that arts can preserve cultures around the world |

Visiting Tibetan monks show that arts can preserve cultures around the world

Why should we preserve the arts, and what is the best way to accomplish that?

While listening and watching the Tibetan monks last weekend here at the Center for the Arts, it became very apparent to me that the arts preserve cultures around our planet. That is important not only to the varied cultures represented in the United States, but to humanity in general.

There were 100 guests who sat riveted on a hot summer night listening to the eight monks’ ancient chants and prayers for restoration of global peace. Our old building resonated with the rich multiphonic voices, ancient horns, resonant drums, and cymbals. It made me wonder whether the forefathers who built this building in 1886 ever conceived that one day it would host such an event, or if they even knew that Tibet existed.

These Tibetan monks, whose culture has been preserved in their monasteries well before the 14th century, travel to expose people to their living culture, returning the proceeds from their appearances back to their monastery now in India. Bound by the Buddhist law to harm no living thing, the Tibetans are the only people on this planet not fighting to regain possession of their country, under direction of the Dalai Lama. As inhabitants flee their motherland, the culture is lost in the search for survival and anonymity. How else would we know about their vivid culture if it were not for humans like the Tibetan monks touring and giving us a glimpse into an ancient world and their struggle to preserve it? Most of us can’t visit every country to gain that experience. We must rely on the artists to reflect it in their works.

The United States is a melting pot of all cultures. But being an American does not mean you need to give up the colors of your native heritage, but to preserve and rediscover those traditional ways. Art transcends the boundaries between language, and binds the differences in cultural traditions, placing the focus on the rich details we bear instead of the vast differences we bring from different parts of the world that might create barriers in our communications. Being exposed to these wonderful ceremonies, artifacts, dances, songs, instruments and stories benefit all of us in our evolutionary journey.

The lecture about global harmony moved me in its simplicity. “World peace begins with the creation of love and compassion for our parents, for without them none of us would be in this situation tonight. This love and compassion extends to our family, whose peacefulness can only exist without selfishness.”

The energy then expands to include our town and those friends and relatives we love around the world. Then to areas of conflict on our planet and finally the entire planet and universe that holds our little blue dot and then back to our own heart. We prayed for mothers everywhere losing children to conflict and war. We planetary inhabitants are all connected in one way or another. The monks believe in a reincarnation state and that we have all been mothers at one time. The audience participated by joining the prayers for peace that usually last up to 18 hours in the monastery.

Each year the Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts presents varied cultural exhibits in order to expose our community to the amazing facets of the indigenous arts. This year you will want to attend or enter our “Africa! Africa!” exhibit opening Sept. 2 and running through October. It will be a feast of color, rhythms, texture, and cultural display of artwork and dance, including an educational exhibit and bazaar of gift items. Art for conservation is a trend that gives back to the area from which the art was created.

A few years ago I had the extreme good fortune to travel with a local nonprofit foundation to Africa for a couple of months. I saw how artist and WildIze Foundation founder Eli Weiss, of Snowmass, sells her photos of African wildlife and indigenous peoples and returns the proceeds to the area that was photographed. Through Art for Conservation a baby leopard was saved, a woman’s group received funds to build a lodge, orphaned baby elephants were rehabilitated, park rangers were supported in their effort to stop poachers, and many aspects of non-western culture were preserved.

Some of the participating artists will represent foundations that work in Africa, and I hope this inspires you to buy a piece of art just for the sake of preserving priceless details of a delicate indigenous environment. It’s a small price to pay. During the exhibit, African dance will be each Monday night and continue throughout the year. The artist reception is at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9. We sincerely hope you will join us on this creative safari.

For more information on entry to the exhibit, call 945-2414.

Sinda Wood is program assistant for the Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts. Call the center at 945-2414 for applications, tickets or information.

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