Friday, February 25, 2011

Little Bowl Waiting

For the past several years my museum colleagues and I have attended the Empty Bowls event benefitting the North Texas Food Bank at the Meyerson Symphony Center. Artists make beauiful bowls out of clay, glass and wood and donate them to the project. Local restaurants dish up their best soups, breads and desserts. This world-class I.M. Pei building is filled with people from all places trying new tastes and standing in line ever-so patiently. Every year these genius fundraisers try something new. Centerpieces on the tables (which were available for reservation) were stunning flower arrangements in exquisite works of art. Opportunities to "give" were everywhere and in the most creative places. If you really liked a soup you could "vote" with a dollar (or more) on your favorite. After trying generous samples of:

  • Thai Coconut Soup from Wolfgang Puck (*yum!)
  • Bubble Tea from Chill Bubble Tea
  • Tomato Artichoke Chowder from The Place at Perry's (great marketing trick here...bring your spoon in within ten days and get a free
  • Chicken Dumplings from McAlister's Deli
  • Turkey Chili from hmmm....can't remember
  • and Peach Cobbler from Celebration (*also YUM!)

We decided we were deliciously stuffed. I narrowly escaped the Silent Auction (lost a stunner of a work by Randy Broadnax) and we followed the happy crowd down to the lower level of the Meyerson to pick out our own bowl. Pick our our own bowl! This is perhaps the most genious moment of the event. Ticket-holders get to choose from a sea of bowls in every color of the rainbow. The mystery is in the making--some artists are high school students, some are professional potters with values far beyond the price of a ticket. But it's not about status as an artist, or investment value. It's about choosing what you like. Looking. Holding onto one bowl while you wait for another to speak to you. Strangers become friends at this Table of Aesthetic Choice.

After coinsidering a sweet rich blue tea bowl I chose Pink. A robust stoneware bowl in the warmest shade of pale pink with a layer of translucent celadon beneath the rim. The interior is a spotted milky-white glaze. As I turned the bowl upside down to inspect the potter's ability to finish the pot, I discovered with joy a whimsical scalloped edge on the rim. I'm a sucker for a good surprise. The signature on the base reads "Banes". Thank you dear Banes. Your art has brightened my day.

On the way to checking out with Pink I could donate any amount for a vessel made by a younger artist. Guests chatted merrily at those tables looking for Little Piccasos. Finally, one last opportunity to raise money for the foodbank was found at the "Bump Table" where, for a small sum you could "trade up" and turn in your find for a better, bigger one by an established artist. I stayed loyal to Pink. I think she'll be happy in our home.

Pretty brilliant right? An event with grand fundraising potential connecting artists, food lovers, chefs, philanthropists, people from health and human services, and corporate partners all eating and talking about art in the Dallas Arts District. And you get to take a little art home with you. And it's for a great cause! It was a happy place filled with happy people--not easy to find these days.

As a dear friend says, "What's not to love?"

Monday, February 21, 2011

Luminous Shabda

Dear ones:

This weekend was about getting out of the comfort zone and setting foot in the adrenaline world of something new. When was the last time you did it? Remarkable moments I recall place me in the Drama Building of Brush Ranch Camps, introducing myself as the new art teacher to the 100+ campers and staff for the first time or to the stage at the University of Texas' Performing Arts Center where I announced the winners of the College of Fine Arts Teaching award at graduation. Heartbeats accelerated, cheeks flushed, blood rushing in my ears and wondering if there is just enough time to escape through a back door, unnoticed. There never is. From Rick Hawkins' lecture on his book The Buddha's Brain we learned that the brain remembers stress more than a mind at peace. Isn't that so true? That's how we all know where we were on the morning of 9/11, or where we were when we lost someone we love.

I will never forget this weekend. Ironically it was all about how to use this energy of anticiaption and nervousness in a positive, healthy way--and so much more. My friend and colleague Elizabeth Reese highly recommened attending Manorama's workshop held at the Dallas Yoga Center: Introduction to Sanskrit and Luminous Shabda/ Path of the Heart. Manorama is a woman I've been hearing about from Beth for several years now. She is about my age and travels the world studying and teaching Sanskrit and yoga philosophy. She is complex and fascinating. She is smart. She is demanding of her class, and her expectations are high. She said she looks for the highest her students can be. She is a guru, a teacher, and has many devotees.

After hearing about her gifts and insights, I wanted her to like me. I wanted to be wise in her eyes and able to learn quickly. The takeaway: I am not ready. Every question I answered out loud (imagine long adrenaline rush until I was actually able to have the courage to answer) was totally wrong. Not even close. I had forgotten that feeling. How seldom we put ourselves "out there" for examination and evaluation. When Manorama wants to connect with you she asks you her name. Getting close to her is on her terms. I waited for her to want to know me. I'm still waiting.

As she lectured and shared parables of her life and experience--all lessons for us to "sit with" I took copious notes--thinking fast and applying these principles to what I know and believe as a cradle-Episcopalian, but quickly sitting with the stun of how much I don't know. Here are a few of my favorite moments in the class (Manorama calls them Pearls):

  • Sanskrit is the meeting place of many things

  • Don't stick the landing (still thinking about this one)

  • If you want to understand subtle things you have to get subtle

  • You cannot catch the thief by means of the thief

  • How do you know you're a beginner? You focus on the end.

  • Awareness is like a muscle.

  • Half of practice is figuring out how to play your mind.

  • We are all God in baby form, we just don't know it.

  • Silence is the absence of thinking.

  • All you have to do is show up. Who is you?

  • We are constantly playing in the universe of the unknown. We just don't know it.

  • Just because we don't understand It doesn't mean that It isn't.

  • People that love you study you. Love is in the details.

  • Whenever we surrender it comes now, not in five minutes. That's the value of surrender.

  • You can pave all of the streets you walk on in gold, or you can get really nice shoes that will take you on any road.

  • Prayer is when we talk to God; Meditation is when God talks to us.

  • Yoga asks you to look where you're not looking.

  • Sanskrit teaches us to look for patterns.

  • Control is the ability to stay fluid on a point with consciousness.

  • Enlightment is totally available. Either you work for it or you get out.

  • What we are doing in yoga is studying what we already know.

  • Confusion is the partner of clarity.

Many of these pearls are the teachings of Manorama and her guru: Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati (Guruji). One of the toughest exercises in the class was a test of our learning where she asked us individually to chant the vowels of Sanskrit. There I was back in the Drama Building of BRC looking for the shortest, most invisible path to the door. I'm sure Manorama knew this because I was the second to the last person she called on to sing. Can you imagine? It was choppy and awkward, but I "passed"...and she went on to the last student. With the relief that it was over came a new awareness of how much energy I was dealing with--and the good thinking that follows an experience like that of "where am I going to place that energy next time?".

At the end of the second day I walked up to Manorama and expressed my gratitude for her wisdom. As she thanked me, she quickly looked past me and did not ask my name. Maybe the next time we will meet. The shoes of awkwardness while clumsy can teach us so many things. (Amy's Pearl)

Svaha (offering/surrender) and Amen.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Million Reasons to Love Art Teachers

This morning I attended an extraordinary gathering at the Nasher Sculpture Center as they anticipated welcoming their one-millionth visitor. It was exciting. We were given "One Millionth Visitor" stickers (cool) and signed a framed poster for the lucky museum-goer...among other fun surprises.

Can you imagine? Unsuspecting tourist approaches and might be the Millionth: captured on cameras, embraced by dozens of Nasher staff and Arts District Friends. I was nervous walking up to the door. Fortunatley I was not the Millionth. We chatted and watched. And chatted and watched. Stonewall Jackson Elementary gathered outside with three tour groups. Sweet young minds filed in with their teachers--likely in awe of our presence, the cameras and the general electricity in the air.

Lucky # 1,000,000 was Cheri Flynn, an art educator at SJE in the Dallas Independent School District. Cheri's an old friend to the Arts District. She's a gifted teacher who understands the invaluable moments that happen when young artists engage with original works of art. She spoke eloquently (on camera!) about how arts significantly impact our quality of life, the importance of museums, and the vital and essential need for the arts in education. These are the messages we need to see on the local/state news more than ever.

Her summer camps in the Lakewood area are full before she advertises them--she is sculpting young minds who can think, and talk and write about art. I know--because in a second moment of serendipity--I sat with Emma Vernon from the Dallas Museum of Art at the Downtown Dallas Annual Luncheon. Emma ran into "Mrs. Flynn" on Flora Street in the Dallas Arts District before she walked into work today. Mrs. Flynn was her art teacher. At Stonewall Jackson. Emma is now working at the Dallas Museum of Art and mentioned many of Cheri's students were enjoying successful careers in the arts.

I wonder how many of the 999,999 visitors who experienced the Nasher Sculpture Center since it opened in 2003 did so because of an Art Teacher? You can count me a few times--because that is exactly how I got here.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sundial Cathedral

I have the pleasure of working one block from the campanile of the Cathedral Santuario. It is beautiful in all moments of the day--a splendor standing 224 feet. In the morning, against backdrop of blushing clouds it stands as a proud beacon of the Dallas Arts District. Recently I watched people working in the tower--I assume they were fiddling with the intricacies of operating 49 bells. It was so entertaining to watch the workers walking, in animated silhouettes, up and down the staircases almost in miniature.

Now, in a setting sun graced by long shadows, it stands as a sundial--the place my heart rests throughout the day amid the challenges of a busy museum. At night, as the bells toll on each hour, one can see the silhouette of their large bronze shapes swinging back and forth in concert and rhythm with each sound they make. Over a hundred years ago Nicholas J. Clayton visioned this experience. However, due to lack of funding the church never completed the bell tower. Thanks to the generosity of a group of parishioners and Arts District friends and beyond, the bell tower was completed a few years ago: finally fulfilling the architect's original plan. I'm sure architects are used to the disappointment of not completing a project to their complete design, but I hope somewhere he knows his work at the Cathedral was, in fact, finished.

After officing in 5 different locations at the Crow Collection of Asian Art, this window onto the Arts District is my favorite. I hope there's a bell (that you like) in your neighborhood.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love Notes

February 14 is my favorite holiday. And I can't think of a better day to start a new blog. In a mixed-up world Love is a rare thing. I'm grateful for a reason to cherish it. Today you can tell the world you love them. And it's okay. You can send valentines to your boss. You can send love poems to your staff. Because you really do love them. Last week we sat together for a few hours on Thursday evening and made homemade Valentines with stunning papers from Paper Arts on Peak in Dallas. If you haven't been there you'll love it. Terry, the totally not frustrated artist is a joy to spend an hour or two with--she's in her dream job and it shows. The place is magical--rows and rows of lucious designs and textures. We made valentines for our staff and board while munching on cookies and pizza. I loved it. The reveal of creativity was the best part.

Today I sported my 25-year collection of hearts and love-jewelry. In 1983 my Mom gave me a bracelet I still cherish. I was into my third week as a newly transplanted sixth-grader and it was to put it mildly a rough start. She was--at the time--my only and best friend (now she's just a best!). It's a treasure. I enjoyed the energy of the floral department at Tom Thumb, the guys at the bank, the pharmacist and the pediatrician. The heart-laden scrubs on the nurses at Richardson Pediatrics cheered us all up. Everyone, at least most people, love Valentines Day. Remember the Box? The box you decorated in elementary school and your friends slipped their sweet nothings into it on pretty papers? Baker missed school today but Mimi brought his Box home. For the last two hours he's been sifting through the Valentine's--memorizing the design and the signature. He'll walk up every few minutes and confirm the sender's name. Sweet. I don't think he knew, until today, how much his friends at school love him.

My grandmother used to tell us, I love you more today than yesterday and less than tomorrow.

I hope you know--today--and tomorrow, and the day after that--how much you are loved. That is my Valentine's Wish.