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By Garrey Foulkes
In late October, Garrey Foulkes, arts manager of Chenrezig Institute, shared with Mandala an update about the three projects he manages – the Garden of Enlightenment, the Chenrezig Institute Art Studio and the Enlightenment Project for Purification and Merit – and introduces us to Ray Furminger, artist in residence:
For these three projects – the Garden of Enlightenment, the Chenrezig Institute Art Studio and the Enlightenment Project for Purification and Merit, this has been a rather mixed year with an interesting ratio of struggles and successes.
Happily, the positive side of all of this amounts to a very constructive year. Significant repair work, replacing poor-quality casts on the eight stupas in the Garden of Enlightenment and re-painting the decorations, is almost completed thanks to a group of willing and skillful volunteers offering their help despite very hot weather and many large “marsh flies” who enjoy biting people.
The new art studio received a grant to upgrade the parking and landscaping in front of the new building. Our intention is to make this as attractive as possible and encourage visitors to stop, visit the studio, and hopefully find something suitable in our shop to take home with them.
Our resident artist Ray Furminger has now been with us for several year working on a project to complete eight paintings suggested by Rinpoche some years back to be placed on the walls inside the building which houses our large prayer wheel. Needless to say Ray’s skills have been called on to help with many other projects, not the least being a great deal of intricate art work finishing the decorations in the garden in time for His Holiness’ visit some years back.
Since this visit, we have had consistent visits to the center from a large number of school students studying different world religions. These tours happen on roughly a monthly basis and Ray, along with others, give talks on Tibetan iconography and answer basic questions relating to the project.
Ray has been holding regular art workshops at Chenrezig Institute that continue to have good attendance from the local area and Brisbane city. Several students come on a daily basis to paint under his guidance. The energy, good humor and emerging talent among the people working on a daily basis at the art studio gives us great hope for the future.
Ray is a long-time student of Andy Weber, who also comes to the center every year and holds intensive art courses in traditional thangka painting. Assisted by Ray, Andy’s course last September was attended by around 20 people and was seen by all as a great success. It really is quite inspiring to see the changes that these students undergo once they begin to learn the intricacies and symbolism of traditional art and, in many cases, overcome their lack of confidence in their own latent skills and produce some amazing work.
Our big challenge with Ray is to try and find a way keep him here. Ray is British and is currently here on a soon-to-expire extended visa. Australian regulations regarding overseas visitors are now very tight so we need to apply for a special visa that recognizes his great skills as a teacher of traditional spiritual art.
The Enlightenment Project for Purification and Merit, since moving back to Chenrezig Institute, now has its own special space in the new art studio. We are encouraging all of the regional centers to look at what we produce and consider placing stock in their own center shops. Stupas that are required for the Garden of Enlightenment and for other places will also be produced in this workshop. We currently have quite a big commission for Singapore and an ongoing need for more stupas in the gardens.
Updated websites are being worked on so that more people in the region and around the world can see what we have to offer. Several students have ordered molds for tsa-tsa’s relating to their particular practices and commitments. We have a large range to select from.
We are fortunate to have a couple of very skilled three-dimensional artists involved with the project and our intention is to also produce molds for a variety of non-Dharma products like fountains, bird-baths, etc. to display at our sales outlet. Hopefully this will enable us to bring in some extra income that is outside of holy objects and this money can be used in a more general way to keep us functioning by allowing our workers to take a small income.
Chenrezig Institute on Australia’s Sunshine Coast is an active and vibrant Dharma center, offering a robust selection of retreats, workshops and events. Check out their Facebook page for photos and announcements.
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About Mandala Publications
Mandala Publications is the official publication of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), an international charitable organization founded by two Tibetan Buddhist masters, Lama Thubten Yeshe (1935-1984) and Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche. FPMT is a vibrant international community, with a network of 160 affiliate centers, projects and services, and members in more than 30 countries.
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