Area children honor Dalai Lama |

Area children honor Dalai Lama

Katie Redding
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado
Jordan Curet The Aspen Times
ALL | The Aspen Times

CARBONDALE ” As young art student Matthew Wampler dipped his brush in ink on Tuesday at the Crystal River Elementary School in Carbondale, he explained that he was making prayer flags for the Dalai Lama, “a real famous guy from Tibet.”

Fellow artist Camden Brendlinger clarified that the man in question is the spiritual leader of Tibet, though he no longer lives there.

“China sort of kicked him out,” she explained.

“He’s been kicked out for quite awhile,” agreed Naomi Polver, from across the table.

Alexa Maes was impressed with the Dalai Lama’s attitude in exile.

“I think it’s cool that even though he got kicked out of his country that he still shares everything he knows to other people instead of being bummed out and not doing anything,” she explained.

Though school was out for most children in the Roaring Fork Valley, 12 students from Crystal River Elementary, the Carbondale Community School, and Carbondale Middle School were chosen by their teachers to return for a three-day collaborative art project organized by Snowmass Village-based Anderson Ranch. The children worked to create an art installation for the Benedict Music Tent, to be displayed during the July 26 Aspen Institute speech by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.

The Carbondale children were all given grass-seat tickets for the speech, so they can see the installation once it is completed.

The project emerged out of a conversation between Anderson Ranch president Hunter O’Hanian and Kitty Boone, director of public programs at the Aspen Institute. After hearing Boone comment that the Dalai Lama enjoyed being surrounded by children’s artwork, O’Hanian decided that His Holiness’s visit might provide an opportunity for a community arts collaboration in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Anderson Ranch and the Aspen Institute engaged three other Roaring Fork Valley arts organizations ” the Wyly Community Art Center, Carbondale Council on the Arts and Humanities, and the Glenwood Springs Center for the Arts ” to help find 48 children in the Roaring Fork Valley, between the ages of six and 12, to work on the project.

Artists and twin brothers Doug and Mike Starn designed the conceptual project and will come to Aspen to install it. As befitting the transitory nature of existence, it will be installed in two hours on July 25 and removed immediately after the Dalai Lama’s speech on July 26.

The installation will include a 6-by-45-foot digital mural placed behind the Dalai Lama and a cloud of 1,200 handmade prayer flags floating above him, mimicking the tradition of spreading prayers, hope and good wishes by wind throughout the world.

Their hands and smocks covered in ink and paint, the Carbondale students each carved a design into a linoleum block, and then printed it onto colorful silk prayer flags. Teacher Julie Hawkins ran around, showing students how to get a clear print, or how to paint their silk flags more quickly.

Many of the children showed a serious concern with both with the technical aspects of their art and the message.

The design on Lindsy Vega’s prayer flags were meant to evoke wind, she explained in a soft voice ” because when it’s cold outside, she likes going outside and feeling the fresh air.

Brenda Rodriguez displayed her different prayer flags, each a different variation.

“I want to become an artist, and as an artist, you try different things,” she said, solemnly.

Using curriculum and children’s books about the Dalai Lama provided by Anderson Ranch, the children have also learned about the spiritual leader. The curriculum guides teachers to explain Buddhist ideas like “compassion” through schoolyard issues, including bullying.

Before the workshop, she only knew that the Dalai Lama was “kind of like the pope,” said Maes.

But two days into their art workshop, the children were excited to share their knowledge of the spiritual leader.

“He’s the reincarnation of the old Dalai Lama,” explained student Emily Bruell. “He was made Dalai Lama at the age of two.”

“He started his spiritual studies at the age of six,” added fellow artist Ticah Burrows.

“He’s in exile from his community,” said Bruell.

“For whatever reason,” finished Burrows.

Whatever they now understand about the Dalai Lama, the privilege of having him come to Aspen ” and being part of a project to honor him ” was not lost on them.

“It’s a really big honor, and we’re hoping we get to meet him,” explained Brendlinger.