The Arts as Buddhist Practice: 
NW Dharma Gatherings in Portland and Seattle 
On Two Saturdays in March

Written by: Jacqueline Mandell & Tim Tapping

Sanje Elliott, who paints Tibetan sacred art, creates an image on a boulder
Sanje Elliott, who paints Tibetan sacred art, creates an image on a boulder.
Photos by: Sherry Hart, Jacqueline Mandell

In a break with tradition, the Northwest Dharma Association is planning annual gatherings in both Seattle and Portland this year, with both focusing on the arts.

The Portland “Arts as Buddhist Practice” event will be Saturday, March 1, followed by a similar Seattle event the following Saturday, March 8.

“This is a deliberate effort to connect Buddhists and raise awareness of the amazing Mahasangha (the collection of Buddhist communities) in the Northwest,” said Tim Tapping, president of Northwest Dharma Association. “The intention for this event is to provide Buddhists and the general public an interesting, fun and spiritual gathering so that we experience Mahasangha and relate to each other during meaningful activities in a relaxed, open atmosphere throughout the day.”

Both events will be free.

The March 1 Portland event will be in the evening, from 7:15 pm to 9 pm, with a series of creative dharma people presenting their work in 15-minute segments.

The event will be at First Congregational United Church of Christ, where parking is free after 7p.m. The gathering will be held in the main sanctuary.

“This evening is more than dharma practice and more than doing art,” said Portland organizer, and Northwest Dharma Association board member, Jacqueline Mandell. “Professionals who incorporate their art into practice and practice into art present this evening. In short, their art is their practice!”

Kim Swennes, a harpist, creates music that brings peace to people at the ends of their lives

Kim Swennes, a harpist, creates music that brings peace to people at the ends of their lives.

Some of the featured Portland events will be:

-        Tibetan Thangka painting

-        Ikebana, Japanese Flower Arranging

-        Nepalese Sacred Dance and Music

-        Classical Japanese Tea Ceremony

-        Original Painting

-        Music

Each presenter is well known in their field: Sanje Elliott, Jan Waldmann, Jef Gunn, Lisa Stanley, Prajwal R. Vajracharya and Kim Swennes.

While the event is free, there will be an opportunity to make offerings at the door that will be equally distributed to the artists.

The Seattle event will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 8, at Casey Commons, the Casey Building, Seattle University.

The university has made four rooms available, the largest holding 85 people, said Tapping.

“This space really lends itself to the open event we envision,” he said. “Artist participants and attendees alike will be able to interact in meaningful ways throughout the space and day, due to the open floor plan of the event.”

Jan Waldmann was trained in Kyoto, Japan, in the nuances of Japanese tea ceremony.

Jan Waldmann was trained in Kyoto, Japan, in the nuances of Japanese tea ceremony.

The format and schedule of events has been evolving, so the artist community can help shape them, Tapping said.

“We seek presenters/artists for poetry, music, dance, painting, sculpture, calligraphy, flower arranging and other arts,” he said.

As in Portland, Seattle presenters will have 15 minutes to talk about how their area of interest relates to their Buddhist practice, followed by a performance or a workshop. Seattle contributors are also asked to consider visiting the children’s area to share with them age-appropriate activities in their area of expertise.

Anita Feng, a Seattle-area sculptor and Zen teacher, is among the artists who will present in Seattle, Tapping said

Northwest Dharma Association is looking for partner sanghas to help sponsor the Portland and Seattle events. This won’t require a financial commitment, but only some help with organizing, including joining in on several planning meetings, and sending one to three people to the event itself.

“Partner sanghas will have space (tables) to inform attendees about the activities in their sangha,” Tapping said. “NWDA will schedule the activities of the day, secure the venue, and will arrange publicity.”

If you are an artist and wish to participate or simply would like more information, please email info@northwestdharma.org.