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The Bodhisattva Kuan-Yin, June 2008, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The Bodhisattva Kuan-yin, June 2008, Minneapolis Institute of
Arts, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



A few weeks ago, Liz and I and a studio mate visited the Minneapolis Institute of Arts to attend a panel discussion addressing the question — What Is the Current State of the Arts in Minnesota? There are differing opinions; it depends on who you are.

Though Minnesota has traditionally been one of the most well-funded and supportive states in the U.S. for the Arts (and Minneapolis one of the most literate cities), many writers and artists will tell you that over the last 10 years, funding at the state, community, and individual levels has begun to dry up.

Before the talk, we glanced around the room and wondered why the discussion was not better attended. Where was the community? Where were all the artists and writers? Where was everybody?

Opening remarks were from Minneapolis City Council President Barbara Johnson, and we listened to representatives of the Walker Art Center, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Minnesota Orchestra, Loft Literary Center, Guthrie Theater, and McKnight Foundation frame the discussion through a rose-colored prism. It soon became apparent that the institutions and well-oiled machines that house and fund our arts and creative programs had a totally different take than many artists I know. With few exceptions, nearly every person on the panel thought the Arts in Minnesota were doing well.

One exception was program director for the arts at the McKnight Foundation, Vickie Benson who made a reference to how we can’t forget artists who live with poverty, have no health insurance, and face a lack of retirement money. And Fox 9 news anchor and moderator, Robyne Robinson, stepped in with a personal experience about how a Fox 9 news segment on the Arts she once hosted had been cut from the local news. It took courage for her to go out on that limb.

You can read more about dissenting opinions at mnartists.org’s Commentary: What is the State of the Arts in Minneapolis? by Michael Fallon. Everything is conflicted. I’m an artist and writer. I attend events at the Guthrie, the Loft, the MIA. I’m a member of the Walker. Yesterday I heard an MPR piece about how funding is drying up for a local history museum in a rural Minnesota town (many museums receive Arts funding). Staff has been cut. Volunteers can’t afford the gas to get there and are asking for reimbursement.



          Kuan-Yin, June 2008, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.      Kuan-Yin, June 2008, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.      Kuan-Yin, June 2008, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.



What is the state of the Arts in your hometown, state, province, or country? Are you experiencing differing opinions between Arts institutions and the writers and artists who create the work? One will not survive without the other. It is a reciprocal relationship. There is room for debate; there is always room for healthy discourse.

For the time being, I’m choosing to focus on the compassion of the Bodhisattva Kuan-yin. After the panel discussion, we attended an art opening downstairs, Smoke and Mirrors by photographer Vance Gellert, and strolled through a few floors of the MIA permanent collection. Kuan-yin had a window seat next to a series of ten to fifteen Buddhas and Bodhisattvas spanning thousands of years.

Bodhisattvas are Buddhist deities who have forgone entrance into Nirvana until all beings have attained enlightenment. In China, Kuan-yin became the most popular bodhisattva and was widely worshipped as the deity of mercy and compassion. She is often depicted as female or androgynous, even though she sometimes has a mustache.

According to the MIA, the Kuan-yin in these photographs is seated cross-legged in the lotus position (vajrasana), and is from the Sung dynasty (960 to 1279) noted for its art, literature and philosophy. The bodhisattva is carved from movable sections of wood; the eyes are inlaid crystal, and the robes of gold leaf. Both hands are turned up with thumbs touching the middle fingers in the gesture of discourse or argumentation (varada mudra). The hair was originally encased by a gilt metal crown that is now missing.




Kuan-Yin, June 2008, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.     Kuan-Yin, June 2008, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

haiku for Kuan-yin, June 2008, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, photo
© 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.





love disguised as art
mercy steeped in compassion
cracks open the door





-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

-related to posts: haiku (one-a-day) , Walking Your Talk (Do The Arts Matter?), Does Money Soil Art?

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