detail of the Hayagriva Sand Mandala

Relax with Coloring Page Inspired by a Tibetan Sand Mandala

At the Denver Art Museum, we have in our collection one of very few Tibetan sand mandalas to be permanently installed in a museum. They are traditionally dismantled after construction as a symbolic reference to the impermanence of life and the transitory nature of life in Buddhist thought. Our mandala, created in 1996 by Tibetan monks from Sera Jey monastery in India, was created specifically for preservation so that Denver audiences could see and learn from the work for years to come.

Hayagriva sand mandala
Geshe Thubten Sonam (b. 1965, Dharamsala, India), Sonam Woeser (b. 1964, Laab, Eastern Tibet; in India 1990), and Lobsang Lungrig (b. 1974, Karshoe, Eastern Tibet; in India 1994), Hayagriva Mandala United States, 1996. Sand with mineral pigments; 57 in. diameter. Denver Art Museum; Asian Art Association, Mr. and Mrs. Yale H. Lewis, NBT Foundation, Fay Shwayder, and Asian Art Department Acquisition Fund 1996.54. Detail of this mandala is at the top of the page.

Inspired by Adult Coloring Books

In September 2016, our team decided to try a new component near the Tibetan sand mandala in the Tibet Nepal gallery in the North Building on level 5 where visitors can sit, meditate, and color their own mandala. We were inspired by the recent popularity of adult coloring books (and, many of them seem to be mandala coloring books). Our coloring mandala takes visual cues from the Tibetan one, though it omits religious imagery in favor of a more universal design. Whereas the Tibetan monks created the DAM sand mandala as a meditation on the Buddhist deity Hayagriva (the deity referenced by the Sanskrit seed syllable at the center), we wanted visitors to emulate the meditative aspect in an accessible way.

A recent study shows coloring is a great way to boost your mood (and researchers even used a mandala as an example).

Mandala coloring page
Created by Janet Strickler in 2016.

Give Us Your Feedback

Visitor feedback is essential to us as we continue this project. We included the mandala coloring project for one of our Untitled Final Friday nights and had the opportunity to chat with visitors who stopped to color.

We also speak with visitors on a daily basis to get a sense of how many people are using the coloring area, what things they like about it, and what things they think can be improved. Visitors noted their general enjoyment of the project, though some issues—including seating comfort and noise—did come up.

We have used this feedback already to add an additional and more comfortable seating area as well as noise-cancelling headphones to alleviate some of the distractions. We will continue to gather visitor feedback as we look to the future; our upcoming renovated galleries will be a reflection of our visitor’s voices.

Please feel free to send comments regarding the mandala project to smagnatta@denverartmuseum.org.

The table where visitors can color in a coloring page of a mandala

Sarah Magnatta is the interpretive specialist of Asian art in the learning and engagement department at the Denver Art Museum. Sarah has been at the DAM since 2015 and her favorite collection on view here is the Buddhist gallery on Level 5 of the North Building.

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