New Connected City Posts coming soon!

Hey y’all!  We’re gearing up for another semester of Connected City!  Stay tuned for regular posts starting in February 2014.  :)  What will the theme be this time???

Flip Side Final Project: Tumbles in NYC

One of the things Teens Guide Council does at the Rubin Museum of Art is design and lead tumbles.  Our mission for tumbles is to start with an inspiring piece of art at The Rubin Museum and ignite a conversation with our audience members. After we had shared that meaningful conversation, we then lead groups to related arts and culture experiences around the city.  

Here’s a tumble that led us to Jackson Heights!

Another tumble ended up at the American Museum of Natural History.  

“On a beautiful sunny Wednesday, we embarked on our final TGC tumble! A small group of us started at the Rubin Museum, where we all walked up to the third floor to have a discussion about the Amogapasha Mandala.

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We didn’t want it to be like a lecture, so we all approached the piece just wanting to have an open conversation about it. Julia led us through a guided visualization of walking through a palace in our minds, weaving our way through a ring of fire and through great doors guarded by red elephants, and we discussed what we all saw when we got to the center of our mandalas. Though there’s a beautiful figure of Avalokiteshvara, the Buddhist deity of compassion, at the center of this mandala, many of us didn’t see anything at the center of our visualized mandalas, or weren’t sure what we saw. We discussed how a mandala is used as a way to make something really big and difficult to explain, like the universe, our minds, or spirituality, easier to grasp and visualize. We then all got on the C train and traveled uptown to the American Museum of Natural History, where we went into the Hayden theater to watch the film of what the Big Bang would have looked like.

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We all agreed that the film grasped us with its beautiful imagery, and made us start to feel very small compared to the whole universe. We started to ask ourselves, what is the center of the universe? Maybe each of us is the center of our own universe? We all agreed that the film, like the mandala, took a really big and unfathomable topic and made it slightly easier to understand and visualize. Heading outside, we realized that the theater is shaped like a globe, with a pathway that leads around it through all the phases of history of the universe. We sort of felt like we were all walking back out through a mandala, completing the experience!”

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Another tumble ended up in Central Park.  

“My group started with an experience at a piece from Lisa Ross’s Living Shrine. Together we explored the piece and were able to have a rich conversation. Each person was unique and so brought their own perspective to the piece.

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Filled with ideas about nature, shrines, sacredness, consecration, and much more, we tumbled out of the museum and into central park. In advance, my group had devised a Yoko Ono style list of activities that our guests were encouraged to partake in. Some teens went to gather materials from around central park and then used those to create personal shrines. They then shared why they made what they did and how each shrine was personally significant to them. Other people focused on being present in the moment and how the little things that people do are sometimes the very things that consecrate special experiences. On this vein teens gave out flowers to strangers in order to make them feel special, engaged others in a conversation about what frustrated them and proceeded to write them out in chalk, and much more.

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Some teens even got on mini row boats in small groups and took a journey on the lake. While out on the water and surrounded by nature they continued the discussions that they had started at the museum.”

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Overall, no matter which tumble teens engaged in they walked away having had a memorable and meaningful experience.  

Meeting Shelley Rubin

               We were so excited to have the chance to meet Shelley Rubin, one of the co-founders of the Rubin Museum! Shelley was kind enough to share with us her version of the museum’s founding, as well as tell us a little of her own story and about her current project, A Blade of Grass, which helps artists make art for social change. We loved hearing directly from her the story of how she and Donald Rubin found the first White Tara painting that lead to the rest of the amazing collection of Himalayan art they acquired. We all left very inspired by Shelley’s commitment to art and culture, and grateful for her wonderful kindness and generosity! 

Flipside Career Focus: Visit to the Art Conservator

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In celebration and exploration of Flipside, which displays the often hidden unexposed backsides of Tibetan paintings, RMA Teens journeyed to the Brooklyn Navy yard to meet with members of the Art Conservation Group—a group of art conservation specialists who have helped behind the scenes to preserve many of the Rubin’s own, and often very ancient, pieces. What started out as a gloomy day weather-wise quickly turned into an exciting trip consisting of behind-the-scenes access into the world of art conservation.

We entered the spacious warehouse building where the art is kept, and where, as we were to learn, the conservators spend their hours deliberating over what it is that plagues the art and how best to conserve it. Us Teens then sat in a rather oblong circle, like we often do, and Leslie, the Group’s founder, began speaking to us about her role as an art conservator. Right away we were captivated, listening intently to Leslie’s description of conservation duties, which, to summarize, include locating the “problem” with the art piece, sending samples of it to a lab to identify possibly harmful microorganisms, and figuring out the safest and most effective way to “cure” and conserve it. She explained that Renaissance art is easier to conserve than modern art, because the materials Renaissance artists used were both more organic and more permanent. She explained that salt pollution is a killer for conservators, seeing as it causes most materials to discolor and deteriorate, and often makes objects very difficult to clean. Beyond fun facts regarding conservation, Leslie went into detail about her personal inspiration for becoming a conservator, which arose from a love of art but no desire to be an artist, as well as about the academic processes necessary to becoming a conservator. It is essential to have an extensive knowledge of art history, the fine arts, and chemistry, and a whopping three college/graduate degrees in order to be a professional art conservator. Leslie noted that having to succeed in chemistry class was a struggle, considering she came from an art background, which I’m sure would resonate with the lot of us.  

As our seated discussion wrapped up, we prepared to see, first-hand, Leslie and her team’s most recent projects. After being told to keep our hands in our pockets so as to not accidentally (or purposefully) touch the fragile art, we were led into a huge room with intensely bright lighting that contrasted the dark outside sky. All of the Teens, Pauline included, gasped out of excitement and near disbelief. We found ourselves faced with beautiful modern sculptures, as well as some kind of tribal art, clearly from two completely different dimensions, but all in a room together. Many of the items in the room were waiting for diagnoses—for the team to inspect, investigate, and detect the issues to ultimately cure them. At one point, I simply couldn’t contain myself any longer and just had to ask Leslie how much of a rush she gets when she touches these incredible, and usually very old and historic pieces of art. Her eyes lit up as she responded with an enthusiastic “It’s awesome,” and I couldn’t imagine the feeling being any less.  

We stayed talking with Leslie for longer than scheduled, clearly inspired and very curious still. After thanking her on the way out, we convened outside to reflect on our fresh experience. The opinion was unanimous: Art conservation is awesome. What I realized both stands out and appeals to me is how hands-on and investigative the nature of art conservation is. Furthermore, conservation integrates art and science in such an interesting way that makes the connection seem utterly natural.


With regard to the Rubin, it is remarkable to understand now how and why its art is able to remain so intact and beautiful. Without the discipline of art conservation, it is very possible that much of the Rubin’s art, all of which we love so much, would be falling apart faster than a sand mandala on a windy day. Art conservation is the key for maintaining the beauty, integrity, and health of art. Like a doctor diagnoses his or her patients and attempts to treat them, so does a conservator for art, and for that reason, it is a very honorable, very essential profession.

Sacred Spaces and Divine Places Reflection

                         On a rainy day in May, a group of teens gathered in the museum to explore the nature of sacred space. Completely organized by us (the Teen Guide Council), the event, which we decided to call “Sacred Spaces and Divine Places,” became a warm, creative space for teens to come in and spend an afternoon. Teens entered the museum and received a special tsakli card (similar to those displayed on the fifth floor) with a unique symbol that they would carry through the rest of the event. The conversation, lead by us but very informal, circled around what it means to make something sacred. We discussed everything from the Shrine Room to the consecrations on the backs of paintings in “Flip Side” to Lisa Ross’s “Living Shrines” exhibition (Lisa Ross herself even dropped by for a very special guest appearance!). We then dove further into a discussion of sacredness as we entered the theatre, which was filled with all kinds of art-making activities. You could begin by making a tsa tsa with artist Jane Mi, filling it with good wishes and consecrations, then move to a Tarot card reader to have your fortune read, then make a shrine-in-a-bottle using your own personal symbols and wishes, and finally consult with aroma therapy artist Sharon Slowick to create your own mixture of special scents to fill your shrine. Lastly, we all journeyed up to the stage, where artist Joe Mangrum was creating a beautiful sand mandala. Anyone could add their own mini shrines and tsa tsas to the big shrine, contributing to the collective art offering. In the destruction ceremony, Balinese dancers emerged from the wings to offer a fascinating traditional masked dance. Before leaving the museum, we all gathered on the stage to destroy the shrine that we had created, sweeping it toward the center of the stage, and each person gathering some of the sand to take out into the world with them—a symbol of the fact that the true shrine is within each of us. All in all, the event was a beautiful and fun experience, and we’re so glad that everyone chose to spend their rainy afternoon with us at the Rubin Museum!

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Learning How to Create an Event with Tim McHenry

Tim McHenry, the delightfully creative and talented Director of Public Programs and Performance at the Rubin Museum of Art, was kind enough to agree to meet with our RMA Teens crew to discuss what goes into creating a truly successful event. He began by sharing with us that the best way to convey information is always through an emotional experience, and especially through laughter. If you can start and end with laughter, you’ve got it made. Tim McHenry has staged many, many amazing events at the Rubin that throw together wildly different topics to change the way the Rubin’s collection and philosophies are perceived. For instance, he organized a huge game of telephone that took place on the High Line, where over 300 people whispered a Buddhist teaching into each other’s ears until it reached the very end. He also conceived the Dreamover, an amazing event at which you get to sleep over at the Rubin underneath a piece of art, and then have your dreams analyzed by a specialist. He told us that he likes to use events as a way to excite people into exploring themselves and the world further. He then helped us brainstorm ideas for our own event. We had a lot of fun coming up with some crazy plans, such as creating a giant, collaborative, 1000-armed Avalokiteshvara statue out of old mannequins, or a Naga-style Project Runway, or even yoga for dogs! We threw around a lot of ideas, but ultimately Tim helped us realize that as long as we include room for laughter and surprise, we can work together to create an amazing event!

FLIPSIDE…THE EVENT!!!

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We’ve been having all these amaaaazing discussions and adventures related to Flipside and Living Shrines.  Soon it will be time for you to join the fun!  Please come to our teen event totally designed and run by the Rubin Museum of Art’s Teen Guide Council.  Meet us and join in conversations on the exhibitions and collaborate on a giant art shrine!  Can’t wait to post pictures and videos here of YOUR experiences in these shows…  xx

The Buddha