Friday, March 28, 2008

Compassion revealed in sight and sound

Seattle rolls out art and more for Dalai Lama

Express Staff Writer

"Burma Needs You" by Seki Thu, age 7

The city of Seattle is taking a page (and adding another couple of books) from Sun Valley, when it plays host to His Holiness the Dalai Lama during the Seeds of Compassion Gathering, April 11-15. The 14th Dalai Lama spent four days in the Wood River Valley in 2005, where he led spiritual talks and a gathering at the Wood River High School for more than 20,000 people. Lama Tenzin Dhonden was the man on the spot for that visit, and he is also organizing the Dalai Lama's visit for Seattle. More than 100,000 people are expected to flock to the Emerald City for this event.

As it did here, the coming event in Seattle has engaged the hearts and minds of the community through ongoing projects, educational outreach and cultural offerings in preparation for the multi-day event. One of the participants of the event is Ketchum and Seattle resident and gallery owner Andria Friesen. Her eponymous gallery in the Washington Mutual Tower in Seattle will be the site of an art exhibition called "What Does Compassion Look Like?"

Events will include workshops, forums, dialogues and various panel discussions on compassion with the Dalai Lama and others. There will also be presentations at such venues as Seattle Center Northwest, the Seattle Arts Museum, the WaMu Theater, Bagley Wright Theater, Key Arena, Qwest Field and the University of Washington.

This will be the Dalai Lama's only scheduled event dedicated solely to the future of the world's children and his only planned visit to the West Coast in 2008.

"We are excited and honored to have his Holiness the Dalai Lama devote five days to holding a conversation with the people of the Northwest about how to put compassion into action," said Raj Manhas, executive director of Seeds of Compassion.

"Seattle is attempting to do whatever it can," Friesen said. "This is not associated with any religion or a cult. That's how they come up with the question 'What Does Compassion Look Like?' That's the campaign."

The inclusive nature of the event spread to the entire Seattle school system where children were asked to create artwork in answer to that question. The hundreds of pieces of art will hang all over Seattle, in restaurants, clothing stores, the Seattle Center—"literally everywhere," Friesen said. "As many people as there are on the planet--that's how many different impressions of compassion there may be. No one is wrong."

At the Seattle Art Museum there will be an exhibition of photographs taken by children, also of their interpretation of what compassion looks like.

Across the street at the Friesen Gallery, the "What Does Compassion Look Like?" fine art portion of the event will be held.

Of the 43 artists in the show Friesen represents just six of them. Gail Severn, another Ketchum gallery owner, represents another of the artists --Julie Spiedel.

"Other galleries have all come together on this," Friesen said. "It's an unprecedented cooperative effort. There is a 100 percent donation of all sales and staff salaries. It's an honor and a privilege for me to host this."

The only criterion was that the work be the artists' interpretation of compassion and that it be 24 inches square. The result is a wide range of materiel, styles and formats. Among the renowned Northwest artists participating are Victoria Adams, Cassandria Blackmore, Daiensai, Dennis Evans, Nancy Mee, Spike Mafford and PohlmanKnowles.

"These works are so powerful," Friesen said. "Because each one is 24 inches by 24 inches, the way we installed the exhibition makes it kind of look like a prayer flag. It's very cool. Some are obvious and some are just so beautiful."

The value of the entire collection is $113,250. The hope is that it be purchased in its entirety, and in addition travel through the Washington State school system.

"The art campaign is the impetus of the event and will continue for decades," Friesen said. "It's the seeds to pay it forward. It's everything that Seeds of Compassion stands for."

When the committee came to Friesen's Gallery on Wednesday morning to view the collection for the first time, "within seconds everyone clutched their hearts with both their hands," Friesen said. "It doesn't matter who you are, where you come from or if you even know what the theme is. You stand in the middle and there is a shift. It's palpable and undeniable."

Tonight Friesen Gallery will host the first event of the Seeds of Compassion Gathering for an Ambassador Appreciation Gala. The public will see the art exhibition for the first time.

Other events to be held April 11-15 include an acoustic concert with Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds on Friday, April 11, at Key Arena, and a Seeds of Compassion benefit concert at McCaw Hall, University of Washington, on Monday, April 14, with acclaimed world musicians, performers and speakers.

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