REL 16
Experiments in Mindfulness and Art Museums Winter 2023

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Class Details

Vietnamese Buddhist Zen master Thích Nhat Hanh said, “Always there is the opportunity to live our life fully. When we drink water, we can be aware that we are drinking water. When we walk, we can be aware that we are walking.” It could be added: When we view art, we can be aware that we are viewing art. When we make art, we can be aware that we are being creative. How can we learn to become more alert and conscious to our surroundings and then apply these skills so we can enjoy a fuller, more vivid experience of life? Art holds a key to the answer, and that forms the basis of this experimental winter studies course. Using MASS MoCA’s contemporary art exhibitions, explore how objects can act like gongs to bring us to the present, urging us to slow down and be aware of their embedded messages and their possible healing properties. In facilitated art explorations, we will apply contemplative tools modeled on centuries-old Buddhist and other cultures mindfulness techniques, including-but not limited to-guided visualizations, slow walking, mindful listening and chanting, and observations of breathing. Additional experiments will feature opportunities to tune into the creative spirit that we all possess in guided art-making activities to process the overarching course philosophy (based on John Dewey) that “art is experience.” This course will take place at MASS MoCA twice weekly for 3 hours each session. Students will work with MASS MoCA’s director of education and curator of Kidspace to experiment with “ArtInSight,” MASS MoCA’s three-pronged pedagogy that includes arts-based social justice conversations, mindfulness-based insight activities, and art-making exercises to deepen connections to the art on view and to one’s own creativity. Guest artists will be brought in to further explore mindfulness and the arts. While this is a great opportunity for art/art history and religion majors, students are not required to already have mindfulness or art-making practices
The Class: Format: lecture
Limit: 20
Expected: NA
Class#: 1263
Grading: pass/fail only
Requirements/Evaluation: final project or presentation
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: preference will be given to art and religion majors, juniors and seniors
Unit Notes: Laura Thompson, EdD, is MASS MoCA's director of education and Kidspace gallery curator. Laura has worked in arts and museum education for more than three decades and is a certified Kripalu meditation teacher.
Attributes: EXPE Experiential Education Courses
SLFX Winter Study Self-Expression
WELL Winter Study Wellness

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