Melissa Kerin Gives Keynote Address as Mandala Making Gets Underway

Experience in Tibet as Trinity Undergraduate was Life Changing

HARTFORD, CT, September 19, 2012 – On the day that the Keydong nuns began their month-long, painstakingly intricate creation of a sand mandala on the Trinity campus, Melissa Kerin ’94, assistant professor of art history at Washington and Lee University, delivered a keynote address at the Austin Arts Center.

Entitled, “Tradition Changing Women, Women Changing Tradition: The Interface of Tibetan Nuns and the Sacred Art of Sand Mandala Making,” Kerin described what she called a nearly 20-year journey of the nun’s mandala making, as well as her own.

It was as a Trinity undergraduate in 1993 that Kerin went to live with the nuns from Keydong Thuk-che Choeling nunnery. The nuns “changed my life, taught me the basics of Buddhism and shared with me the beauty and the challenges of monastic living.”

​The Keydong nuns, who will be at Trinity through mid-October, are the first Buddhist female monastics to learn and practice the sacred art of the sand mandala, an ancient tradition once the exclusive domain of monks. The nuns’ appearance on campus marks the third time that they have created a mandala here, the first time in 1998 and the second time in 2005. After they have completed and then dismantled the mandala, the sand will be poured into the Connecticut River.

Ani Ngawang Tendol, the leader of the group and translator, said that the mandala — a ritualistic art form that takes the shape of a square with a circle inside, and whose colors all represent different dieties and concepts — will feature six dieties. She said it is intended to turn Garmany Hall, where it will be built, into "a palace of the dieties."

"Mandala: The Sacred Art of Sand" will be at Austin Arts Center's Garmany Hall through Oct. 14. The hours during the week are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. through Oct. 13. On occasion, the nuns will break for religious observances, so anyone wanting to view the nuns’ work should call 860-297-2199. For more details, please visit: Admission is free.