Join us this Saturday for the Spice Market Family Art Lab!

This Saturday, April 12th, from 2 PM – 4 PM join us at the Education Center for our Spice Market Family Art Lab!  Explore the newest exhibition, Bodies in Balance, and how our five senses are connected to our overall well being.  Then create your own scents in an incense-making workshop where we’ll experiment with a variety of aromatic Tibetan spice blends!

Please visit the Museum website for more info or to purchase tickets.

We hope to see you Saturday!

Spice Market

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Staff Connections: Laura Lombard, Head of Adult & Academic Programs

Running a museum takes a whole team of professionals whose different skills help make the Rubin Museum of Art one of the premiere places to visit. To get to know us a little more, and to explore different careers in the arts, each month we will be asking a Museum staffer/intern to answer six questions about their position at the Museum, their favorite artworks or exhibitions on display in the museum and other personal attributes. For the thirteenth installment of we’re going to be introduced to Laura Lombard, Head of Adult and Academic Programs.

Laura L Pointing

Laura Lombard, Head of Adult and Academic Programs

RMA: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do at the Rubin Museum.

As Head of Adult and Academic Programs, I work closely with college students and faculty, developing tours and customized curricula, and cultivating and maintaining our University Partnerships. I also serve as an adjunct professor at the New School where I teach courses in Museum Studies and Comparative Religion. Along with these responsibilities, I also develop Education courses and workshops for general visitors. In April, Tashi Chodron, a Rubin Museum guide and colleague, is hosting Nutritional Health & Happiness, which will focus on ways that Himalayan Asian herbs and spices can promote healing, and Christopher Kelley is teaching a course the explores the intersection of Buddhism and comedy in May, It’s Funny Because it’s True: Exploring the Buddhist Truth of Suffering Through Comedy.


Screenshot of Kelly's Class (3)


RMA: Where are you originally from and how did you end up at the Rubin?

I grew up in Washington, D.C. After attending college where I received a B.A. in Philosophy, I moved to Europe and copied Old Masters paintings at the Museo Del Prado and the Louvre for a number of years. While working in museums, I learned how to grind paint, make brushes, and construct paintings from different periods from the ground up. It was a wonderful way to walk in the footsteps of the masters. When I returned to the States, I received a MFA in illustration and taught studio art and visual culture classes. A life-long fascination with cross-cultural visual symbols led to designing a Ph.D. program that explored iconography from an interdisciplinary perspective. When I walked into the Rubin Museum in the summer of 2008, I felt at home immediately, enrolled in the docent program. That first step led to part-time and then full time work in the Education Department.


RMA: What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on at the Museum?

We’ve all been working almost non-stop for the past two years on Bodies in Balance: The Art of Tibetan Medicine In addition to that, we have also been exploring new topics for our Adult Programs at the museum which you can find on our Adult Education page.


RMA: Out of all the current exhibitions at the Rubin Museum, which one is your favorite?

Without a doubt, Bodies in Balance. Not only is the exhibition fascinating and visually stunning, visitors can explore Tibetan medicine experimentally by savoring special cuisine served in our café and products from the shop to promote wellness and well being. The exhibition catalog is beautiful and really accessible. It’s exciting to see everything come together after such sustained preparation.

Medicine Buddha Palace Copy of Plate 2 of the Tibetan medical paintings (Lhasa set) Lobsang Drubjam Tsering Rebgong County, Qinghai Province, China; 2012–2013 Mineral pigments on cloth Collection of the Rubin Museum of Art SC2013.6

Medicine Buddha Palace
Lobsang Drubjam Tsering
Rebgong County, Qinghai Province, China; 2012–2013
Mineral pigments on cloth
Collection of the Rubin Museum of Art


RMA: What’s the most interesting or unusual thing you’ve experienced working at the Rubin Museum?

Watching Atta Kim’s four-foot tall ice sculpture of the Buddha melt in our lobby was unforgettable. The piece was created by Kim to be part of our Grain of Emptiness exhibition.

As the ice sculpture of the Buddha melted at the base of our spiral staircase, we handed out vials of water for people to take home to water their plants. We kept the lobby open throughout the weekend and people stopped by any time day or night. You can watch the Buddha melt on our website.

Artist Atta Kim

Artist Atta Kim


RMA: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to follow the same career path?

Fortunately, there’s no career road map for museum educators. If you love visiting museums, teaching, and are intrigued by ways that objects can inform and inspire, you can carve out a career. I would recommend volunteering at different museums to get a feel for their education philosophy and a sense of their teamwork.


RMA: What do you do when you’re not at the Rubin Museum?

I love looking at botanical illustrations and enjoy drawing plants. I took my twelve year-old niece to the New York Botanical Garden on a freezing cold Saturday morning in February. As we drew water lilies inside the warm and cozy tropical plant room, we could see a blanket of snow surrounding the conservatory outside the windows. It was magical.


RMA: If you could travel anywhere in the Himalayas where would you go and why?

Bhutan. I’d like to visit Taktsang Palphug Monastery, sometimes referred to as the “Tiger’s Nest”. Once you see a picture of the monastery, you can’t help but be intrigued.


Taktsang Palphug Monastery

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Himalayan Heritage Group: The Tibetan Year of the Horse

Last week, the Himalayan Heritage Group ushered in the Tibetan Year of the Horse with a meetup dedicated to King Gesar, the Epic Warrior Folk Hero of Central Asia. King Gesar is the world’s longest epic poem. Originating in Eastern Tibet, it is still performed orally today throughout Central Asia.

 01 Himayalan Heritage March 7 043

 This was our largest meetup yet; we welcomed a large, diverse group of nearly fifty people to the museum and education center. We are also very happy to work with Tsechu Dolma and Plateau Engage, a group at Columbia University founded by Himalayan Students, who helped us co-host the event.  Our founder, Tashi Chodron, regaled the group with tales of King Gesar’s connection to Padmasambhava and his aunt’s connection to Tara on the gallery floors.

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 Afterwards, I shared my personal experience growing up in a western Buddhist community in which stories of Gesar were told to children as examples of bravery and courage. We then made our way to the education center where we enjoyed each other’s company in celebration of Tibetan New Year (the official date occurred the previous week on March 2nd), then had the privilege of welcoming the New York Lingdro Dance Group, who performed a dance based on Gesar’s Life.

 03 Lingdro Dancer

 Lingdro is traditional dance-drama depicting and honoring the adventures of Gesar and his retinue; you can learn more about it here. It is rare among the religious arts of Tibet in that it is performed by lay people, rather than monks. We were very lucky to have them perform. In fact, the head of the group, Wangdak Jigmey Tagsar, is a direct descendant of the King himself, and thus holds a very pure lineage of these sacred dances. Spirits were high as everyone made their way into the warming weather at the end of the night.

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 Please join us for our next meeting on Friday, April 4th, where we will be exploring Tibetan Health and Medicine in connection with Bodies in Balance: The Art of Tibetan Medicine, the latest exhibit at the Rubin Museum. For more information on the New York Lingdro Dance Group, visit their website:

If you would like to be added to our mailing list, please contact Harry Einhorn ( or Tashi Chodron (

We look forward to seeing you soon!

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Launch of Family Sundays!

Last Sunday Family Programs held our first Family Sundays drop-in program and I will modestly say it was a huge success.  We had over 50 people in attendance throughout the afternoon and everyone looked to be having a great time.

In the Education Center we held our art-making activity, connecting concepts from the Museum’s newest exhibition, Bodies in Balancewith an “Anatomy Collage” activity.  Families traced one another’s bodies and then chose from a variety of recycled papers to collage into their “bodies.”  The results were pretty awesome.  A few children noted that it was the largest artwork they had ever created.





Over in the Museum our guide, Olivia, led a lively Family Tour (now happening every Sunday at 2pm!) of Bodies in Balanceintroducing families to the Medicine Buddha, zombies with third eyes, and Tibetan body diagrams.


In honor of the launch of our new program we also had two musicians from Dance Theater of Nepal performing in our Spiral Lobby.  Families were able to sit and enjoy the music with one other during their visit.




Thanks to all who attended and helped to make our first Family Sundays such a fun success.  Please visit the Family Sundays web page for more information about upcoming Family Sundays.

See you next Sunday!

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Educating the Educators

The Rubin Museum of Art prides itself on our engaging, exciting, and enlightening education programs from school workshops to public tours of the exhibitions. Aside from a dedicated Education and Engagement staff, the Rubin also cultivates a team of part time educators know as The Guides. Although they have a variety of backgrounds, fields of education, and career goals, the Guides are known for being knowledgeable, charismatic, and just plain really good at what they do. In an effort to create a forum for these talented educators to hear about new museum initiatives, share their experiences, and learn from each other, we have begun a program of monthly Educator Meetups.

The biggest obstacle that we face with this part time team is getting everyone together at the same time. With many of the Guides being in school and having other part time jobs, it is very rare indeed for the whole team to all be in the same room together. The monthly Meetups, held on Sunday afternoons, are meant to be at once educational and social gatherings where the Guides can learn, create, share and even play a little.

For our first Meetup on March 9th, the Guides got together to learn about a new K-12 thematic tour and workshop combo centered on the Rubin’s newly opened Bodies in Balance: The Art of Tibetan Medicine exhibition.

2014-03-09 16.38.23 (1650x1238)

After being forced to sit through a boring Power Point presentation by the Coordinator of School Programs (I’m allowed to say this because I made the presentation), the Guides got the opportunity to get their hands dirty and make some wrapped amulets! The main goal, for School Programs, when teaching with the Tibetan Medicine exhibition, is to encourage students to think about their own idea of what it means to be healthy, both in body and in mind. The thematic tour will utilize movement activities to learn about the importance of balance, whether it be physical or mental, and the workshop will ask students to think of objects or activities that represent what makes them feel healthy. Although the guides don’t typically lead workshops, it is important for them to know what the students are going to do either before or after their tour so that they know what points to emphasize and what objects in the galleries are most relevant to the workshop. Plus, who doesn’t want to spend a Sunday afternoon making art?

2014-03-09 16.38.13 (1650x1238)

Amulets are used often in Tibet for the purposes of healing, good luck, and protection. Typically, they are created by a ritual specialist or an astrologer and are customized to the wearer. Each of the guides was asked to create a personal mandala that illustrated actions or objects that made them feel healthy. The mandalas were then folded up with some aromatic herbs inside, and wrapped with colored thread.

2014-03-09 16.42.12 (1238x1650)

A perk of bringing together all of the great minds of the Guides is that we can get a great deal of valuable feedback on the tours and programs from the people who are leading them most frequently. This was an excellent beginning to what we hope will become an ongoing tradition for the Guides. In the future, we will be going on some field trips to learn about what other museums are doing for their K-12 audiences. So stay tuned!




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Losar Family Day!

In early March Family Programs led the Museum in a celebration of Losar, the Tibetan New Year, with our annual Losar Family Day.  With its many moving parts, this celebration required participation from nearly every department in the Museum.  Because of tremendous support from many staff members and volunteers (from Teen Programs and JPMorgan Chase), we had yet another fantastic Family Day with over 300 people in attendance!

Participants in our Teen Programs began the day by creating beautiful sidewalk art to welcome guests and lead the way from the Museum to the Education Center.  ”Losar La Tashi Delek” was a new phrase to many visitors, who soon discovered its meaning, “Happy New Year” in Tibetan, while enjoying the day’s festivities.

Tashi Delek

Upon entering the Museum, families jumped into art-making by joining our mini prayer flag activity.  Traditional Himalayan woodblocks were used to create small rubbings that were strung together to create a mini prayer flag.  Many of the children decided to wear their’s in honor of the celebration.

prayer flags

Next to the mini prayer flag making station, were our spiral musicians, Tenzin Dolker and Kunga Gyaltsen, playing traditional Tibetan music for the families.  They had full participation from many of the children and adults, getting many to clap, dance, and sing along.


Harry and Laura Browarny lead our Family Tours (each leading up to 30 people!) and got all of the children involved through interactive storytelling and posing.  I overheard many of the children sharing with their parents things they learned on their tour…I always find it inspiring to hear our youngest visitors express how excited they are about learning at the Rubin.

family tours

family tour

In our theater we had some of the most popular activities of Losar Family Day taking place.  Families worked together to create a giant collaborative mandala on the theater floor.  Children chose from a variety of different colored recycled materials (many found at Materials for the Arts) to fill in the giant mandala and appeared to have a blast dispensing their creative energies into the giant artwork.

collaborative mandala

On the theater stage we featured our two sand mandala artists, Jangpa Phunsum and Dorjee Gombu, who created a stunning and detailed sand mandala.  Families were invited onto the stage to observe the process throughout the afternoon.

sand mandala

At the end of the day, we all gathered together to watch the sand mandala be swept away – allowing the children a first hand experience with the concept of impermanence.  Many watched in awe as hours of work were gently swept away.

sweeping sand

We followed by leading the children in their own sweep away of the collaborative mandala.  At the count of 1-2-3 the children pushed all of the materials toward the middle of the mandala and were then able to choose a material to take home as a memento of their day.  Many seemed to enjoy this part of the process most of all.

collab mandala

Over in the Education Center, we also had a number of lively activities.  The Collaborative Wishes Map, where families made wishes for the New Year, was a big hit.  I noticed a lot of wishes for puppies and iPods, but the one I identified with most might be this one…

wishes map

In the art studio, we had our ever popular “Tibetan Tea House” led by  our guide, Tashi, who prepared and served Himalayan butter tea and khapsay (the traditional Losar cookie).  Here’s Tashi showing a young visitor how to churn his own butter tea.


Next to our Tea House we had our Book Nook where families relaxed from the day’s activities and read Tibetan-themed books with one another.

book nook

Also in the studio we had our master torma (butter) sculptor, Sonam Dhargye, creating colorful and intricate tormas. Along side Sonam, families sculpted their own mini tormas, using plasticine rather than butter.

butter sculpture

mini torma

Donald and Shelley Rubin even joined in the festivities, alongside fellow staff members, Laura Lombard, Aoife, and Bill (what a great photo!).

the Rubins

It was truly an amazing, fun-filled Family Day and I cannot wait to do it again…next year :) .  If you did not have an opportunity to read about Losar Family Day in the NY Times, it’s never too late to check out a wonderful write-up by Laurel Graeber about our event.

Until next year…please continue to join us at Family Sundays, Family Art Labs, and Yak Packers!

Thanks to Michael Palma for taking all of our fantastic Family Day photos!


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Masterworks: Shiva Vishavarupa

With the re-opening of the exhibition Masterworks: Jewels of the Collection, we asked our Curatorial Department to help us explore a painting on display titled, Shiva Vishavarupa.


शिवविश्वरूप Cosmic  Shiva Pigments on cotton C2003.20.2 (HAR 65250)

Cosmic Shiva
Pigments on cotton
C2003.20.2 (HAR 65250)


RMA: How was the painting used by the viewer?

Such paintings usually serve two main purposes, devotion and initiation. Depicting a rather esoteric subject this painting was probably not accessible to the general public but to initiated only. In the Newar context such objects would be accessible on a second floor of the temple, above the generally accessible part, where the holist images are located.

RMA: Is this particular Shiva Vishvarupa markedly similar or different to others in the genre?

There is an old tradition of cosmic imagery termed Vishvarupa, the earliest ones being Indian stone sculptures Vishnu. Those images do have multiple heads but their cosmic quality is mostly expressed through other deities inscribed onto their body. With Shiva the cosmic aspect is fist expressed through the linga, with or without faces in the four directions. Siva Vishvarupa images like the one in Masterworks are late and specifically Newar in their iconography and composition.

RMA: Where about and under what conditions would the viewer see this work at the time it was made?

As stated, such paintings usually served two main purposes, devotion and initiation. Essentially the image would not leave the temple, or only if a larger space is needed for initiation.See the answer to the first question for details.

RMA: Who was the original audience for this painting?

Practitioners of some form of devotional practice to this deity and those to be initiated.

To view this and other incredible works like this, visit the exhibition Masterworks: Jewels of the Collection.

UPDATE: Inspired by the same work of art, the blog Painters on Paintings featured it on their blog.   (Disclaimer: The blog Painters on Paintings is not affiliated with the Rubin Museum of Art)

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Losar Family Day Instagram Roundup

This Saturday the Rubin Museum of Art celebrated Losar, the Himalayan New Year, with a day of art, crafts, food, and music!

Visitors watched a master artist creates a sand mandala, contributed to a giant collaborative mandala, explored the museum through gallery tours, enjoyed traditional music performances, construct beautiful butter sculptures, and sip Himalayan butter tea.

A big thanks you to all of our volunteers and to everyone who posted photos of the event!

Butter Tea House and Khapsay

Mini tormas made out of clay

Collaborative Mandala

Traditional Music

Sand Mandala

Visitors Watching the Sand Mandala

Butter Sculptor

Close Up of the Sand Mandala

Torma Making

“Wish It Was Summer”

Mini Prayer Flags



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Youth and Family Heads Uptown

The Rubin Museum of Art and The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine may seem like unlikely partners. One deals with sacred art from the high Himalayas, while the other focuses on high, Gothic pillars, stained glass windows, and New York History. Unlikely as it may be, the Rubin and the Cathedral actually share a great deal when it comes to education and the people that carry out this important mission for both institutions. I am not the only person currently working at the Rubin who was previously employed at the Cathedral, and I continue to have very strong personal and professional connections to the giant church on the Upper West Side.

The Cathedral of St. John the Divine is at one time an active church, it is the seat of the Bishop in New York City, and an active museum space. The main object in the collection is the building itself. Many of the Cathedral’s programs deal with architecture and the history of the building, but the large interior spaces also create a wonderful and interesting place for exhibiting contemporary art. Currently on view is the monumental installation by Chinese artist Xu Bing entitled Phoenix. The installation comprises two enormous sculptures, each weighing multiple tons and nearly one hundred feet long, built entirely out of salvaged construction detritus harvested from building sites and trash heaps across Beijing. The phoenixes are suspended in the nave of the church as if they were flying through the long central corridor.

20140301_165528 (800x545)

To celebrate the opening of the installation, the Cathedral held a Phoenix Community Festival which was a free public event involving performances, art activities, and tours of the building. Many of the art activities were presented by invited guests of the Cathedral who were interested in doing outreach in the neighborhood. The Rubin was one of these guests, along with Adults and Children in Trust (ACT) and many of the Cathedral’s educators and artists in residence. Based on our connection to Asian cultures and art, both historical and contemporary, and also because of or professional relationship, the Youth and Family Department decided this was the perfect venue in which to increase the visibility of our upcoming family events and programs.

Building upon the inspiration of Phoenix and continuing the theme of animals, we presented a mask-making activity that provided children (and sometimes their parents) with collage materials, oil pastels, colored pencils, feathers, and even sequins to create their own animal-inspired masks. It was amazing to see the creativity of some of the children, who ranged in age from first to fifth graders, and every mask created was unique and beautiful. It was exciting, as an educator, to see the parents getting so involved in this activity. One mother was literally jumping for joy at her daughter’s creation, and one father spent hours helping his son make twin masks for the two of them. My most heartwarming moment was when two boys came up to me and one asked, “Can me and my fake brother make a mask?” When I asked him why he would call his friend a “fake brother” he replied, “Well, because we both really care about each other, but we aren’t related at all.” I melted.

SJD for blog 2

In total, children and parents made about sixty masks during the few hours that our booth was open. Within the first thirty minutes of the event, it became clear that one table was not going to be enough space for all of the children who wanted to participate in the art activity. As we were being swarmed by about fifteen children at once, I found myself frantically searching for a second table. Once that was accomplished, my colleague, teaching artist Rukhshan and I had fairly smooth sailing for the remainder of the afternoon.

SJD for blog

At the core of all this excitement and creativity, though, I did take time to talk to all of the grown-ups about the Rubin’s upcoming Bodies in Balance: The Art of Tibetan Medicine exhibition and the family programs that would accompany it. The central purpose of my trip to the Phoenix Community Festival was to perform outreach for the Youth and Family department. My success in this could be measured by the fact that I handed out over one hundred flyers for both the Losar Family Day and the upcoming Family Sundays Drop-In program. Many parents took stacks of flyers to hand out to their neighbors and friends, or to hang in various community centers that they frequented. One of the most interesting connections that we made was to a community center for parents who have adopted children from China. I hope to see more than a few of these children and their parents at Losar Family Day on March 8th.

The Rubin Museum of Art is always looking to expand its audiences and to build professional relationships with other institutions around New York City. Although I felt like sixty children was quite a lot to work with for the day, that number pales in comparison to the 4,000 that attended the festival altogether. I hope that other institutions will continue to think of the Rubin when planning events like this, and I look forward to more opportunities to perform outreach for Youth and Family at the Rubin. After all, hanging out in an amazing space making masks with kids for a few hours is not a bad way to spend an afternoon…

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Losar Family Day is almost here!

March has arrive and we are preparing for our largest family event of the year, Losar Family Day: Himalayan New Year.  This event takes place this Saturday, March 8th from 12pm-4pm.  Join us in our celebration with a day full of art, crafts, family tours, snacks, and traditional Tibetan music throughout the Museum and Education Center.

Please visit our website for tickets or more information.


Posted in Art Making, Education Center, Family, Himalayan Art | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment