If you’re looking for a sign from a higher power, The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion in Myers Flat is probably a good place to start. And so it was Dr Sue Gillett found herself there one recent weekend, in avoidance of the footy finals.
Sue had dropped her son at the Inglewood football oval then driven to the Stupa and Buddhist Atisha Centre to bide time and find peace in what had been a stressful period. She found much more than she bargained for.
“I’d arrived at the same time as a re-incarnated monk, a 13-year-old Tibetan boy living in Perth,” she says. “I got to put a hardhat on and join the parade. All the Bendigo monks were there, showing this visiting re-incarnated monk around the stupa.”
The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion is steadily rising from the bush north of Bendigo. Once complete, it will be the largest in the western world.
Sue says there was much gift-giving and blessings and her heart was once again full. “I came to the right place at the right time,” she says. But it got better.
“Afterwards I was in the gift shop, and I got chatting to a volunteer, who told me she’d done an arts residency at La Trobe.”
That volunteer was Linda Jackson, Australian fashion pioneer and past business partner of Jenny Kee.
“I asked her if she knew anything about Chinese art,” Sue says. “And she told me she’d made some Chinese opera costumes.” And bingo, Sue had her second win that day.
Linda Jackson is now on the line-up of experts to help deliver Sue’s latest Exhibiting Culture subject.
Exhibiting Culture is a program of special subjects around local cultural events, such as the Bendigo Writers Festival and Bendigo Art Gallery exhibitions.
The next one starts on November 30 and concentrates on the exhibition Ink Remix: contemporary art from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan at Bendigo Art Gallery.
“The subject takes the exhibition as a starting point for exploring themes that are related to that exhibition,” Sue says. “In this case the art is a springboard for bigger conversations about culture and history.”
The subject will also cover sociology, religion, minorities, language, tai chi in the park and, of course, art.
“Students will get to do an art practicum with an expert,” Sue says, which entails a calligraphy lesson in the Golden Dragon Museum with Melbourne artist Xiaoping Zhou.
If you haven’t heard of him, you’ll get an idea of his gentle, cross-cultural practices in this beautiful clip for the film Ochre and Ink.
The week-long subject will take place in the Bendigo Art Gallery, the La Trobe Visual Arts Centre, and at various cultural sites around Bendigo, including the Chinese cemetery, joss house and the stupa. It will be a blessing.
Students and interested community members are invited to enrol via the La Trobe website.
This subject is a partnership between Bendigo Art Gallery and La Trobe’s Confucius Institute.