Celebrating 20 Years of Using Creativity to Fight Cancer

Audacious Creating.  Amazing Support.  Contagious Healing.

Circles of Life: Making Art, Creating Communities of Hope

Healing Icons has offered art-as-healing practices to cancer survivors in Columbia and throughout South Carolina for over 20 years. To honor our courageous participants and those who care for them, share our mission with the general public and give it an experiential understanding of why art is important, and to pay tribute to the healing arts of Tibet, which have been a deep inspiration for Healing Icons' offerings, Healing Icons produced a 20th anniversary exhibition and celebration of art, healing, and community.

The sands of the mandala are poured into the flowing waters where their healing energies are carried throughout the world.

Roots in Tibetan Culture: Sacred Arts and the Art of Release

Tibetan Buddhist culture views art as a form of meditation - a sacred act in itself, not merely a means to a finished product. Founder Heidi Darr-Hope first experienced this approach in action in the spring of 2000. Her journey had a deep impact on her perspective as an artist, as she visited northern India's Tibetan Bonpo Men-ri Monastery to view a funerary ritual that would help to usher a deceased spirit into the next realm:

A Stunning Exhibition of Hope and Healing

In a series of meetings with the board of directors, it was decided that Healing Icons would present an exhibition including various, interconnected elements that would encourage community participation and an observance of the roots of our art-as-healing approach in practice. Vista Studios/Gallery 80808, home to Healing Icons and Heidi Darr-Hope's personal art-making workplace, served as the location for the event from October 30–November 7th.

The exhibition had five elements that unfolded over the week-long exhibition:
  • Art created by courageous cancer survivors during our classes
  • The Mystical Arts of Tibet photographic exhibition, Magical Land of Spiritual Wonders, a Richard Gere and Drepung Loseling Monastery sponsored production,
  • Our traveling exhibition, Sometimes Words Are Not Enough,
  • Three fun, hands-on, Tibetan-inspired activities, and
  • A space for the Tibetan monks from the above-mentioned Drepung Loseling Monastery in Atlanta to create a Sand Mandala of Healing
Completed Mandala
Survivors' Art

Often, words alone fail to communicate what is necessary, and we are left feeling alienated in many ways, most of all from ourselves and our own experiences. When we are left speechless, wordless, with a burning, deep desire to express and record what is happening in our lives, we require another language with which to communicate our hopes and fears of life, death, and what really matters to us. This is where visual art can help us in ways that no other expressive medium can. The stories told through the various methods taught in our workshops and classes are the very foundation and expression of Healing Icons' mission and vision, and we celebrate them.

Visual Journals
Healing Icons
Talismans of Healing
Prayer Flags
Tibetan-Inspired Community Art

Generosity and Healing

A Community in Need

Several school groups come through our exhibition.

This event couldn't have come at a better time. Three weeks before the Tibetan monks were to arrive from the Drepung Loseling Monastery, our city was devastated by what has been termed a ”100-year flood.” Extremely heavy rains caused our rivers to overflow, which caused many dams to break, which wrought huge devastation throughout our community. Homes were destroyed. Our water supply was compromised. Our roads collapsed. It was catastrophic. Our community pulled together to support one another, but the damage will take years to repair. Our community needed healing now more than ever.

Initially, we were paying tribute to the courageous cancer survivors who had participated in our offerings, but the event grew into something much larger.

We are so thankful to all of the businesses in our community who pitched in to make this happen, including Baker and Baker, Lexington Medical Center, Blue Moon Pet Sitters, and White Rose Artisans. The newly opening Hyatt Place, right next door to the studio, gave us a terrific rate so that the monks could walk to “work.” Our local health food establishment, Rosewood Market, donated lunches for the monks. One of our community sponsors, The South Carolina Dharma Group, provided them with scrumptious dinners.

Midway through the week, Bill Grant of Cinema Couture Film wandered into Vista Studios/Gallery 80808 during his lunch break and was beyond surprised to find a crowd gathered around a couple of Tibetan monks creating a sand mandala. He was so “wowed” by what he saw, he asked if he could quickly put together a video story for us. Naturally, we said yes!


Healing Sands Mandala: the Meticulous Creation and the Sweeping-Away

The rains had stopped for our ceremony. Filled with a light spirit and a renewed heart, we all knew we were really, really going to miss "our Monks."

Ripples in the Water

The effect of our exhibition was deeper and more pervasive than we'd imagined. Our participants and other community members learned new ways to play and speak with art, rediscovering that still, small voice within. It was a richly rewarding experience for everyone.

“The experience of watching the monks as they worked and the energy they brought help me to find a calmness and peace of mind at a very difficult time for me as I was undergoing chemotherapy for ovarian cancer. During this time I also found a new direction in my life that I am hopeful to journey on in this New Year as I move from cancer patient to cancer survivor.” - Sandra Spears via Facebook

“Energy… The beauty in it’s movement…. And it’s stillness.  The healing that comes from using that energy… In being patient and mindful.” - Rachel Taylor via Facebook

"It was an experience of tranquility and mindfulness, as well as extraordinary beauty. There was love there too, which the monks reflected out to those of us keeping them company as they did their work so patiently and cheerfully.” - Yolanda Cardenes Ganong via Facebook

"What a wonderful experience this was, not just for the cancer survivors, but for the community as well! Each day as the monks were carefully working on the healing sand mandala there were people from all walks of life quietly observing and feeling the calmness of the monk’s process. Some would leave and return later only to be in awe as they saw the mandala blossom. School children were able to experience and learn of a new culture. Columbia was greatly enriched by Heidi Darr-Hope’s exhibit." - Linda DeLeonardis via Healing Icons' blog