The Basic Goodness Rotating Bathroom Art Gallery

The Basic Goodness Rotating Bathroom Art Gallery:
An Interview with Ms. Raven Fennell
By Dia Ballou, 7/6/13

Those of you who were unable to attend our last community meeting might not know why there has been a series of somewhat startling, certainly uplifting, framed photographs in the bathroom of the White River Shambhala Center.   And even those who did hear our Director of Culture and Decorum, Raven Fennell, talk about the Basic Goodness Rotating Bathroom Art Gallery, might want to know more.  Thus I had a conversation with Ms. Fennell, which went roughly as follows:

Dia: What inspired you to make this basic goodness rotating art gallery?

Raven: Two things.   One was seeing that there was a blank frame built into the wall.  When [feng shui master] Eva Wong came and saw the banner we had there, she just about ripped it out of there.  She said we should have a picture of a flower or something there, not a dharma object.  The second inspiration was noticing that the Shambhala Times had snapshots every once in a while of basic goodness.  So I put those two things together and came up with the bathroom gallery.  Oh, also I saw a frame I liked in the bathroom.  And I thought it was a good way to get people involved and contributing in a different way, instead of cleaning or doing a shrine shift.


Dia: How has it been going so far?

Raven: It’s been great.  I’ve talked with and hung photos by some who have photographic skill and some who have never before displayed their photos.  I started out with two of my own.  I have lots of my own, but I want to give others a chance to have their photos hung.  [My daughter] Arwen has amazing pictures too.  I haven’t had a lot of submissions.  Rick, Ryan, me, Karen, Linda…and the renovation stuff.  I started in March, I think.


Dia: How does it work?

Raven: People email me their digital pictures in as high resolution
as they can, and I print out an 8-by-10 copy on my computer.  I’ve
been  wanting to put out an email explaining this.  I have no idea what
people will say when I ask them, and it turns out that people have
beautiful photos.  I’m also putting up photos of the center from ten
years ago, photos of the process of fixing it up.

Dia: Have you received much feedback?

Raven: No.  Someone suggested that I put the photos in the mudroom…but I kind of like the little secret surprise.  Most people do go in the bathroom at some point or another, so…!

Dia: This is just one of one of many things you do as Director of Culture and Decorum at our center.  Is there anything you want people to know about your role, and what you do at the center?

Raven:  This is a way to make our Shambhala culture visible, and the bigger picture is that the whole center should be showing our culture to people who walk into our space.

Dia:  Can you say something about basic goodness, since that’s the title of the gallery?

Raven:  It’s our own inherent wisdom.  The photos show everybody’s own vision of it in an actual visual form.   It’s different than just thinking about it intellectually.  It’s a bigger view of it.


Dia:  Could there be a photo that does not express basic goodness?

Raven:  A picture of torture wouldn’t be basic goodness.  It hasn’t come up yet.  I’ll have to wait and see if that ever happens.

Dia: What about a picture of dog shit?

Raven: That would depend on what the photograph looks like.  It could go either way.

Dia: This has been interesting.  Thank you Raven.  How should I end this interview?
Raven:  By making an appeal to people to send me their photos!

After our conversation, Raven must have been contemplating basic goodness, for she sent me an eloquent email saying a little more about what basic goodness means to her.  She wrote, “What did I say about basic goodness? What I wanted to say was that it’s our innate wakefulness and purity, and that sometimes a photograph, poem, or painting can express that quality more than our attempt at words or concepts.  Not only that, but seeing such a work of art can actually wake us up to experience that quality.  Actually, everything in the Shambhala Center environment is designed to arouse our sunlike basic quality.  And then we can be inspired to do the same thing in our home environment.”


Thank you, Raven, for your exertion in creating an environment of
wakefulness for all of us!