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Press Release

Rhythm and guidance for the year’s longest day

May 26, 2017

Rhythm and guidance for the year’s longest day

Sunrise and sunset observations scheduled to mark the solstice at the Rothko Chapel 

Wednesday, June 21

HOUSTON – May 26, 2017 – Start summer off on the right foot with meditation and reflection followed by drumming and celebration at the Rothko Chapel.

The nonprofit, located at 3900 Yupon in Houston, will celebrate the spiritual significance of the summer solstice on Wednesday, June 21 with observations at sunrise and sunset.

Throughout the day, guests are invited to explore the grounds, celebrating the longest day of the year and the change of season. The Chapel will be open from 6:20 a.m. to 8:20 p.m.

At sunrise, 6:20 a.m, the day begins with a guided meditation by Bon Buddhist Alejandro Chaoul, followed by a facilitated walk in the Chapel’s turf labyrinth lead by local certified Labyrinth coach Jay Stailey.

Chaoul has been teaching meditation for more than 20 years and serves as assistant professor and director of education at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center's Integrative Medicine program, an associate faculty member at the McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics at University of Texas Medical School and a board member and teacher of meditation and Tibetan yoga at Ligmincha Texas Institute for the Tibetan Meditative and Healing Arts. He is also an advisor for the Rothko Chapel.

“The plan is to use the solstice energy to connect to the five elements  -- earth, water, fire, air and space --to help us be in a meditative state of mind-heart -- from which we can slowly move into walking and engaging with the labyrinth, as to continue our inner journey,” Chaoul said.

The Chapel and labyrinth will be open for visitors to explore throughout the day.

“This will be the second year in a row we have installed a turf labyrinth for the Rothko summer solstice celebration,” Stailey said. “Last year we created two, seven-circuit Santa Rosa labyrinths in the lawn areas east of the Chapel, and this year we will mow a larger, nine-circuit medieval labyrinth into the area adjacent to the reflection pool.”

The Rothko Chapel’s public programs and community engagement director Ashley Clemmer said the labyrinths provide a space to meditate and reflect.

“This is the perfect way to set your intentions for the future and get summer started by moving in the right direction,” she said.

The solstice celebration at the Chapel will end with an observation of sunset at 8:20 p.m., featuring the annual performance by Kaminari Taiko of Houston, the premier Japanese drumming group in the Gulf Coast region.

“Taiko” is the Japanese word for drum and the art of taiko carries deep significance in Japanese culture. Samurai warriors used taiko on the battlefield to signal commands and frighten their enemies, while townspeople warned of danger by beating on taiko and priests used the drumming at religious ceremonies.

“Temples and shrines throughout Japan display taiko as a symbol of purification and to dispel evil spirits,” Clemmer said. “We think our guests will love this modern display of a centuries-old tradition.”

Kaminari's unique style of dynamic taiko performance is inspired by the traditional values of Japanese art and propulsive, toe-tapping world beats. The group's high-energy shows are powered by an arsenal of over 30 professional-quality taiko. Kaminari Taiko enjoys sharing the spirit of taiko with audiences throughout Texas and beyond.

Both offerings are open and available for the entire family. For the sunset observation, attendees are invited to bring a blanket or lawn chair. There will be all natural pop being sold by Steel City Pops and complimentary beverages available by Saint Arnold Brewing Company. 

Visitors come to the Rothko Chapel throughout the year to meditate and reflect. The grounds are home to paintings by Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman's sculpture, Broken Obelisk, which stands in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

For more information, including a full calendar of upcoming programs, workshops and events, visit rothkochapel.org or call 713-524-9839.

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About the Rothko Chapel

The Rothko Chapel is open to the public every day of the year at no charge and successfully interconnects art, spirituality and compassionate action through a broad array of free public programs. Founded by Houston philanthropists Dominique and John de Menil, the Chapel was dedicated in 1971 as an intimate sanctuary. Today it stands as a monument to art, spirituality and human rights. As an independent non-profit, non-governmental organization, the Chapel depends on contributions from foundations and individuals to support its mission of creating a space for contemplation and dialogue on important issues.

About Alejandro Chaoul

Dr. Alejandro Chaoul is an assistant professor and director of education at MD Anderson's Integrative Medicine program, where he conducts research using mind-body techniques with cancer patients, holds group and individual meditation classes and directs the education initiatives on integrative medicine. He is also an associate faculty member at the McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics at the University of Texas Medical School, where he teaches medical students in the areas of spirituality, complementary and integrative medicine and end of life care. Alejandro is also an advisor for the Rothko Chapel and lectures regularly at The Jung Center of Houston, the Asia Society, and the Esalen Institute.

About Jay Stailey

Jay Stailey is a founding member of the Rothko Chapel Guild and former school principal. He inadvertently stumbled upon the labyrinth at St. Thomas University, as he was nearing retirement, and discovered the power of the labyrinth as a tool to focus his thoughts, clear his mind and tune his inner being. His curiosity and interest broadened as he became a Veriditas trained and certified labyrinth facilitator and eventually led him to become Houston’s first labyrinth coach. He has emerged as a fixture in the Houston labyrinth community, facilitating monthly labyrinth walks at the Historic Freedmen’s Town Labyrinth, guiding Houstonians on discovery walks and bicycle tours and facilitating the construction of temporary and permanent labyrinths with Houston Area churches and schools. He has recently installed labyrinths for COREdance performances in Atlanta Georgia, on the Fourviere in historic Lyon, France and on the equator in the cloud forests of Ecuador. He presented at the Labyrinth Society Fall 2016 Gathering in Houston on “Building Community through the Labyrinth Experience.” Future labyrinth projects in Ireland, Mexico, Ecuador and Italy, in partnership with the Houston Grand Opera, loom on the horizon. This is his second year creating the turf labyrinth for the Rothko Chapel Summer Solstice celebration.

About Kaminari Taiko of Houston

Kaminari Taiko was founded in 1996 by Jay Mochizuki, along with a number of talented musicians from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities. The members diligently trained under world-acclaimed taiko masters, including Daihachi Oguchi, Seiichi Tanaka, Kenny End and Takemasa Ishikura to learn the fundamental skills, philosophy and the spirit of this centuries-old Japanese tradition. During the past 18 years, Kaminari has toured more than 20 cites, performed hundreds of concerts for live audiences and developed into a prominent performing taiko group. In addition to stage performances at theaters, festivals, and other cultural celebrations, Kaminari performers continually refine their skills through training at their own dojo (studio) and provide weekly taiko lessons for students at all levels, plus an elementary school after-school program and workshops for groups in our community. Kaminari's public awareness/support programs have been recognized by many organizations, including the Consulate General of Japan in Houston, the City of Houston, Camp for All, the Japan America Society, the Asia Society, the Japan Business Association of Houston and the Houston Independent School District.

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