November 28, 2016 by: Ben Heimsath

A public art installation in Chicago’s Grant park was installed last month. The piece dominates the southern edge of the public space, right next to a skatepark. Made entirely of recycled wood, the 15 foot tall piece is an abstract representation of the sitting Buddha. The creation of Tibetan-born contemporary artist, Tashi Norbu, the work’s formal name is “Be the Flower, Not the Bee,” a reference to contemplative phases and sayings inscribed all over the painted wood segments. Unofficially, the piece is referred to as Urban Buddha.


Image from artist Tashi Norbu

For Tashi Norbu, who lives and works in the Netherlands, this is the first installation in the United States. Trained originally as a traditional Tibetan thangka painter at the offices of the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India, he then moved to Belgium to study contemporary art at the Saint Lucas Academy of Visual Arts in Ghent. The artist strives to express his traditional roots in Tibet and Buddhism in ways that combine expressions and forms with contemporary art.

 Urban Buddha and artist.jpg

Artist Tashi Norbu installing the sculpture, DNAinfo/David Matthews

The use of reclaimed wood, and the placement in a location that draws a younger crowd, is a deliberate move. This is a way for the artist to draw attention to environmental issues all over the world, and a message of spiritual awakening through contemplation of nature. Stone blocks around the sculpture invite observers to stop and spend time in prayer or thought. By the spring, seeds planted around the installation will sprout and begin covering the wooden form.


Image from artist Tashi Norbu

Urban Buddha will remain in place for the next six months, with the possible extension of an additional six months. It is likely the City will extend the showing.  A park official notes the work is a way to expand cultural awareness through art.

Be the Flower, Not the Bee is in Grant Park Skate Park near Michigan Avenue and Roosevelt Road, Chicago, Illinois

Sustainable Deisgn/ Sacred Symbols/ Religious