Elders create eco mandalas

I enjoy facilitating an Elders’ art class in San Francisco every Friday. For the past 6 weeks we have been focusing on mandalas. I discussed the sacredness of the circle symbol in many cultures, in nature, and in religion. We designed rose window mandalas based on the cathedral stained glass windows of Europe. We made shield mandalas to give us strength.

For the eco mandala inspiration, my two high school aids presented a report on Andy Goldsworthy and showed how he used things found in the environment, nature ,to create installations. I scavenged materials for the mandala creating: rose petals from the flower place on highway 92, rocks left over from Carla’s landscaping job, different kinds of rocks and colors from Home Depot, and fallen ginkgo leaves in front of Judy Johnson-Williams house. The biggest score though was from Alena Jean’s Flower Shop. Her dad had just finished pruning and I grabbed beautiful plum branches, geranium leaves, lily flower petals.

The only instructions I gave the elders were to think about: balance, color, texture, placement, and the centers of their mandalas. The elders went right to it and came up with some beautiful designs. Some of them left a lot of black around their materials, so the shapes of each petal and leaf was defined. Others piled the materials on.

I found the project to be very successful for the many different issues that the elders have: hearing loss, stroke restriction, language differences, memory and cognitive variation. Everyone was able to create the mandalas and they enjoyed seeing what their fellow students had done.

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