Originally titled Interactive Community Mandala Project, the I in Imandala has come to mean more than interactive. Information, inspiration, integration and individuation all exist as subjects of dialog and contemplation within each work. Also called I’mandala to instill a sense of identity with the process becoming a part of a greater whole.
The very first Interactive Community Mandala Project began with the goal of presenting a visual key to the process of non-violent conflict resolution. The eight feet tall by eleven feet wide canvas featured a simple mandala graphic with a twelve inch grid superimposed. A corresponding sign up sheet was made available providing a system for people to claim any one of the eighty-eight specific cells, within the mandala grid. Participants were free to complete their “square,” coloring in and embellishing upon the mandala graphic using the provided art supplies.
The project remained available for six months, from January 1998 to June 1998, receiving many repeat visits and a total of over Thirty participants. It was a profound success leading to unique resolutions for those involved and bringing about an ongoing dialog regarding the use of color, shape and image as components of a nonverbal language. This dialogue continued with a second Imandala, organized at a daytime event at what is now the Scharffen Berger chocolate factory, in Berkeley CA. This Imandala was available to individuals numbering in the hundreds and was presented alongside the completed first piece.
A new phase in the evolution of the Imandala process was reached by December of 1998, presented as a feature at an exclusive week long retreat in the Calistoga Mountains. Imandala 3 featured a departure from paint on a single canvas. Nine panels of treated board formed a grid on a free standing A-frame. The seventy participants were offered twenty-four hour access to the Imandala and were free to develop the artwork interactively. Both liquid paints and the sign-up sheet were excluded from the process of creating Imandala 3. The result was a densely layered work of art, with the inclusion of children and the absence of a formal grid.
The passage of time could be tracked on the Imandala’s surface as participants altered and elaborated on specific design elements. The concept of attachment to a finished product was introduced to the Imandala dialog, as it was time that determined the final appearance of individual elements as well as the whole.
This new dynamic was a significant departure from previous projects. The sign up sheet afforded each participant the opportunity to treat their individual cell as an autonomous canvas, adopting or rejecting design elements from adjacent cells according to individual tastes or interaction with one’s neighbors. With the absence of a grid system, mandala design elements evolved in relation to the reaction of participants. Not one participant could truly know how the mandala’s innermost center or outermost ring would ultimately appear.
Phase Two of the Imandala project continued for nearly a decade. Using features from the previous 3 versions, subsequent Imandala installations were created free standing or upon the wall of private parties, fundraisers and weekend retreats throughout San Francisco and the greater Bay Area. In the year 2000 a Burning Man theme camp featured an Imandala as its central point of interaction. Ranging is size from eight feet to eighteen inches, ten more Imandala pieces were completed before the project entered its third and current phase.
In March of 2008, ten years after the creation of the very first piece, a new method of creating an Imandala was introduced. With very few exceptions, the Imandala was typically painted on a vertical plane. While this allowed participants to step back and observe the process of creation, interaction was either side-by-side or front to back. While available step-stools allowed even the smallest participant to reach the upper portions of a large Imandala, the end result was consistently a circular mandala imbedded upon a rectangular canvas. Recurring design themes would often reveal themselves by their location on the canvas; the bright sunny colors used in the top right corner being one example.
With the introduction a circular table, upon which the paint ready canvas is mounted, the Imandala returned to the roots of mandala creation. Similar to Tibetan sand painting, participants could now gather in a circle, facing one another and working collaboratively. With no corners, or top and bottom, the entire Mandala was given equal prominence, its center equally in reach to all participants.
In the years since the inception of this third phase the Imandala project has been reinvigorated. The artistic dialog has evolved along with the project itself, attracting artists of all kinds and introducing others to their inherent artistic potential; often for the very first time. Plans for a deeper exploration of the Imandala creation process are ongoing and can be viewed on our I'mandala facebook page.