Creating a Sand Mandala at Family Art Labs!

Last Saturday Family Programs held a very special Family Art Lab where we learned all about mandalas and collaborated to created a giant sand mandala.  It was a unique experience for all and I think everyone had a nice take away from the afternoon.

We began the workshop in the art studio, where we discovered that mandalas represent “spiritual palaces.”  We also learned more about their parts and appearance: square/circle/square designs and color symbolism.  We followed our discussion by watching a video clip of Lama Karma Tenzin creating a sand mandala at the Rubin in 2009.  Families watched in amazement when he quickly swept away many, many hours of work.


Now we were ready for a trip to the Museum galleries to search for mandalas and discover more about their meanings.  Families were fascinated to discover the video, alongside a painted mandala in Gateway to Himalayan Art, that explores the interiors of a mandala.


We looked at a stupa and discussed how it has similar shapes to a three-dimensional mandala and can also often represent a mandala.


Next, we moved on to the 5th floor, All-Knowing Buddha exhibition, and recreated the posture of Buddha Vairochana – lotus position with hands in our laps.  After a few deep breathes, we began to feel a sense of calm and relaxation, a feeling that can be difficult for many of us to achieve in our busy city lives.


We continued our tour with more close looking and drawing activities in preparation for our mandala-making session in the art studio.


We returned to the art studio, full of new knowledge and ready to create. We began by creating 3D mandala sculptures, using colored paper, cardboard bases, glue and tape.

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The finished 3D mandalas were fantastic and really showed the collaboration between the adults and children.

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As some families were busy creating their mandalas, we rotated working on the collaborative sand mandala.  Families used homemade sand cones (made of stiff paper and tape) to help disperse the sand into the mandala.  Many children (and adults!) discovered this to be a very calming, meditative process.  It was fantastic to watch everyone work so carefully and with such amazing teamwork.

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After much hard work and care, the sand mandala was complete.  We gathered around to admire and appreciate our creation and then it was time to sweep it all away!  Before we swept, we reminded ourselves of the meaning behind sweeping the sand away – impermanence.  Nothing lasts forever, so let’s appreciate this moment in the present.

The children took turns using the brush (the same one used by Lama Karma Tenzin!) to sweep the sand toward the center of the mandala.

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We swept until all of the sand was piled at the center and then I dispersed small sand keepsakes to each participant as a memory of the mandala and their time at the Rubin.

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The experience of creating and sweeping away our sand mandala was truly a special one for all families and my assistant, Hannah, and I.  We can’t wait for next month’s Book Art Family Art Lab, where we’ll be learning the art of bookmaking and will create our own special pop-up books!

We hope to see you in December!

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