The Spirit of Community: Mandala Series
"I never thought I could make anything like this. It all starts with one piece to make the biggest thing. We learned a lot—not just how to put the pieces down, but how to put the pieces down Artfully.
The very spirit of Piece by Piece is community. Our program offers residents of Skid Row and South Los Angeles not only the opportunity to develop marketable skills, but to also find self-confidence through art. We do this as a team, helping each other find our paths to success and stability.
"I think art for the public changes the community for the better, and many more people can appreciate it." – Guadalupe, Piece by Piece artist
When we received this commission from Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) last year, to create a series of mandalas for their new headquarters on 8th Street and Union Avenue near MacArthur Park, it was a perfect match. The project embodied the very essence of Community and Art coming together in a public setting. The team at LAFLA wanted to engage not only Piece by Piece, but also the people they serve and their own staff.
We began with a series of design workshops in the five locations where Legal Aid supports local communities. At each session, participants drew mandala designs based on a series of six themes, which reflect the values of Legal Aid and were the final mandalas: Community, Empowerment, Knowledge, Nature, Truth and Justice, and United in Diversity.
These designs were used as inspiration and many were later interpreted into mosaic by Piece by Piece artists.
The scale of this project brought the entire Piece by Piece team together. From the community classes to our Artist Team to our greatly valued Volunteers, everyone participated in the creation of these mandalas.
Heard again and again throughout the workshops was the buzz of excitement and how everyone just couldn’t picture what this giant project would look like. When we completed our first mandala and laid it out on the studio patio space, there was a hush, a sense of awe. We let it sit out most of the day, just so we could appreciate it. Every time we finished a mandala, it would sit out on the patio for the day.
"What was interesting to me was how you work on just a small piece and you can’t see the whole thing. Then, it’s really exciting to see it all come together. It is so big, it stands out, it’s impactful." – Carole, Piece by Piece artist
Our workshops with LAFLA were full of enthusiasm. Staff members contributed throughout the process, from design to fabrication to grouting. Everyone embraced the process.
This group of LAFLA staff worked on a series of the smaller mandalas.
The substrate team worked hard preparing the surfaces, making sure everything was of top notch quality, under the guidance of our lead instructor Luz Mack Durini. Our Studio Prep Associates, led by instructor Julie Williams, not only sorted and prepared all of the materials, they also joined in the fabrication process, and had a great time doing so.
Our main material came from a very special donation by Malibu Tile. We received a large amount of their cast-offs and overages, which helped us to be able to afford this project and add a level of beauty only found in these amazing ceramics.
With such a big project to grout, we called upon our mosaic community and volunteers to have several big Grout days.
Installation took several days. Each mandala was mounted to a metal disk, which was installed first. Some mandalas were created whole, while others were so large they needed to be in sections.
Our team of artists and instructors worked together to ensure attachment points were covered and made the final touches.
In addition to the exterior mandala installation, we were also commissioned by the interior designer, Victoria Hart of Pink Kitty Creative, to create additional projects for the interior. We created a series of smaller mandalas—built from the designs of the community, which were installed in the large meeting room upstairs. We also created a series of panels for the directory in the reception area.
When the project was complete, we came together as a group to reflect on this huge accomplishment. It brought us together as a team, saw new talents blossom, and gave everyone a sense of pride and accomplishment. Our volunteer Gale had some wonderful insights to share:
"Looking at the artwork on the wall finished, I was inspired because I felt a part of something big. It was a boost to be a part of something that makes a positive impact on the community. It was inspiring also because so many people participated…people came together and contributed in whatever capacity they could, from prepping the materials to laying the tile to the installation. Everyone contributes and that IS Community Art."
Thank you to Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and Everyone who contributed to this amazing project!