Collaborating on artwork to symbolize peace

Students encouraged to help create mandala for its debut at MLK, Jr. Peace Breakfast

By: Amy Schneider

Posted: 1/11/10

By Amy Schneider

The Daily Barometer

Local artist Susanna Cohen is looking for OSU students to assist in creating a collaborative peace mandala from Jan. 12 to 13, which will be displayed at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace Breakfast on Jan. 18.

Cohen has extensive experience with the mandala as an art form and her mandalas have been featured in DaVinci Days and the Corvallis Fall Festival. Her most prominent contribution was the City of Corvallis mandala, presented as a gift to the city. This is the second year she has been involved in making a special mandala for MLK, Jr. Day.

"She contacted us at the Women's Center expressing interest in creating another mandala," said Katie Parker, a senior in history and international studies and programming coordinator for the OSU Women's Center. "We support anything promoting peace and diversity so we were more than happy to sponsor her."

The mandala is an ancient form of expression, meaning "circle" in Sanskrit, according to

Traditionally, the mandala is created by a single artist, but Cohen saw potential in the mandala format and symbolism.

"The particular format I use was inspired by Tibetan sand art," Cohen said. "I watched them making their pieces and I started to see how each person could possibly take a band and do their own design."

As each artist paints their own band onto the canvas, the mandala begins to take shape as a single work of art. Cohen thinks that the collaborative process of creating a mandala can be compared to the way in which diverse, unique individuals can coexist and appreciate each other in everyday life.

"Everyone comes to the circle and makes their contribution," Cohen said. "The point isn't to criticize or judge others' contributions but instead to accept them as part of the circle. "

In this way, the mandala provides a symbolic representation of the themes that MLK, Jr. Day promotes.

Alia Beyer, a senior in chemistry, was present at the last MLK, Jr. Day mandala painting.

"I was really impressed with the nature of the project," Beyer said. "It really depended on teamwork, with each ring being someone's contribution. I went up to the ledge above MU Commons so I could see the project coming together and it was a lovely image."

Cohen also extols the therapeutic powers of group art projects.

"The collaborative process can have amazing results," Cohen said. "Multiple artists can work together in an environment of harmony. People who are not well tend to feel better, and people who have a lot of anxiety feel less stressed after working on the mandala."

A pre-painting meeting will be held Monday at 5 p.m. in the Women's Center, and those interested in attending can contact Parker at At the meeting, Cohen will briefly show interested students the basics of painting mandalas by explaining the proper use of paints, paintbrushes and palettes.

Cohen encourages artists to sketch out a few patterns and designs before attending the painting sessions, which will be held Jan. 12 to 13 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the MU Commons. All supplies will be provided.

"What I'm looking for is a diverse group to best represent the campus," Cohen said. "I'm really delighted to work with the OSU community in this way."

Media Credit: Jefffrey Basinger
Susanna Cohen, Barb Levine, Sarah Sheldrick and Susan Korn work on a collaborative media project called a mandala. Cohen is looking for OSU students who are interested in creating a peace mandala for the upcoming Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace Breakfast on Jan. 18.