Students from the Missoula Community School spread sawdust to mark the beginnings of the Missoula Mandala on Wednesday morning in Caras Park. The mandala, made with 10 cubic yards of sawdust in various colors, symbolizes the hope for world peace.
It takes a village to make a mandala.
Hundreds of little hands spent Wednesday morning and afternoon creating the colorful circle of sawdust at Caras Park, meant to represent the hope of peace in a troubled world.
But you better check it out early Thursday morning if you want to see it. Because it will be a memory by day's end.
And that's the point, said artist Janaina Vieira-Marques, founder of the Missoula Mandala Project, now in its fourth year.
"The design is not so much important as the process," said Vieira-Marques, a Brazilian native and art teacher at Paxson Elementary. "So the design is always come up with in the last week."
The creation of the mandala, which requires numerous volunteers and community donations, is a gesture of peace-making. And that is the real point, she said.
"When you get in a place where a lot of people who don't know each other and have different beliefs, different religions and different thinking all work together toward something, that's peace in itself," said Vieira-Marques.
Children from the Missoula Community School, various Montessori schools and others poured cups of sawdust along chalk lines to create the mandala, which is being deconstructed Thursday and its contents turned into compost and mulch for Missoula restoration projects.
Viewed from the Higgins Avenue Bridge, the mandala - a form that originated in Buddhist and Hindu traditions to represent Earth - is a giant, colorful wheel made from 10 cubic yards of sawdust, much of which is colored with bags of food coloring.
In Latin America, mandalas are often created in communities during the Christian Holy Week as a celebration of Lent, Easter and the resurrection. But mandalas were first created as impermanent artworks by Buddhists and Hindus, who believe that the act of creating a mandala is more spiritually important than the actual mandala itself.
And that's what Vieira-Marques believes, too. Though steeped in religious tradition, the act of mandala-making has no boundaries of belief.
"I grew up seeing them my whole life and decided to bring it to Missoula," she said. "Instead of being associated with any religion, now the mandala is something that everyone is welcome to be a part of - any religion, any belief."
Her husband Pedro Marques, also from Brazil, said the idea of the design is something that is decided on just a day or two before it's actually constructed. The timing of its construction with the annual Festival of the Dead parade in Missoula is a "planned coincidence," he said.
"It's a total leap of faith," he said. "We just say it's going to happen. But every year, people come in and make it happen. ... and the whole idea of impermanence just kind of fits with the Festival of the Dead."
Vieira-Marques and a group of 55 others in Missoula are hoping to take their mandala project to the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, to represent one of 32 countries in a "global mosaic," a giant mandala for all the world to see.
A fundraising effort has begun in Missoula to do just that. For more information about the project, call 552-2369, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or find the project on Facebook by searching for Missoula Mandala Project.