Ojai Community Mandala History

2023 Mandala

(Storybook Unfolding Mandala 2023)

2016 Spiral Mandala

(Spiral River Mandala 2016)


How did this community mandala tradition get started in Ojai? 


We were going to have an Ojai Day celebration, the first one in many years, and our main street, which is also a state highway, was going to get closed off for the event. After dark the night before, barricades closed off the main street so booths and stages could be put up for the event.

My friends, other artists and contrarians most, felt that in having a celebration of our Ojai Valley, smack in the center of it should be an homage to the Chumash people. The word on the street was that we would paint a mandala in the middle of the main intersection of town using the powerful symbols of the Chumash cave paintings from the then out-of-print Campbell Grant book (which I had a rare copy of!).

Ojai Day Mandala Chumash Theme 1995?

(Chumash Themed Mandala 199?)

The Chumash themed mandalas were bold and cohesive and full of magic. The symbols come from cave paintings and are mysterious and evocative. These mandalas surprised the people when they saw them the next day, so large, bold and colorful. The figures had the Chumash people on everyone's lips.

We used Chumash cave painting images for our first three mandalas until we were told by Chumash elder, Julie Tumamait, that these image were sacred and not meant to be walked on. We had to come up with a different format but one that honored our intention.

Our first 3 mandalas faded naturally over the course of a couple months. When you would stop at the light at the intersection you could see it on the street. After the fist light rain, it faded and faded more with each subsequent rainfall. 

2018 Spherical Honeycomb Mandala

(Spherical Honeycomb Mandala 2018)


There is a feeling of ownership that the community feels with the mandala, it claims the public space right in the middle of the street in downtown (where we are usually unable to walk.)

Our Main Street is also a state highway and Caltrans gives its approval for our annual street closure. We were informed that we had to wash the mandala off the street or the closure permit would be revoked. Until 2019 the Mandala was washed off at the end of Ojai Day. 

Since 2020 and the quarantine, we have been painting the Ojai Day Mandala around the fountain in Libbey Park in the heart of downtown Ojai.

2019 Ojai Day Mandala Trees 

(Trees Mandala 2019)


2018 Ojai Day Mandala Night painting 

(Nighttime painting 2018)