Community Art While We're Apart

Creating art in community is so important to what we do at Sanctified Art, but social distancing presents a new and unexpected challenge for churches eager to create together. Here are some ideas about how to inspire creativity even while we are physically apart. In this post, I’ll be using the Our Money Story Mandala Mosaic Art Project (featured in our new stewardship series, Our Money Story) as an example, offering ideas for how you might adapt the project for worshiping online or at a distance. But I hope these ideas spark your imagination for other creative projects you might do in worship or in your ministry!

Create from home

We designed our Mandala Mosaic Project so that you could use our template and guide to progressively build your own community mosaic throughout your stewardship series. Each week of your stewardship series, you have the option to integrate tangible elements into your worship—these items can later be added to the mandala mosaic with a small group. You could easily do this with a Sunday school group, a youth group, a children’s group, or a small group of adults. You could also set a “creative hour” each week for any community members to show up and help add to the mosaic.

However, if you are worshiping online throughout your stewardship season, you could distribute supplies to members in your community by mailing them or by creating a pickup box outside your church building. The supplies you could distribute to members at home are simple: pipe cleaners, coffee filters, and dried beans (more info in our Project Guide). Our accompanying liturgy includes moments for kinesthetic prayer using these tangible items. After worship, invite worshipers to drop their creations back by the church so that they can be added to the Mosaic by a project leader. The project leader could share many process photos and videos with your larger community. A communal art project during a time of social distance can become a powerful way of feeling and staying connected.

Our liturgy includes kinesthetic prayers to practice remembering, releasing, reimagining, and restoring.

Get outside

If you’re worshiping outside, you can do all sorts of art activities outdoors and our Mandala Art Project is a great option for youth groups or small groups gathering safely for outdoor events. We encourage you to print the Mandala Mosaic on mesh vinyl, which is a weather-proof material (instructions for this are included in the Project Guide). The Mandala can be hung or displayed near the front of the worship space, and the prompts for engagement can still be followed. Spread materials and collection baskets out around the worship space, and monitor the flow of traffic so that people do not come too close to each other.

Create a timelapse

The beauty of this worship art project is seeing the Mandala Mosaic shift over time as new pieces are added, ring by ring. Even if you can’t all work on the mosaic together, you can still capture the feeling of an ever-growing art installation. Designate one person (or even multiple people working one at a time) to fill the mandala week by week or day by day and record the progress on photo or video. In addition to the progress photos you could show during worship or on social media, at the end of the series, you’ll have a beautiful time lapse collage or video that serves as its own art piece.

Color your own at-home worship banners

The Mandala template was originally designed to be printed as a large banner for one communal Mosaic, but you could also print it on paper for members to color and adorn their sacred space at home. Since the original design is 5 feet wide, some areas may be tiny unless printed on 11x17 or larger paper. One possibility is ordering an engineering print of the design for each household. If you prefer to print the color version of the Mandala template as a coloring page, oil pastels are a great medium for coloring.

Color together on Zoom

Another option for coloring in the Mandala, especially if you’re already using Zoom for worship, is to use the annotate feature on Zoom to color communally. I have really enjoyed coloring on Zoom with the college students I work with, and we’ve created some beautiful art together. Everyone is on the same level (because no one is great at drawing with a mouse!) and we can all work together at the same time. Below is the mandala we colored on Zoom recently, along with some other images we’ve colored together.

Use social media to create a community art gallery

Bonnie Edwards, a member at First Presbyterian Church Dallas, has been creating daily mandalas out of natural and found objects since shelter-in-place began (shown below). You could encourage congregants to do the same and create their own mandalas out of different elements and post them to social media, challenging them to create mandalas that speak to the weekly themes. Choose some to feature on your social media, website, or in worship as a digital art gallery.

Here’s a bit more from Bonnie about how her “Shelter in Place” series emerged:

“At our church’s annual spring retreat this year I divided the participants, mixed ages, into small groups and encouraged them to go outside and find natural objects to create mandalas, and take pictures to share with the rest of the folks. It was such fun to watch THEM have fun, working together and delighting in their discoveries. Each mandala was totally unique and beautiful. So during shelter in place recommendations, I decided to work from home at our place in East Texas that has a few acres by a wooded road near Lake Tyler. I started making mandalas just for fun and found it was satisfying to accomplish one small thing each day in a time of chaos and uncertainty. I’ve noticed that it helps me look at God’s creation With a new perspective. And my husband Jarrett is also seeing new possibilities, finding sites and materials for these creations and trying his own hand.”

See more of Bonnie’s nature mandalas on her Facebook profile.

Use the grounds of your church

If you want to get even larger in scale, you could create and install the Mandala Mosaic on the grounds of your church. Print the Mandala template as a mesh vinyl banner and hang it on the fence or exterior wall of your church where passers-by can interact with it. Leave oil pastels or sidewalk chalk nearby for people to fill in the shapes. This is an especially nice idea if your church is in an area with many pedestrians who will see the Mandala as they pass by. You could leave prompts for church members to follow through the week, encouraging them to visit the grounds.

Or, simply use the template as a guide or create your own large-scaled mandala out of natural objects, sidewalk chalk, or prayer stones. In this time when many of our church buildings are closed, you might consider creative options for outdoor art installations visible to your entire community and anyone who passes by.

The image below is of First Presbyterian Church of Hightstown, N.J. who created a beautiful Pentecost art display on the exterior of their church.

communal art builds connection

As we crave connection, communal art acts as a healing balm. Even if we are apart, we can still create together in new ways. We hope these ideas inspire you to reimagine community art and to share your ideas, photos, or videos in our Facebook group. We look forward to seeing how you adapt this project!

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Anna Strickland

SA Operations Support & Content Creator

Anna Strickland (she/her/hers) looks for the Divine in the everyday like treasure in clay jars and first encountered God in the integration of her spiritual self and artistic self. She is a native Austinite and graduated from the University of Texas where she now works in college ministry, especially serving LGBTQ students.