Mandalas bring color, artistry and enthusiasm to the Bud Werner Memorial Library |

Mandalas bring color, artistry and enthusiasm to the Bud Werner Memorial Library

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Hazel Fernley looks comfortable as she carefully fills in a section of a mandala using steady hands and an ancient tool called a chakpur.

“I just love all the decorations, all the fish and the designs,” she said after stepping away from the creation to refill the chakpur with colored sand. This is the fifth year in a row that Fernley, and her sister and mom, have come to the Bud Werner Memorial Library to lend their hands creating mandalas that take shape over a couple of days. Once the creations are finished, they are quickly photographed and then swept away so that it can be reborn with new colors by a new group of creative minds.

“I just love all the colors,” says Frances, Hazel’s sister.

It’s clear from the enthusiasm that the chance to add their touches to the creation is something the homeschooled girls look forward to each year. The girls’ mother, Jennifer, is also enthusiastic, but says the library has always been a great place to come and find inspiration.

“The library is a place that we go a lot,” she said. “They have good stuff for the kids to do here, whether it’s reading or some other program.”

She said that painting a mandala with colored sand is something that caught the attention of her two young girls several years ago, and that the family enjoyed watching as Tibetan Buddhist monks from Drepung Loseling Monastery  visited Library Hall and introduced the art to the community.  While it is not spiritual for her family, she and the girls have found value in it.

“We enjoy doing this — it’s cool and it’s fun,” Jennifer Fernley said. “Overall, I think it is a cool way of expressing yourself artistically that these girls really like.”

It was the second time the monks have visited the Yampa Valley and their art is something that drew  community interest. Jennifer Lay, the Adult Programs coordinator at the library, doesn’t want to let that energy fade. She is hoping that holding participatory community events, like the sand-painting held on Wednesday and Thursday, will continue to fuel that interest.

“The monks came in the summer of 2015, and we have done this every holiday break since then,” Lay said. “This was not intended as a kids activity, and it did not start out as a kids activity … but it seems like during the holiday season this has captured the minds and the hearts of the kids, because they come out.”

Lay said that when the monks came in 2010, and then again in 2015, the interest was spread across a wide range of ages. She said the interest of the children in this particular event has a lot to do with the fact they are out of school. She said she would love to bring the monks back to Steamboat Springs, but no dates are currently planned.

“It takes years to get the monks to come here,” Lay said. “There is not a plan at this moment, but that’s not to say that will not change. This is not true to the monks and what they do, but it kind of honors the art form and it’s a good creative outlet. The monks make something that is sacred, and ritualistic to them. This has become a really fun, creative outlet for us.”

Lay said that she has learned a lot by watching the monks work in the past, and says that she does her best to pass that along to the people who come out and take part in the sand painting at the library.

“I would say that we have had about 100 people today,” Lay said on Wednesday.

“Most of the people who have come by were kids,” Lay said. “But this is really for everybody, and everybody was welcome to come by and take part.”

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966

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