As Optimystic Arts, artist Gemma Bayly works with many mediums. But when it comes to her intricate, hand-drawn mandalas, she recites a prayer with each line she creates. "Any time I approach a piece, it's always with the intention of bringing a healing light that can rejuvenate and bring peace and joy and love. I know those are really big ideas, but these are mathematical, proportional, vibrational tools that I create, and I think they really work."
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Her pieces are made up of hundreds of hand-drawn lines, and lately she's been doing them on a larger scale, creating murals for Crema Coffee House and City, O' City. But her upcoming project will be the biggest she's ever taken on: a mural on a 120-foot wall behind Royal Drug, at the corner of Bruce Randolph Avenue and York Street. An area impacted by regular violence over the years -- 2012 saw the shooting deaths of two, with two more injured -- the mandala work will be a collaboration with local art students.
"A lot of things have happened here," Bayly says. "What we're really trying to do is to solidify this inspirational point for the community and have a community-building artifact -- something tangible." Friend and arts advocate Shaun Parkins connected her with funding for the public work through the Urban Arts Fund's 30 Murals Project. Beginning in mid-October, the two will help art teachers Marcy Mitchell, at Bruce Randolph Middle School, and John Goe, at Manual High School, lead mandala-making workshops for their art students.
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From there, the students will head over to the wall to work on the mural directly with Bayly, using paint and wheat-paste techniques to brighten up the corner. "I really want them to take pride and ownership in what they do," says Bayly. "Part of what I do, and the reason I call myself Optimystic Arts, is that I never wanted my name to be associated with it -- I never want it to be about me. I want the kids to do this, and I want them to call it their mural."
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