Art & Culture

Indigenous New Year celebration and community mandala coming to San Juan Bautista

March 30-31 celebration to take place during annual Art and Crafts Festival.
Ojai Day 2015 street mandala from Pinterest. Photo provided.
SJB150 Committee

This article was contributed by SJB150 Committee, a sub-committee of the San Juan Bautista Strategic Planning Commission, and posted by community member Wanda Guibert.

An exciting and beautiful new event awaits during the San Juan Bautista Art and Crafts Festival on March 30-31: an observance of the Indigenous New Year and the creation of a street mandala!

Local community and culture activists have assembled a wonderful group to present the native way of honoring the seasons all year long, beginning with the spring equinox. This time of year represents new beginnings, birthing change into the world. The local Indigenous cultural preservation efforts highlight the First Nations Peoples of San Juan Bautista by telling their history from the perspective of present day, living descendants. This Indigenous New Year celebration will be San Juan’s inaugural event and all community members are encouraged to participate!

The mandala public art project is presented by River Sauvageau, a self-employed artist, ceremonialist and community activist. For 26 years, she has led the creation of an annual 50-foot diameter mandala for the City of Ojai.

“To create a piece on a large scale and as a village offers a unique immersion in community and creativity that must be experienced to be known,” Sauvageau said of the mandala-making process. “The basic outline is laid out in the street and then the painting begins! Artists create designs for the larger areas while background areas and borders are painted by children, teens and adults of all ages. Anyone may come to paint!”

The public art project is expected to take place Saturday, March 30. Local artists interested in joining the design committee should email [email protected]. Artists of all capabilities and ages are welcome to participate, with the goal of unifying the community through art.

The event begins at 9:30 a.m., opened by Kanyon Sayers-Roods and followed by an introduction to the mandala by Sauvageau. At 11 a.m. will be a Peace Vision Honoring, to show respect and gratitude to our Elders who have carried the torch for the Indigenous Community the last three decades. Stories will be shared at noon (family stories are San Juan history). All multi-generational San Juan families are invited! Please contact the organizers to be added to the storytelling.

2019 is the sesquicentennial of the incorporation of San Juan Bautista, City of History. This year, for the first time, the living lineages of the local First Nations People will present the Indigenous history narratives. The intention is to honor truth in history through unifying community events and education opportunities, bound with Indigenous culture preservation. The seasonal events will continue all year long. Let’s celebrate San Juan’s diverse community together and strive for collective unity.


Wanda Guibert

"At San Juan Bautista there lingers more of the atmosphere of the olden time than is to be found in any other place in California." ~Helen Hunt Jackson, author of the book Ramona.