Over 48 hours this weekend, more than 100 volunteers added to three large canvasses being painted with a mandala theme in a marathon to raise money for a Naropa University art therapy service learning trip.

The event, organized by professor Sue Wallingford and students in the art therapy program, is in its third year. The goal is to raise $25,000 to cover the cost of sending 10 art therapy students to Cambodia in the summer, where they'll work mainly with an organization that helps children and women who are victims of sex trafficking.

“It's an amazing cause,” said Kelly Watt, who works in admissions at Naropa, as she added more color to the canvas.
Erin Boylan, foreground, and Ida Drey add their contribution during the last nine hours of a painting marathon. The MA Transpersonal Counseling Psychology
Erin Boylan, foreground, and Ida Drey add their contribution during the last nine hours of a painting marathon. The MA Transpersonal Counseling Psychology program within Naropa University's Graduate School of Psychology held its third annual 48-Hour Painting Marathon. The project raises money for a summer service learning project to Cambodia. ( CLIFF GRASSMICK )
“And how often do you get to do a painting marathon?”

While the overall theme this year was mandalas, each canvass had its own twist.

For the “helping hands” canvass, hand stickers went on top after a section was painted and then will be peeled off at the end, revealing the history of the painting.

“We'll have a touch of everyone in the painting,” said second year art therapy student Chelsey Langlinais, who led the helping hands team. “The idea is that the whole is greater than the parts.”

The “sunbeams” canvass included assigned spots for painting plus community areas. The “creative crusaders” canvass started with a face, sunbeams, trees and clouds and then each painter added their own designs.

“It's so cool to see it coming together,” said Emma Ehrenthal, a second-year art therapy student and captain of the “creative crusaders” team. “People just went for it and made it way more than I could imagine.”

Birds, dragons, flames and feathers all made appearances in the heavily detailed and brightly colored paintings.

Keeping the painters going were musical performances, a table full of homemade snacks and lots of friends — both the two-legged and four-legged variety. Children also had their own small canvas to paint.

On Sunday afternoon, four people formed an a cappella group that improvised based on the painting, singing to each canvass and even the 40-plus plastic tubs of different colors of paint on a table.

“It's magic,” said Sue Wallingford, a Naropa professor who spearheads the art marathon and Cambodia trip. “I'm so, so proud of what they've done.”

The top three donors to the fundraiser will get the finished canvases, which will be on display for the next week. The deadline to donate is Nov. 18.

For the Cambodia trip, the plan is to spend most of the time working with the Cambodian Women's Crisis Center, which helps victims of the sex trade. The main goal is to teach the clinical some of the basics of art therapy and to use art themselves for self-care.

They'll also work with an organization where women make and sell handicrafts, helping them make a craft, buying them and then bringing them back here to sell.

“Students get an amazing experience,” Wallingford said. “We want to really try to make a difference in the world.”
   
To donate, go here.