In front of a derelict, hurricane-damaged structure, the retaining wall between Crown and Hawk Botanical Gardens and Shangri La VI on St. Thomas was bathed in colors of crimson and canary as local artists began a mural representing the seven chakras associated with ancient Buddhist and Hindu faiths.
The massive undertaking, spanning seven partitions, was the brainchild of Shangri La VI owner Catherine Wilson, who said the project was a culmination of years of thought, intention and time.
When Wilson first purchased the property to open Shangri La VI, “The property next door was abandoned and kind of stuck in probate,” she said. After “years, and years, and years,” she was able to purchase the property – along with the large, dilapidated wall.
Wilson got title to the property in September 2020. In the time leading up to that moment, “this whole idea had been brewing,” she said.
“Once I got a clear title, I started reaching out to Amy [Gibbs] to assist with reaching out to other artists for this project. And it has happened, finally,” Wilson said. “It’s such a gift to everyone, in every dimension.”
The concept for the wall came to Wilson during her yoga session, “It just dawned on me that the colors of the rainbow corresponded to the chakras.”
Chakra is a wheel, Wilson said, and each chakra is an “energetic powerhouse that propels the nadi [channel], creating and sustaining life.”
“Shakti” is what Wilson said is part of yogic practices that focus on the advancement of the divine feminine energy from the root chakra located at the base of the spine toward the divine masculine energy referred to as “shiva,” located in the crown chakra.
“Shakti is represented metaphorically as a snake that will uncoil and stretch the full length of the spine, passing through each chakra, ultimately uniting with shiva as one. When this union of feminine and masculine is achieved, there is a transformation in consciousness resulting in a spiritual liberation known as kundalini, or enlightenment,” Wilson said.
After the concept was focused, Wilson put out “a call to artists” asking for submissions and began prepping the wall for paint. Then she finalized the project date – April 24- 26.
“We did the numerology for this day and it represented divinity and happiness,” Wilson said. “Also, in the Mayan calendar there is a solstice equivalent that lasts 20 days … and literally on the 24 and 25 it was halfway through the 20-day solstice and on the two days associated with the heart chakra, right smack in the middle. It was unbelievable.”
While there were several assistants, volunteers and helpers who made the project possible, the artists of each portion of the mural were:
Root chakra – Iréne Debrice,
Sacral chakra – Marcel Ferreyra,
Solar plexus chakra – Nathan Visel,
Heart chakra – Diane Holmberg,
Throat chakra – Amy Gibbs,
Third eye chakra – Sarah-Ann Mitchell, and
Crown chakra – Sylvie Reis.
Originally Wilson said she was going to fund the endeavor herself, but once Wilson realized the caliber of artists inquiring about painting the wall, she sought additional money to support the artists and the project. The project was jointly supported by a grant from the Virgin Islands Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington, D.C. In addition to the grant, a Go Fund Me project is accepting donations from the public to support the effort.
The project has also garnered the support of more than 20 businesses that supplied donations of paint, supplies, food and services.
“The artists have poured their hearts and souls into it, and the community support has been phenomenal,” Wilson said. “What I have experienced over this weekend, can only best be described in feelings and not in words. It was much more bodily. I had chills and endless tears, felt an overwhelming feeling of amazement and awe. It was incredible to be around everyone’s creative energy.”