Seven Questions with "Chakra Mural" Artist Ryan Orewiler

Suzanne Goldsmith
Columbus Monthly
Drone photographer Ryan Cassidy shot this photo of Ryan Orewiler's "Chakra Mural"

Ryan Orewiler, now 46, turned to art as a teenager to escape from pain and difficult experiences. He’s been making art ever since, and it’s in keeping with the Columbus College of Art & Design grad’s history that his latest work, a brightly-colored, 76-foot-long, 20-foot-high abstract mural painted on a long wall off a Mound Street parking lot, is aimed at helping others heal.

The work, which he conceptualized in collaboration with Darsy Amaya, a fellow artist and a reiki master, is entitled “Chakra Mural.” Orewiler turned to Amaya last year to help improve his well-being. Amaya, like Orewiler, has a studio at 400 West Rich in Franklinton. Through conversations and reiki sessions, a therapy that involves light touch, Orewiler learned about the chakras—an ancient Sanskrit word used by yogis and others to designate energy centers in the body.

Artist Ryan Orewiler, photographed by his "Chakra Mural."

Giving his work to the community or leveraging it to raise funds for favored causes is part of Orewiler’s ethic, and he wanted to share the wellbeing he’d found through chakras with others. He hopes people will use the “Chakra Mural” as a vehicle for healing. Amaya’s podcasts offering guided meditation for each chakra can amplify the experience, Orewiler says. Of course, you can also take a selfie in front of the mural.

Orewiler began work on the Chakra Mural last October and completed it last week. Actually, it’s not fully complete; the artist plans to add crystals to each chakra circle, donated by Silverstone Artistry.

The following email interview with Orewiler has been edited for length and clarity. To learn more about the mural, including its location, visit Orewiler’s Instagram, @orewiler.art. A link to Amaya’s podcasts can be found at @color_your_life_chakras. Orewiler’s prior works, including murals at Antiques on High, the Hey Hey Bar and Grill and in Franklinton, the Short North, the South End and elsewhere can be found on his website, orewiler.art.

Tell us how you came up with the idea for the “Chakra Mural.”

First, I'd like to say thanks to all those that were involved in the 2020 mural projects. Last year, I organized and donated several murals and trained myself to create murals in order to help small businesses, communities and families during rough times financially.

Several years ago, I opened up to receiving reiki sessions in order to focus on harnessing and balancing my well-being. Understanding energy and Chakras is a complex thing, but I learned that these are helpful methods to release and heal blockages from trauma in the body and mind.

Bobby Silver does a yoga pose in front of the Columbus "Chakra Mural"

Darsy Amaya is an intuitive artist, self-taught jewelry designer, reiki master and polarity practitioner. During reiki sessions with Darsy, I discovered my own ability to find and maintain balance in body, mind and spirit. I now understand the importance of holistic healing (not only for mental health) and feel a duty to share my experiences to help out others that are struggling like me.

I lost seven friends during the pandemic in 2020; most were lost to mental illness. Creating the “Chakra Mural” helped me and hopefully will help others, especially children that are going through tough times.

How can people use the mural for meditation?

The seven chakras are associated with vibrations, moods and colors, as well as energy centers in the body. Red is the center at the base of the spine, orange represents the navel center, green is the heart center, blue is the throat center, indigo the eyebrow center and violet the top of the head.

Meditate with the “Chakra Mural” by focusing on the color that is associated with the chakra you are trying to heal. You can use a yoga meditation technique called trataka, where you start by focusing for 15 to 20 seconds, then 30 to 40 seconds, then one to two minutes and even longer. Darsy has a podcast, called Color your Life, which explains the process. Each segment includes a short guided meditation, visualizing each chakra color and using positive affirmations. You can find it on many podcast platforms, or point your phone at the QR code on the mural to link to her podcast.

How did you paint the mural? How long did it take? What were the challenges?

I painted the circles and blended the colors on the mural with a roller and brush. That took three weeks, while I was working on four other murals. Thanks to DA Construction for painting the black area. The challenges were creating 54 circles by hand and blending the colors.

Artist Ryan Orewiler works on his Columbus "Chakra Mural"

You have said that your hope is for the “Chakra Mural,” for which you donated your time and talents, to serve as “a healing wall for the city.” Can you explain?

The mural is conveniently located in a parking lot, where visitors can stay in their vehicles or put a yoga mat on the ground and meditate, with or without the podcasts. The space can also be used for yoga and meditation teachers and holistic practitioners to host programs for the community about mindfulness and wellness and to relax, release stress and promote health. Please visit @chakra_mural for more information and to be involved. I do ask that you respect the private owners of the building, other visitors and the community surrounding the mural.

I understand it was a physical injury at age 18 that led to your decision to become an artist. Can you tell me about that decision?

I never dreamed of becoming an artist. I was raised by an art teacher, a photographer and a carpenter/craftsman. Creating, inventing and building things were natural for me, and helped me mentally escape my world. I had no cell phone, computer or internet—only a pencil and paper. I grew up as an only child, so being bullied was common and art was my form of escape. In my senior year of high school, I broke my neck and through my recovery, I began to focus on creating again. This led me to go to CCAD and train to be an illustrator. 

Even before you began painting on Columbus buildings, much of your art depicted Columbus buildings or cityscapes. Why do you like to portray this city in your art?

I grew up in the South Side of Columbus and appreciated the urban environment and its people. Homeless men taught me how to play basketball, and I skateboarded Downtown daily in the 1980s, so the urban lifestyle was part of my roots. I became friends with a lot of kids that were less fortunate than I. That’s why I give more than I take. 

Since my accident, I've always donated art to numerous charities to help others in need. In 2020, I worked with several nonprofits to organize murals that would raise awareness about the earth and its animals, chakra healing, world history, commonality, mental illness, social issues and sharing love and peace when everyone is going through rough times. 

It is our duty to give more than we take to our communities and help those who don’t have access to opportunities for self-awareness, healing and education.

How can art help with healing?

Do certain songs heal you? Does dancing or watching someone dance heal you? A Master Chef is an artist. What about tools invented used to operate or save people? Art has always healed from the beginning of time. To me, art and culture are two of the most important things we all have in common—the first being the planet Earth, which is also the greatest art of all time. 

Artist Ryan Orewiler sent us this video scanning the length of the "Chakra Mural"