Warm air, sunshine, and the bright colors of summer inspire a bit of creativity in all of us--especially Lauren Mandal. Her "busy season" peaks during the warm weather months because Lauren specializes in creating outdoor spaces that bloom with color. Her murals and playground spaces help growing minds (both young and old) celebrate life, color, and self-expression. They also communicate concepts such as positivity, kindness, respect, and inclusion. An extension of her children's art studio, Yellow Door, Lauren's goal is to make art come alive for kids of all ages.
How did you get started with Yellow Door Art Studio?
Yellow Door has been years in the making. It's been a dream to have a public, physical space where we can spark creativity and self-expression! As a public and private school art teacher for over 20 years, I have witnessed young children have fears and insecurities about creating art. Yellow Door Art Studio is meant to be a place where we don't need to follow strict directions or are required to draw a straight line. Not everyone has an easy time navigating that world, so I created a space where people--both young and old--can be creative without judgment.
Art is the desire to create. It's not about how well you do it. When you walk through Yellow Door, my hope is that you follow your imagination wherever it takes you. You can play and explore materials without fear of being "wrong" or making a mess.
What types of classes does Yellow Door offer?
We offer elevated Art + Craft + DIY experiences for kids and adults—from fashion design and cartooning to painting and sculpting and cookie decorating in the form of seasonal workshops, classes, parties, and summer camps.
I believe our offerings are unlike anything else in the area. They are truly unique and creative. We have programs for every age--from a "Kool Kicks" shoe art workshop to spin art, black light painting parties, and collage and mood board nights for teens and moms alike. We're always adding more to our calendar, and we are happy to co-create experiences with our fellow artists.
Tell me about your murals.
My passion is beautifying schools—inside and out. I want kids to be inspired and find joy in their everyday surroundings.
To date, I have painted eight outdoor spaces—playgrounds, exterior walks, and murals. So far, my biggest marquee playgrounds are Westwood's Berkeley Elementary School and Midland Park's Godwin Elementary School. This spring and summer, my work will be seen at Tenafly's Kaplen JCC on the Palisades' outdoor track and playground and Fair Lawn's Memorial Field near their newly installed basketball courts.
I have also painted countless unique interior school murals, often in partnership with my students. Taking a brush to anything other than the expected paper or canvas can be so empowering. The students I've worked with had the opportunity to paint ceiling tile "book covers" leading to their school library, calculate colorful math equations while painting school stairways, and hydrate their imagination with a whimsical "under-the-sea" design near a hallway water fountain.
What inspired you to begin doing murals?
I continuously draw inspiration from children. They have no fear, particularly when they are making art and are given the freedom to create.
I also draw inspiration from color. I find as we age, our homes and wardrobes have a way of losing color. Yet, I believe color brings life, energy, and joy to all that come across it. It's the center for all that I do.
Another big inspiration is the excitement of seeing people interact with my art. I love seeing children play in the places I paint. The art becomes alive when kids hop, skip, and laugh throughout the artwork. I draw upon that as I set my brush toward the next project.
Why is exposure to art important for kids? How does creativity benefit young minds?
I always say, "Don't think; just do!" Being able to pivot, problem solve, and trust your gut—all can be learned through art. It's not just about the outcome; the process of the creation is where the art is happening. It is a moving meditation or internal conversation the artist is having with their artwork. I let my artists decide what will happen rather than dictate step-by-step instructions. In my opinion, life is structured enough--particularly in many areas of public education. Creating should be personal. Sharing what you create is true bravery!