Lunchable: Find Comfort and Healing Through Art at the Arboretum

Design Student Installation Viewable through April 30

colorful ribbons blowing in the breeze from a tree
A public art piece near Lake Spafford was created by UC Davis design students. MFA student Niloufar Abdolmaleki hung Dakhil ribbons from trees, honoring an Islamic tradition and allowing people to write their hopes and wishes on the ribbons.(Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Quick Summary

  • Free and open to the public

Lunchable is a feature of the UC Davis Arts Blog that recommends art exhibitions or other attractions that can be viewed during a short lunch break or other short periods of leisure time. 

People strolling under colorful ribbons on large shady trees.
Walkers stroll through the art installation created by UC Davis students in the Department of Design. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Members of the UC Davis art community have come together to deliver messages of hope and healing through their artwork this month at the Arboretum. UC Davis MFA design students Edward Whelan and Niloufar Abdolmeki created their own temporary art installations in support of the Design Museum’s exhibition, “Guardians: Spirits of Protection,” created by Ann Savageau, professor emeritus of design at UC Davis. That indoor display explores the relationship between tragedy and design and remind people that in the face of adversity, there is the power and opportunity to thrive. 

On display through April 30, this exhibit takes that theme outdoors, and gives everyone a chance to take a beautiful stroll through the Arboretum and Public Garden, view inspirational art and enjoy nature. The exhibit is free and open to the public. 

Created by by students Whelan and Abdolmeki, with Savageau’s help, their exhibit includes a reflection bridge, poetry path and dakhil, an ancient pre-Islamic Iranian tradition. The installations explore feelings of loss, grief, hope and resilience. They are meant to inspires sentiments of comfort and unity within the community. 

A child on cycle in center of passersby under colorful ribbons under a tree
All ages can enjoy a trip through this public art display. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Poetry path 

The poetry path, created by Whelan, displays on slate tiles poetry written by community members. In February 2022, Whelan began collecting poetry written by the UC Davis community through a website. He collected more than 50 poems in different languages such as Banglo, Chinese and Turkish. Then, he used a laser cutter to inscribe the collected poems on slate tiles and installed them on the lawn north of Lake Spafford.

Additionally, Whelan printed and laminated the poems and installed them on sign holders around the Arboretum that display a QR code. The QR codes allow people to visit the website and read the poems of other contributors. During the day, the installation is backlit by the sun and the fabric is dynamic when it blows in the wind.

Additional poetry submissions are being accepted through April 18 via the exhibition’s website

Reflection bridge 

A table outfitted with pens and fabric invites people to participate in Whelan’s second art installation on display.  If you are walking through, write messages, quotations and wishes and contribute to the numerous yellow squares of fabric blowing brightly in the breeze.  

Sign describes the dakhil tradition of ribbon hanging


Abdolmeki’s contribution to the outdoor exhibition is a dakhil. The art exhibit installation is based on an ancient pre-Islamic Iranian tradition where people write their wishes and prayers on strips of cloth, which are then are tied to the tombs of saints or to sacred trees. Numerous multi-colored ribbons hang from a tree in in front of Lake Spafford. Visitors can write their wishes and hopes on the ribbons. 

The art installations are testament of the unity and support people can find in each other in times of hardships. Community members are encouraged to find comfort and healing through art.

Next week, read an Arts Blog Lunchable about the Design Museum exhibit, which is a bit of a walk from the arboretum. Enjoy!

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Karen Nikos-Rose, Arts Blog editor,

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