42 years ago, an arsonist destroyed the historic church in an early morning fire. A shock to the entire community, it was once again rebuilt in 1980. Just this year (on Easter Sunday), vandals cut off the hands on the Our Lady of Lourdes statue, cut the Bernadette statue in half and damaged many of the site’s religious items.
A patron saint of the poor and oppressed, often invoked as a finder of "lost articles and missing persons,” Saint Anthony of Padua was born in Lisbon, Portugal on August 15, 1195. This concept of “lost articles and missing persons” has seeped its way into one Maui artist’s journey toward reimagining the stained glass windows of this legendary Wailuku Town site.
“I have been drawn to St. Anthony's for a number of reasons,” states artist Andy Behrle, who joins County of Maui’s Small Town, Big Art creative place-making pilot project this summer, following the February residency of PangeaSeed Foundation. “First, it was a magnificently beautiful building. Having been lost to fire over 40 years ago, it has faded in the collective memory of the community. This was a place where holidays and weddings were celebrated, lives of loved ones were mourned, and a shared hope for the future was cultivated. People connected there. It has been lost in form, but forged together community.”
A recent call-to-the-community for photographs of the historic site preceding the 1977 fire led Behrle to University of Hawaii at Manoa Library’s Dore Minatodani, the Hawaiian Collection’s Senior Librarian. “I think Andy's project is great and I'm glad that funding is available to bring these kinds of projects to the community,” shares Minatodani. The photos shared above were sourced by Wailuku-raised Isabelle White and Mayor Michael Victorino.
A County of Maui creative placemaking grant project funded by the National Endowment of the Arts, Small Town, Big Art is led by Maui Redevelopment Agency planner Erin Wade and public art specialist Kelly McHugh, with guidance and support by Sissy Lake-Farm of the Maui Historical Society. Behrle was selected from more than 50 applicants to present a visual or performing arts story of Wailuku that is geared to bring people together through both the process and the product. Through the support of these government, arts and historical Maui leaders, the project will offer monthly opportunities throughout Wailuku Town to talk story with artists and collaborators, attend free rehearsals and performances, experience mural and installation exhibits and become a integral part of the story of Wailuku Town.
Please join us in this investigation of St. Anthony Church photos, pre-'77, and stories about the place by emailing us HERE. Andy's final work of public art inspired by a reimagining of the Church's stained glass windows through the eyes of the Wailuku River will be revealed in August.
Visit smalltownbig.org to learn more.
Consisting of five commissioners appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the County Council, Maui Redevelopment Agency oversees the Wailuku Redevelopment Area, with the specific purpose and intent of the following: 1) preserve Wailuku’s Historic Character; 2) allow for new development that complements and is compatible with Wailuku’s historic character; and 3) improve the streetscape to make Wailuku a pedestrian-friendly environment.
Founded in 1951, Maui Historical Society collects, preserves, studies, interprets, and, shares the history and heritage of Maui, ensuring that the cultural roots and history that define the community will continue to be here for future generations.