2019 SMALL TOWN * BIG ART events included a 2-week "artivation" collaboration that offered invitations to schools and members of the public to talk story with internationally renowned muralists as they simultaneously worked on 10 pieces throughout Wailuku Town; a 2-month lightwork collaboration with a sculpture professor that drew hundreds to its one-night unveiling event; a 3-week mural residency with a Canadian artist that highlighted the Wailuku River as a culturally integral part of the neighborhood; a 2-week participatory mural making event led by 4 local artists that engaged 2 preschool classes and a traditional blessing for the public; and A Día de los Muertos street festival that adorned Wailuku Town with festive street decorations, a street procession, as well as a participatory/ communal art installation.
SMALL TOWN * BIG ART proudly launched its 2020 lineup with award-winning sculptor Jessica Bodner’s Hīnaʻi. Bodner’s selected ʻōlelo noʻeau: 'A 'ohe hana nui ke alu 'ia (no task is too big when done together by all) was paired with a plan to hand sculpt a six-to-eight foot work from new and reclaimed steel, woven and welded to create a dramatic oversized impression of a hīna’i which would serve “as a reminder and memory of the Native Hawaiians tie to the land and sea and one of the few fishing methods that women and children were allowed to participate in,” according to the artist’s proposal. Working with the ST*BA team and the Public Works Wailuku Highways Division, Bodner's project welcomed Jonathan Kamehanaokala Merchant - an Eagle Scout working to develop a “Little Free Library” in town, and artist Amanda Joy Bowers - a 2-time ST*BA artist to hand paint the ʻōlelo noʻeau onto the miniature book exchange. Together, these projects illustrate the proverb: "give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Later in January, SMALL TOWN * BIG ART unveiled Sean Baba's “Supersize Me” as part of Au's Shaolin Arts Society Chinese New Year performance. (Enjoy a snippet of this performance beginning at 2 minutes, 25 seconds HERE).
Inspired by ʻōlelo noʻeau O ke aloha ke kuleana o kahi malihini (love is the host in strange lands), the Wailuku artist installed his sculpture at the County Building’s front lawn as the performance came to life. Hundreds of keiki marveled at the event as a community came together to celebrate Wailuku art, history and culture. It was then moved to the elevator hall just outside the Mayor’s office for one month before finding a new home on the grounds of Hale Hōʻikeʻike at the Bailey House/ Maui Historical Society, where it is now temporarily installed until its next pop-up unveiling.
“There are many aspects and cultures that make Maui local,” shares Baba, “A symbolic Icon of Hawaii and Wailuku is the Chinese to-go container. It symbolizes memories and the mixture of cultures that have mixed and grown to become Hawaiʻi. When I created this, it was received beyond what it represented to me, and the diversity of who gravitated to it was overwhelming. I have been told that Wailuku needs an artwork that symbolizes art, culture and food and this to me has represented this to everyone who has seen it.”
On Friday, February 7, 2020 (Wailuku First Friday!), MAPA presented its SMALL TOWN * BIG ART project “Birds of a Feather” free of charge for members of the public. An original musical set on Maui written by Kathy Collins with music by Marti Kluth, the show was performed by MAPA's troupe of professional performers: Kathy Collins, Logan Heller, Carlyn Leal, and Kiegan Otterson with live music performed by Gilbert Emata. The story follows Moa (the Hawaiian chicken), Pīkake (the peacock), and Manu’aipilau (the mynah) who struggle to accept and appreciate their differences. To their great surprise, they learn that they are actually more alike than not, and they ultimately discover that their community is stronger because of their diversity.
“Birds of a Feather” is inspired by ʻōlelo noʻeau E aloha kekahi I kekahi (love one another). MAPA shared "Wailuku is a gathering place, and has been for centuries. Kathy took a day to walk around Wailuku and pick the 4 birds for the play based on 4 people that she saw in Wailuku, and the cultures and aloha that they represent.”
Later in February, SMALL TOWN * BIG ART welcomed the lovely husband and wife duo Ben and Eilish Volta, who visited Wailuku for 2 weeks from Philadelphia in order to gather stories, ideas and visuals for their SMALL TOWN * BIG ART piece, which was scheduled to be installed in April 2020 (pre-COVID). Collaborators Sissy Lake-Farm and Kelly McHugh-White teamed up with Iao School’s Mike Rose to introduce the artists to the 6th grade class and to discuss two ʻōlelo noʻeau to the group to workshop:
- Kamaliʻi i ke ʻole i ka helu pō: Muku nei, Muku ka malama: Hilo nei, kau ka Hoaka. (Children who do not know the moon phases: Muku is here, Muku the moon; Hilo comes next, then Hoaka). The first part of a childʻs chant for learning the names of the moon phases. Also said of one who does not know the answer to a question or is ignorant. He is compared to a small child who has not learned the moon phases.
- Puʻupuʻu lei pali i ka ʻāʻī. (An imperfect lei, beautified by wearing). Even an imperfect lei looks beautiful when worn around the neck-- as beautiful as flowers and greenery on the slope of a hill.
Under the guidance of esteemed Maui artist, Kirk Kurokawa, the work that the Volta family and Iao students began in February will be transformed into a large-scale mural for Wailuku Town by year’s end.
Later in 2020:
- Michael Takemoto’s “A Murder of ʻAlalā" in which stencils created by the artist are handed out to students and community members along with charcoal powder to install hundreds of crow silhouettes along the sidewalks of Market Street, at Kīpuka Square, at the MAPA buildings at the Promenade and Black Box Theater and at fellow SMALL TOWN * BIG ART artist Sean Baba's gallery Fresh Island Art. A pop-up performing arts component will share poetry, story excerpts or other works of the written word that share the many different views of ravens, crows, ʻalalā and more with featured voices from Maui Academy of Performing Arts, Maui Live Poets Society, Maui OnStage, University of Hawaiʻi Maui College and others.
- Kirk Kurokawa will create a large-scale mural painting utilizing the input gained from February’s work with Iao School, Ben and Eilish Volta
- Avi Molinas has expertly created hyper realistic portraits of contemporary Wailuku heroes, which will be on view at Hale Hōʻikeʻike at the Bailey House/ Maui Historical Society upon reopening.
- Leilehua Yuen will join us from Hawaii Island to share a series of free “edutainment” workshops that share our communal stories, moʻolelo and kaʻao. “Our stories convey our culture across time and space,” shares the artist. “When technology fails, the stories in our hearts and minds can still be told. Our stories tell us who we are. Stories help us to ground ourselves, and give us the lessons of the past to help guide us into the future.
- Eric Okdeh, the artist behind Wailuku’s first mural, Na Wai Eha, will return to Maui from Philadelphia to close out the pilot year of SMALL TOWN * BIG ART in a highly anticipated 2-week residency. Stay tuned!
Please visit smalltownbig.org for additional details, and join our online community at facebook.com/smalltownbigart and Instagram @smalltownbigart.
A County of Maui collaboration with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and Hale Hōʻikeʻike at the Bailey House/ Maui Historical Society, SMALL TOWN * BIG ART is a creative placemaking pilot project with a mission to develop Wailuku, Hawaiʻi as a public arts district that is focused on its distinctive sense of place, history and culture. Engaging the public in both the process and the product, monthly art experiences are paired with activities such as talk story sessions, artist workshops, public rehearsals and more. Each art presentation is led by professional artists that have exhibited exceptional quality, style, experience in creating communal or public art, significance to Wailuku and alignment with a selected ʻōlelo noʻeau. Through many hands and many voices, these creative interpretations represent a revitalized identity for this small town with the BIGGEST heart.