Written by Lisa Kemp, graduate student of Ball State University Emerging Media Design and Development (EMDD)
I hoʻokāhi ka umauma, hoʻokāhi ke aloha (All abreast together, one in love. All united in harmony and love)
In Spring of 2021, three Ball State University Emerging Media Design and Development (EMDD) graduate students completed a class project about Wailuku’s 'Īao Valley. This topic became the springboard for a year-long EMDD capstone project with a group of eight students and partner SMALL TOWN * BIG ART (ST*BA) to promote storytelling in Wailuku Town. The goal of this project was to implement an oral storytelling experience which aligns with the vision and mission of ST*BA, Maui Public Art Corps, and Maui Historical Society. To accomplish this goal, the team designed a digital interactive storytelling activity including questions, locations to visit, and local stories to inspire others to share stories in a fun and engaging way to enhance a sense of community among Wailuku residents.
This project allowed the perfect opportunity for the EMDD team to leverage their graduate studies in the areas of design thinking, transmedia storytelling, and user experience. The team began by meeting with ST*BA to better understand the opportunity space. They then began with empathy research. They spoke to Wailuku residents, artists, and business owners to better understand the opportunity space and the culture. Elements of this research served as reminders throughout the life of the project, and the team created personas to represent typical users and a user journey map to visualize their path through the proposed experience. This part of the project created a great sense of deep respect and reverence for the community members, their rich history, and their values.
From there, the team worked with additional community members to brainstorm ideas that inspired the first low-fidelity prototypes. The team created those prototypes, evaluated them, and narrowed them (sometimes sadly letting go of beloved ideas) based on feasibility and adherence to the project goals and community feedback. Once narrowed, the team created a mid-fidelity prototype and heavily tested both the content and functionality of the storytelling experience with Wailuku residents. The feedback from this testing sparked continued functionality and content improvements.
A different group of Ball State University students, Digital Corps, created the digital experience based on detailed design and requirements. This early release version of the experience was tested a final time in Wailuku the weekend of April 2, 2022 as students observed and asked questions in person in Wailuku town. The experience is now live. Users can access the experience through the QR code on seven different cards that feature local murals. The team will hand the experience over to ST*BA for future enhancements.
This project was a fun and rewarding immersive learning experience that the team hopes will engage Wailuku residents and encourage them to tell and listen to stories. Mahalo to all who helped with this project.
Small Town, Big Stories: By Ball State University's Center for Emerging Media Design and Development
Community invited to view public art inspired by Wailuku storytellers, on display through April at Wailuku Coffee Company
A public art installation inspired by Wailuku storytellers is on display through the month of April at Wailuku Coffee Company’s 26 N. Market St. location. The public is invited to experience still frames pulled from animations created by renowned artist Richard O’Connor.
Through Wailuku town’s Small Town Big Art program, O’Connor and his team of artists at Ace & Son Moving Picture Co. created six animated short films inspired by Wailuku storytellers. The films debuted on April 1 at ʻĪao Theater, where more than 100 community members gathered to experience the stories.
The installation at Wailuku Coffee Company offers the public an additional chance to experience O’Connor’s work and connect intimately with the stories of Wailuku.
The animated shorts and still frames were developed based on talk story sessions between 12 intergenerational members of the community – Kepa Maly, Lopaka White, Roselle Bailey, Anuhea Yagi, Skippy Hau, Dean Tokishi, Wallette Pellegrino, Kalapana Kollars, Clifford Nae’ole, Hokuao Pellegrino, Gordean Bailey and Sissy Lake-Farm.
O’Connor created the collection based on audio recordings, photographs submitted by Wailuku community members, and regular conversations with Public Art Specialist Kelly McHugh-White, County of Maui Planning & Development Chief Erin Wade, and Maui Historical Society Executive Director Sissy Lake-Farm.
The project is rooted in the study of Mary Kawena Pukui’s ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs and Political Sayings. With the help of Lake-Farm, Richard identified ʻōlelo #327 to root his work in a sense of place: E lauhoe mai na waʻa; i ke kā, i ka hoe; i ka hoe, i ke kā; pae aku i ka `āina. (Everybody paddle the canoes together; bail and paddle, paddle and bail, and the shore is reached. Pitch in with a will, everybody, and the work is quickly done.)
The films and talk story recordings can be viewed at smalltownbig.org/ace, along with event photos, and a collection of photos of old Wailuku town, submitted by community members.
The artist, Richard O’Connor, was a 2022 Oscar contender for Best Animated Short Film. He is known for his work with StoryCorps, theatrical features, documentaries, television, and commercials. He has taught at Parsons School of Design, NYU, University of the Arts, and Rhode Island School Design, and currently serves on the steering committee of Our Next 4 Years, an organization dedicated to producing progressive work for a better future.
In partnership with the County of Maui and Hale Hō‘ike‘ike at the Bailey House/ Maui Historical Society, Small Town Big Art pairs professional artists with community consultants to co-create public art that celebrates Wailuku town’s history, culture and sense of place.
Photos: Chris Sugidono
On Friday, April 1, 2022, a gathering of 109 participants joined SMALL TOWN * BIG ART (ST*BA) for a free event at the Historic ʻĪao Theater to experience Small Town, Big Stories.
A collection of six animated film shorts by ST*BA artist Richard O'Connor and team was premiered, with audio sourced from 12 intergenerational members of our community (Kepā Maly, Lopaka White, Roselle Bailey, Anuhea Yagi, Skippy Hau, Dean Tokishi, Wallette Pellegrino, Kalapana Kollars, Clifford Naeʻole, Hōkūao Pellegrino, Gordean Bailey, Sissy Lake-Farm), and a new (free) tool to generate, capture and share new stories from the public was presented by Ball State University’s Center for Emerging Media Design (EMDD).
A "pandemic-prompted-pivot" of the Wailuku Town initiative pairing professional artists with community consultants to co-create public art that celebrates the neighborhood's history, culture and sense of place, Small Town, Big Stories represents a significant benchmark within the ST*BA formula.
For its first two of three RFP's to date, ST*BA sought artists to create new work inspired by Wailuku, facilitated through excursions with local partners, community consultations, hands-on workshops with the public, and direct consultation with Hale Hōʻikeʻike at the Bailey House/ Maui Historical Society to, among other practices, identify ‘ōlelo from Mary Kawena Pukui's ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs and Political Sayings to root each artistic process in a sense of place.
As the ST*BA initiative evolved into the era of COVID-19, these delicate exchanges required an alternative platform in order to maintain access, engagement and understanding of how each work of public art materialized - which is a core value of the work.
A solution presented itself in several acts by a number of collaborative forces, most notably including ST*BA artist Leilehua Yuen's 2021 virtual Storytelling series, which created a collective of remarkable students willing to record an audio exchange with kūpuna that were hand-picked by Maui Historical Society Executive Director Sissy Lake-Farm and others that agreed to participate. Through additional partnerships with StoryCorps DIY and Akakū Maui Community Media, six "Talk Story" excerpts became the basis of ST*BA's latest call to artists, in search of proposals to translate this pilot collection of stories into works of visual, performance or experiential art.
Friday's ʻĪao Theater event showcased the animated interpretations of these six audio recordings between intergenerational pairings as both a celebration of the possibilities that can result from sharing our communal stories and as an introduction to a new (free) tool for others to submit their own stories to be considered by visual and performing artists applying for the next ST*BA RFP (request for proposals), which is slated for distribution this June. The animations were created over the course of four months by director Richard O'Connor and his team of artists at Ace & Son Moving Picture Co.; the Small Town, Big Stories concept was presented by graduate students of Ball State University’s Center for Emerging Media Design (EMDD), who spent the last year working with ST*BA and dozens of Wailuku champions to create this Master's thesis project.
Still frames from O’Connor’s animations will be on view at Wailuku Coffee Company's 26 N Market St., Wailuku location for the month of April, with individual QR codes that link to the complete animations. These may also be found at smalltownbig.org/ace.
EMDD's international student cohort remain on Maui through April 6, and will be testing their hi-fidelity Small Town, Big Stories prototype at Wailuku Coffee Company and 62 Marcket all weekend, with their final story-generating tool release scheduled for May 1, 2022. Developing details may be found at smalltownbig.org/smalltownbigstories.
When ready, members of the public are encouraged to share their own Maui stories through this tool, which will become the basis for ST*BA's next call to artists as they select a story of their choosing to bring to life through a work of public art. Please join our e-newsletter community to be the first to know when details and deadlines are announced: smalltownbig.org/e-newsletter.
Stories of Wailuku Town and its journey in becoming a public arts district. MAUI | HAWAI'I