The NEA’s signature creative placemaking program, Our Town projects support partnerships of artists, arts organizations, and municipal government that work to revitalize neighborhoods. This practice places arts at the table with land-use, transportation, economic development, education, housing, infrastructure, and public safety strategies to address a community’s challenges. Creative placemaking highlights the distinctiveness of a place, encouraging residents to identify and build upon their local creative assets.
Developed over several years, the County’s project entitled SMALL TOWN * BIG ART is led by Erin Wade, County of Maui planner and administrator of the Wailuku Civic Complex project; Sissy Lake-Farm, Director of Hale Hō'ikeʻike at the Bailey House/ Maui Historical Society; and arts administrator Kelly McHugh.
In its first of 3 project phases, McHugh led the development of a call-to-artists to propose short-term public art projects that promote the unique history, culture and community of Wailuku Town. “I worked with heroes in the field to assess best practices and lessons learned from their extraordinary breath of experience, including Jonathan Johnson, Executive Director of the Hawaiʻi State Foundation on Culture and the Arts; Inger Tully, Senior Philanthropy Officer of Hawai‘i Community Foundation; Thora Jacobson, Design Review Director of Mural Arts Philadelphia; John Hatfield, Executive Director of Socrates Sculpture Park, a public art space in Long Island City, Queens, and others,” remarks McHugh, who began working with Wailuku Town through the 2012 Na Wai Eha mural project for Hui No`eau Visual Arts Center. “Sissy selected examples of `ōlelo no`eau with reference to kalo as a significant Wailuku symbol that artists were asked to choose from as inspiration for their proposed artwork.”
During this time, SMALL TOWN * BIG ART was approached by PangeaSeed Foundation to collaborate on SeaWalls: Artists for Oceans, their principal mural arts program made up of an international consortium of 250 professional artists. “This union offered SMALL TOWN * BIG ART the opportunity to design a proof of concept, welcoming exemplary artists with our project funds and thematic development while learning from organizers that have done this work in 14 countries” says McHugh.
“Our goal was to learn from their very seasoned team of artists and collaborators and incorporate any challenges and successes into the forthcoming implementation of SMALL TOWN * BIG ART,” remarks Wade.
The SMALL TOWN * BIG ART call-to-artists closed in the weeks following PangeaSeed’s consequent Mauka to Makai project which installed a vibrant collection of large-scale murals throughout Wailuku and drew hundreds of volunteers, business owners and students together during both process and presentation.
51 SMALL TOWN * BIG ART proposals were submitted through CaFÉ, a public, online call-for-artists management system run by WESTAF (Western States Arts Federation) and a review panel was created with a careful balance of community, historical, art and grantmaking expertise. 13 projects were selected to move into the second of the project’s 3-phase process, in which artists work directly with the SMALL TOWN * BIG ART team to determine timeline, budget, opportunities for community engagement, project renderings and a Wailuku Town project location.
With its first artist installation expected in August, SMALL TOWN * BIG ART 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.