Here are some of the best resources we've uncovered so far. Please share additional recommendations below, and we will continually update this section.
In the aftermath of the Maui wildfires, the County's artistic community faces significant challenges in our economic and social recovery. This sector, renowned for its creative and inspirational contributions, will soon confront the task of rebuilding in the wake of a devastating natural disaster. In this context, it is essential to share and exchange practical resources and support mechanisms available to Maui's artists. By continually offering these elements, we hope to provide a clear understanding of the resources available as we embark on the journey of resurgence, fostering not only personal recovery but also the revival of Maui's artistic vibrancy.
Here are some of the best resources we've uncovered so far. Please share additional recommendations below, and we will continually update this section.
On Friday, June 16, 2023, Maui artist Anthony Pfluke presented a new set of original songs in Wailuku Town’s Kīpuka Square for an audience of 80 lucky listeners.
Commissioned through grants made to Maui Public Art Corps, Pfluke participated in a volunteer access of the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission and consulted with former Kaho'olawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC) cultural resources specialist Kapono'ai Molitau to create mele dedicated to its history, culture and sense of place. Prominent in that discussion, which is available at mauipublicart.org/pfluke, Molitau spoke about a collection of known rains of Kaho'olawe, which he created a chant for entitled Mele No Na Makani O Kahoʻolawe. Pfluke wrote Kū Kīaʻi Kanaloa in response to these key experiences.
The June 16 event began with pule offered by Uncle Bill Garcia, who is a member of of Hālau Nā Hanona Kūlike O Piʻilani under Kumu Kapono'ai, as well a member of the Royal Order of Kamehameha and of the Bailey Family at Hale Hō’ikeʻike, also serving as its resident kahuna pule/ kahu for the museum
Through the organizations’ SMALL TOWN * BIG ART program, in partnership with Hale Hō‘ike‘ike at the Bailey House/ Maui Historical Society and the County of Maui, Pfluke met with Sissy Lake-Farm and was connected with traditional slack key guitarist and Hawaiian vocalist Kevin Brown, leader of the popular Maui group Ola Hou, as well as Kumu Kealiʻi Reichel, who was the director of Hale Hō‘ike‘ike at the Bailey House in the early 1990’s. Additionally, he was part of a SMALL TOWN * BIG ART artist huaka'i of the Waihe'e Coastal Dunes and Wetlands Refuge with Hawaiʻi Land Trust led by Chief Conservation Officer Scott Fisher, Ph.D. Through these community consultations and experiences, he created original mele celebrating Wailuku.
“I was so humbled and overjoyed to share all new original music ma ka ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi for Kahoʻolawe & Wailuku respectively in Kīpuka Square. Mahalo nui to Small Town Big Art, kumu hula Kealiʻi Reichel, kumu hula Kaponoʻai Molitau, kumu Sissy Lake-Farm, Pueo Pata, Uncle Scott Fisher, and Uncle Kevin Brown, for teaching & guiding me with amazing knowledge of Maui and Kahoʻolawe. Mahalo nui kākou a pau.”
Earlier this year, Pfluke’s proposal to create music dedicated to Wailuku and to Kaho'olawe entered project development. The mele performed yesterday included E Ala ma Luna, Kū Kīaʻi Kanaloa, Kuʻu Lei Lokelani, Hoʻōla Kākou, E Ola ʻIao, Free the Wai, Waves, and Kaulana ʻO Haleakalā – each written by the artist, with encore Hawaiian Cowboy, by Sol Bright. The set was written almost exclusively in ‘Ōlelo Hawai’i, and Pfluke was joined by musician Ethan Villanueva for the pop-up performance.
Born and raised on Maui, Anthony has been rooted in Hawaiian music from an early age, forging an original path perpetuating the music of his home. Performing Hawaiian, contemporary, and reggae-influenced music on the piano, ‘ukulele, 12 & 6 string kīho‘alu (slack key guitar), he is continuing his education in Hawaiian Studies at UH Hilo while following music wherever it takes him – which includes many sites throughout the State of Hawai‘i, the west coast, and Japan, playing with some of Hawai‘i’s most iconic musicians, and garnering the following praise from the Henry Kapono Foundation: “this Nā Hōkū Hanohano finalist is a rising star in the islands and definitely one to watch!”
On Thursday, May 11, Wailuku artist Tanama Colibri led a free pop-up performance of music and spoken word at the Kalana O Maui Building front lawn as the latest installation of SMALL TOWN * BIG ART; a creative placemaking initiative of the County of Maui, Hale Hōʻikeʻike at the Bailey House/ Maui Historical Society and Maui Public Art Corps celebrating Wailuku history, culture and sense of place. The event opened with a pule by Uncle Bill Garcia of Hālau Nā Hanona Kūlike O Piʻilani.
Colibri’s music and lyrics were developed through workshops with the sixth grade class of ʻĪao Intermediate School, community consultations, and research of Mary Kawena Pukui's ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs and Poetical Sayings in partnership with Sissy Lake-Farm, Executive Director of the Maui Historical Society.
Through additional grants made to Maui Public Art Corps, Colibri’s set also included original songs inspired by Kahoʻolawe. These songs were developed through a 4-day volunteer access in partnership with the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission, as well as consultations with Kaʻonohi Lee, Tanya Lee-Greig and Kylee Mar -- three extraordinary women with unique ties to Kahoʻolawe.
Throughout the five-song set, Colibri invited 15 6th grade students of ʻĪao Intermediate School to sing along to “We are For the Future,” a piece they co-created during an April 17 workshop at the school.
“Tanama was able to share how music has impacted her life and inspired her to learn new languages. Students were drawn immediately to her warm personality and positive message. This was a perfect mesh of student and artist collaboration. Magic happened when the kids sang to her and she sang back with her guitar. We are so thankful and excited.”
She also invited 3 teachers from King Kekaulike to sign along to “Aki Aki,” who were with her on Kahoʻolawe during their April volunteer access to plant native species and remove invasives.
“This experience with Small Town Big Art has been life-changing,” shares Colibri, “I feel like I have grown exponentially as an artist through this process and allowed myself to embrace my gifts. I appreciate everyone that collaborated with me to make these amazing tunes.”
“Tanama is truly a gifted soul who shines such a bright and wonderful light – WOW,” shares Sissy Lake-Farm, “She is simply amazing. So nice that she gets to start this new facet of STBA through mele and song.”
To date the SMALL TOWN * BIG ART initiative has produced murals, animated films, sidewalk exhibitions, contemporary dance performances, experiential installations, an original play, sculptures and a chain link fence installation. This is its first foray into collaborative music and spoken word.
The next SMALL TOWN * BIG ART pop-up performance will be led by accomplished musician and singer-songwriter on ukulele and slack-key guitar, Anthony Pfluke on June 16, 2023. Save the date and visit https://www.mauipublicart.org/pfluke.html for developing details.
Written by Shannon Wianecki (April 2023)
Anyone walking around Wailuku Town can sense it—the creative hum in the streets. It’s evident in the giant murals of octopus and ‘ōhi‘a blossoms stretching several stories high above Main Street. It’s present in the young ballerinas arriving for class at the Maui Academy of Performing Arts and in the hula drums reverberating from Hale Hō‘ikeʻike at the Bailey House Museum.
This town is abuzz with art and culture, and that’s no accident. It’s the culmination of decades of grassroots efforts by people who love art and love Wailuku. Now the community wants to make it official. SMALL TOWN * BIG ART is leading a movement to formally designate Wailuku as Maui County’s official “Arts District.”
What is an Arts District?
An Arts District is a small, defined locale—typically a neighborhood, waterfront, or industrial area—with a concentration of art galleries, performance venues, public spaces, and businesses that support the Arts. Arts Districts can emerge spontaneously out of the efforts of resident artists, but more often they are the result of public policy initiatives designed to revitalize a once robust urban area that has lost some of its shine.
Arts Districts exist in cities and communities across the United States—such as the Pearl District in Portland, Oregon, the RiNo Art District in Denver, Colorado, and “The District” in Nashville, Tennessee. There is no standard model; each Arts District is unique, reflecting its specific cultural identity, environment, and history of land use.
Wailuku has long been a place of power and convergence. At the base of the West Maui Mountains, nestled against the dramatic peaks and valleys of Mauna Kahalawai, it is the site of royal births and battles. It is fed by nourishing rains and the fresh water of Wailuku River that flows from mauka to makai, from the mountains to the sea.
Wailuku has been a significant population center since the reigns of Pi‘ilani and Kahekili in the 1700s—and likely long before. In 1905 it was named Maui County’s seat of government. By the late 1960s island business had largely migrated away from Wailuku, but the town’s rich history is preserved in its architecture: an eclectic mix of Art Deco, Colonial, Plantation, Asian and Hawaiian style buildings set against the panoramic backdrop of ‘Īao Valley and the Pacific Ocean.
Just as fresh water flows through this land, so does creativity. Culture and the Arts have always been part of Wailuku’s landscape, bubbling up to nourish and revive local residents and visitors.
The performing arts in particular have proven to be staples of the community. Maui Community Theater (now known as MauiOnStage) helped preserve the historic ‘Īao Theater from demolition. In 1993 Maui County purchased the building, which was then listed on the Hawaiʻi Register of Historic Places. Today ‘Īao Theater serves as the home of Maui OnStage, Maui Chamber Orchestra, Maui Choral Arts Association, Maui Pops Orchestra, and Maui Youth Philharmonic Orchestra. The Maui Academy of Performing Arts (MAPA) did its part to preserve historic architecture as well. In 1998 MAPA purchased 2027 Main Street—the old National Dollar Store—followed by two additional buildings across the street in 2016. In 2017, Maui’s primary music, dance and theater organizations united under the umbrella of the Wailuku Performing Arts Alliance.
The following year SMALL TOWN * BIG ART erupted on the scene. This creative placemaking program transformed Wailuku into a world-class open-air art gallery with dozens of murals, sculptures, and live performance. More than simple street art, each ST*BA piece is rooted in indigenous history and culture.
The success of ST*BA spread beyond Wailuku into neighboring Kahului, across the channel to Lana‘i City, and as far as the uninhabited island of Kaho‘olawe. To serve this larger demographic, the ST*BA team created the Maui Public Art Corps. This new nonprofit has two additional goals: to establish a countywide “percent for art” program and to pursue formal designation of the “Wailuku Arts District.”
Unofficially, Wailuku already is an Arts District. It claims the highest concentration of working artists in Maui County.
A map of the area’s assets reveals a vibrant assortment of art-centric organizations. The oldest of these is the Bailey House Museum, featuring nineteenth-century landscapes by the missionary Edward Bailey and an impressive collection of Hawaiian antiques and artifacts.
In addition to historic Wailuku landmarks such as the Bailey House and ‘Īao Theater, numerous galleries and art shops exist around the nexus of Main and Market Streets: Paradise Now, Sabado Studios, Fresh Island Art, Request Music, Sandell Artworks, Native Intelligence, and Friends & Faire—to name only a few.
People come from across the island to Wailuku First Friday, a monthly street festival with live music, food, and local vendors. Maui Chamber Orchestra regularly offers concerts at ‘Īao Theater, employing between thirty-five and forty-five orchestra players, plus additional guest artists. Between 2014 and 2019, MAPA impacted an average 35,000 people per year with its creative programming and instruction. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, an average of 1,500 dance students attended class at the academy every week.
Wailuku’s creative community continues to grow. Over the past ten years, art space usage in Wailuku has increased by 27 percent. Since SMALL TOWN* BIG ART debuted its first public art installation in 2019, it has collaborated with 127 organizations and directly engaged with 15,000 community members each year. They have additionally developed walking tours to showcase the numerous public art pieces and historical landmarks throughout town.
Most recently, Maui County officials approved the creation of Hālau of ʻŌiwi Art—a groundbreaking Hawaiian cultural center in the early stages of planning by Maui’s most respected kumu hula.
How Will an Arts District benefit the Arts?
Wailuku’s creative entrepreneurs can all benefit from the town’s formal recognition as an Arts District. Independent arts organizations tend to have limited time and resources, which they focus on razor-sharp missions and strategic plans to thrive. Working together, they can create and access new resources and strengthen their overall impact.
An Art District can:
The last item on the list is the biggie for MAPA executive director Carolyn Wright. “We’re really excited to collaborate with the artists who will be attracted to the Art District—from performing artists, to visual artists, to cultural practitioners,” says Wright. “We believe that the Arts are all about breaking down barriers between people. The Arts enrich us as individuals. They tap us into those traits that, that just make us better citizens, like empathy and creativity and communication and collaboration.”
Wright recalls an example of a past collaboration between a MAPA dance troupe and a local hula halau. “They explored the intersection between ballet and hula,” Wright says. “Independently we each have our ideas about what hula is and what ballet is, but looking at them together, you could really see them as foils to each other because they’re so different, and as complements to one another.”
“This idea of artistic collaboration—exploring together to help see our community in a different light—that’s something I’m really excited about.”
How Does an Arts District benefit the Economy?
Business and property owners benefit from the same things that fuel the arts: an increase in customer traffic, coordinated marketing campaigns, and strategic administrative support.
“The Arts District will revitalize the Wailuku area,” says Kahulu Maluo-Pearson, Hawaiian cultural advisor and Director of Operations of Ka‘ehu. “Right now, you drive through town after six or seven o’clock, and it’s dark. I’ve visited Arts Districts in the continental U.S. and they are always lively.”
Carolyn Wright remembers when MAPA moved into 2027 Main Street in the late ‘90s. “Back then Wailuku is pretty rundown,” she says. “There weren’t that many places to go before or after class. So parents would come, drop their kids off for a class, and then sit in their car for an hour.”
Recently she popped into Giannoto’s Pizza for a snack during a MAPA performance. The owner asked what was happening that night and told her that the pizzeria sees a big bump in business during performances. “We read about the economic benefits to other neighboring businesses, but there it was right in my face!” says Wright. “I just loved it.”
“The more arts we have, and the stronger we can develop the creative arts cluster, the better things are in terms of diversification for Maui’s economy, to help build the resilience that we need to withstand another economic disruption. So just from an economic perspective, it’s great for the whole island. It benefits not only Wailuku, but the whole island of Maui.”
How Does an Arts District benefit the Community?
With the formation of an Arts District, Wailuku can expect to see an increase in public events, cultural tours, holiday celebrations, farmer’s markets, and streamlined transportation options.
Art is more than just an economic engine. It brings people together, strengthens social ties, teaches new skills, offers safe spaces for after school activities, and help cultivate emotional intelligence. These are needs—not wants—for healthy communities.
Other benefits include:
“I’m excited to see a multicultural group of people sharing space, sharing different arts,” says Maluo-Pearson. “You know, just seeing the community come out in numbers, to celebrate different cultural events—that’s what I’m looking forward to.”
Progress Toward the Goal
The Wailuku Arts District (WAD) advisory committee is made up of representatives from the small business, performing arts, and Hawaiian communities:
Since its inception, the team has been busy. They mapped Wailuku’s existing arts assets, created the Wailuku Arts District website and management plan, conducted market research, and met with councilmembers. They hosted twenty-two Wailuku arts partners on Da Bee for a huakaʻi. As the bus traveled from stop to stop, the partners each presented their missions, facilities, and needs.
Among the WAD committee’s biggest accomplishments was surveying 500 Maui residents. A situational analysis identified the proposed Wailuku Arts District’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Specific recommendations emerged—such as expanding First Friday (“make every day First Friday”) and developing a “Signature” annual Wailuku event. The stated values and goals include observing the community’s kuleana (responsibility) to Wailuku and ensuring the Arts District is an inclusive place for everyone.
The WAD committee conducted extensive research to understand how partnerships of this nature have been successfully codified nationwide. They reviewed city and county codes for twenty different municipalities, identifying six with the most relevant codes: Memphis, TN; Toronto, ON; Seattle, WA; Portland, OR; Philadelphia, PA; and Fredericksburg, VA.
Next on the list is delivering the Wailuku Arts District Management Plan to the County of Maui for approval.
“As long as we stay true to the work that we’ve indicated from the very beginning, and invite in additional people who love Wailuku, we are able to represent Wailuku,” says Sissy Lake-Farm. “Where we are from is magical. All we want to do is continue to share with people the beauties of our Wailuku, Maui, and beyond.”
With the establishment of Wailuku Arts District, the world will discover that this “small town with a big heart” truly is “the place where art and culture lives.”
Throughout the final days of 2022, this 100-foot temporary mural by Alex Underwood will be installed along the perimeter of the Hālau of ʻŌiwi Art construction zone, on Church Street where it intersects with Vineyard Street in Wailuku.
Upon completion last year, the mural panels were earmarked to temporarily enclose the Wailuku municipal parking lot construction site as part of our Mana Wahine collaboration that resulted in a collection of three murals. However, due to construction updates and new developments — most notably the future Halau of ‘Oiwi Art and Wailuku Arts District projects — the panels were stored until a specific install site could be secured.
Entitled "Mōhala I ka wai ka maka o ka pua (Unfolded by the water are the faces of the flowers)" and inspired by its namesake ʻōlelo noʻeau, Underwood chose to highlight Wailuku’s integral connection to water and the unique flora that results from it. Highlighted are a diverse range of plants found throughout Moko ‘O Wailuku - wauke, loulu, pohinahina, naupaka, ma’o, and the rare hesperomannia.
"This goes to represent not only the amazing biodiversity found in Wailuku, but also its beautifully diverse community," shares the artist. She continues, "Woven in between these plants are bright blue kalo, as kalo is so intrinsically connected to water and therefore a huge part of Wailuku’s identity. Wailuku is an extremely resilient and special place - home to such rich history, immense natural beauty, extremely special people, and intense mana'o. As Mary Kawena Pukui said in this Olelo No’eau, 'Mōhala I ka wai ka maka o ka pua - flowers thrive where there is water, as thriving people are found where living conditions are good', which I think is the perfect description of Wailuku."
Learn more at the links below:
On Tuesday, December 20, 2022, SMALL TOWN * BIG ART partners County of Maui + Hale Hōʻikeʻike at the Bailey House / Maui Historical Society + Maui Public Art Corps will unveil a collection of film shorts that celebrate Maui County history, culture and sense of place.
The result of the initiative’s most recent call to artists, the collection stems from its new Hui Mo'olelo program. Through kumu Leilehua Yuen, a cohort of storytellers are trained through a series of virtual, live workshops. Hale Hōʻikeʻike Executive Director Sissy Lake-Farm then pairs workshop students with kūpuna to share their stories. Upon completion of the workshop series and recorded kūpuna sessions, resulting audio excerpts become the basis for annual requests for artist proposals (RFP). After an artist is selected by a community panel, they begin an intensive learning and cultural exchange that is rooted in specific places throughout Maui County.
Selected by a community panel, artists Rose Stark, Natalie Greene and Taisiya Zaretskaya have worked with Maui Public Art Corps and Hale Hōʻikeʻike since July to bring a collection of stories to life under the direction of Oscar contending artist Richard O'Connor. Their animated film shorts will be presented in alignment with recorded talk-story excerpts about Lānaʻi, Kahoʻolawe and Kahului. Story participants include Coach John McCandless (aka Johnny Mac) with Dean Tokishi, Ocean Resources Specialist, Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission; Anthony Pacheco with his father Henry Eskaran, Jr., kamaʻāina of Lānaʻi; Michael K. Nāhoʻopiʻi, Executive Director of Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission with Kelly McHugh-White, Maui Public Art Corps; Soon Yai Amaral, Elder kamaʻāina of Lānaʻi with her daughter Diane Preza, kamaʻāina of Lānaʻi; Kahoʻiwai Belsom, Attorney with Jocelyn Romero Demirbag, Ed.D., Director of Development, Maui Nui at The University of Hawaii Foundation; and Dean Del Rosario, kamaʻāina of Lānaʻi with Shelly Preza, Executive Director, Lānaʻi Culture & Heritage Center.
Project talks began in February 2021, soon after Maui Public Art Corps was first established to expand the work of Wailuku Town’s SMALL TOWN * BIG ART (ST*BA) initiative into new neighborhoods countywide. In November 2021, the team was selected for grant funding by the National Endowment for the Arts to pilot related programming in up to three additional Maui County neighborhoods. By April 2022, partners from Kahului as well as the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission and Lānaʻi Culture & Heritage Center had joined on to participate in Hui Mo'olelo.
“The Lānaʻi Culture & Heritage Center is grateful to be working with this initiative to express the intergenerational stories of our community through art,” shares Shelly Preza, Executive Director, Lānaʻi Culture & Heritage Center, “The SMALL TOWN * BIG ART effort to date, which pairs professional artists with community members to help share stories and values of Wailuku Town, has been impressive, and we are excited to collaborate with their team to share our Lānaʻi stories.”
Preza will join the December 20 event to present three animations about Lānaʻi that she consulted on closely, along with former director Kepā Maly, to help commemorate 100 years since Lānaʻi was purchased by the Dole Corporation (1922).
"Many people are familiar with the island of Kahoʻolawe as a whole, but very few know of the many different special places that comprise it,” shares Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission Executive Director Mike Nāhoʻopiʻi. “This kind of public art and community engagement, allows us to connect people to those places and share the stories of Kahoʻolawe through creative and meaningful experiences, which is at the core of the KIRCʻs mission.”
The December 20 Hui Mo'olelo film festival event will be emceed by Sissy Lake-Farm of Hale Hōʻikeʻike, beginning promptly at 5:30 PM and ending at 7. Free to the public, audience members will experience the premiere of six individual animated talk-story excerpts, each between 3 to 5 minutes in length, as well as an offering by Hui Mo'olelo featured kūpuna Aunty Kahoiwai Belsom. Arrive early to enjoy a collection of paintings created by Maui Satellite Job Corps Center students, who participated in a free Hui Mo‘olelo workshop with Art Corps' Kelly McHugh-White and teaching artist Jana Ireijo. Together, they listened to the kūpuna audio recordings and created their own visual interpretations, each paired with a link to a recording of their own personal artist statements. Bring your headphones!
“We connect with one another in the space we share and the actions we take to build that space,” shares artist Richard O’Connor, “These works reflect the voices who once labored in those spaces. They echo to current generations. Through these reverberations we create ties to the past and a path to the future. People. Places. Work.”
To view the artwork research, listen to the story recordings, and more, visit mauipublicart.org/lanai, mauipublicart.org/kahoolawe and mauipublicart.org/ace.
Following a successful three-year pilot program entitled SMALL TOWN * BIG ART — a creative placemaking collaboration of the County of Maui and Hale Hōʻikeʻike at the Bailey House/ Maui Historical Society — Maui Public Art Corps was established in 2020 in order to scale the positive community response and impacts from Wailuku Town to a county-wide initiative. Its mission is to connect people, place and story through the development of exceptional public art. Learn more at mauipublicart.org.
Photos: Kelly Pauole
On Monday, August 22, 2022, a new SMALL TOWN * BIG ART (ST*BA) mural dedicated to Wailuku’s distinctive sense of place, history and culture will be unveiled at 33 Market Street in Wailuku by artist Edwin Ushiro. The community is encouraged to join a 4:30 PM blessing of the public artwork and space by Uncle Bill (William) Garcia, which will be followed by remarks from both the artist and community members with whom he worked to design the piece.
Inspired by an audio recorded talk-story between Cultural Historian & Resource Specialist Kepā Maly of Kumu Pono Associates LLC and Lopaka White of the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission, Edwin spent two months working with the ST*BA team and community consultants to help root his design in its ultimate sense of place. The work is entitled Wailuku Ho’okele / Wailuku Wayfinders.
“It was interesting to hear from the recording of Lopaka White and Kepā Maly that the true meaning of ʻĪao isn’t fully understood, although we know that one of its meanings is the name for Jupiter,” shares Ushiro, “Knowing that the ancient Hawaiians were phenomenal navigators, one can only assume that they understood the constellations. That idea of the constellations guiding us around would be a great symbol for these stories that help us find our way to our origins and history—our “wayfinders” or ho’okele.”
The artist’s design encases water within the building’s recessed window shapes in an attempt to place the viewer on the open sea. Each of three windows contain an imagined constellation that “acknowledges the oneness with the universe.” They are: 1) Iwikuamoʻo bone back lizard, Hōkūleʻa shines in orange-red; 2) Ka Lupe o Kawelo - Lupe or sting ray; and 3) Ka Makau Nui o Māui - Maui’s Fish Hook with Maui.
In preparation for his communal design process, Ushiro met with storytellers Kepā Maly and Lopaka White, Steve Parker of 33 Market Street, Aunty Leola Leong and Ron Muromoto, Archaeologist Erik Fredericksen and Hale Hōʻikeʻike at the Bailey House / Maui Historical Society's Sissy Lake-Farm – with all recordings available on his project page at https://www.smalltownbig.org/ushiro.html. Regarding this intensive community consultation process, the artist shared:
“The community engagement offered access from many angles on how the importance of a mural can help to preserve history and oral traditions. After that experience, I can see how these engagements allowed me to visually connect the aligning stars to tell the story of how we got here. Kepā Maly spoke of quality over quantity. So I trimmed the fat of information. Lopaka White offered his experience of leading with the gut and the connection and awareness to nature. So the placement in the sea was an obvious solution. Steve Parker revealed that Wailuku town was built on immigrants. There is that ocean reference again. Leola Leong reminded me of the fondness and carefree days of youth. So I thought to draw the outline of the figure as if this were a game of connect the dots. Erik Frederiksen spoke about order and process that allowed me to create structure in this illustration.I hope our community members will be satisfied with this illustration. I look forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts and producing something special for our Wailuku town. Mahalo nui for this opportunity.”
Kepā Maly shares, "While our modern view is that 'the landscape has changed so it is no longer sacred,' that’s irrelevant in the Hawaiian perspective, because the mana is still there. And so, even as the land changes, you go home there’s still something that attracts you to place; those touchstone things, the views that you see in the distance. While the old mom-and-pop store or the home that you grew up in -- while those things may have changed, there are experiences that are embedded within the landscape that are always there. We might call them intangible, but to those who have been raised in a place, those intangibles are as tangible as the physical remains. Don't forget that you were of this place first."
About the Artist: Edwin Ushiro’s work resonates with the echoes of his boyhood in the “slow town” of Wailuku, Maui. While structuring his work around the narrative tradition of “talk story” native to the Hawaiian islands, he interweaves the uncanny obake tales of his Japanese heritage. After earning a BFA with Honors in Illustration from Art Center College of Design, he worked in the entertainment industry as a storyboard artist, concept designer and visual consultant. More recently, he has exhibited in venues worldwide, including Villa Bottini in Italy, Grand Palais in France, the Museum of Kyoto, HoMA, and the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. A monograph of his work entitled "Edwin Ushiro: Gathering Whispers" was published in 2014 with editions by Zero+ Publishing in the United States and Diagon Alley in China. In recent years, he has participated in several POW! WOW! mural festivals in Honolulu and Long Beach, as well as the Windows of Little Tokyo public art festival in Los Angeles. He lives and works between Los Angeles and Maui.
Photos by Sean Hower
On Thursday, August 11, 2022, a 72-foot SMALL TOWN * BIG ART (ST*BA) mural dedicated to Wailuku’s distinctive sense of place, history and culture will be unveiled as the temporary construction wall surrounding the future site of The Parlay, a new retro-style tavern by the team behind Esters Fair Prospect.
Created in the summer of 2021 over the course of two weeks, Maui artists Bailey Onaga and Courtney Chargin painted the mural on individual 4x8 panels offsite at the Imua Discovery Garden; among the grounds where Maui's last ruling Chief Kahekili once lived.
Entitled Wailuku i ka malu he kuawa (Wailuku in the shelter of the valley), which is also the proverb from Mary Kawena Pukui’s ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs and Poetical Sayings that inspired the artwork, the piece depicts the Wailuku bridge that will now be seen in the distance when facing the mural, which will be installed at the northeast corner of Main Street and North Church Street in Wailuku.
"These words resonated so deeply with me and my artistic collaborator, Courtney Chargin," shares Onaga, "We are based in Wailuku, protected by Wailuku, and proud to find inspiration in this sacred place. I drive under and/or over the bridge every single day, inhaling and exhaling, finding the foundation in knowing that everything is going to be okay, somehow. I think about waking up early before field trips to go to Takamiya Market to grab bentos…I think about all the local makers who fill Paradise Now with aloha…the resilience and deep love for the small businesses like Request and countless others…artists like David Sandell and Philip Sabado who I looked up to since I was a little girl…born on Maui, raised in Waiehu, educated in Waihe’e, rooted in Wailuku."
Upon completion last year, the panels were earmarked to temporarily enclose the Wailuku municipal parking lot construction site as part of ST*BA's Mana Wahine collaboration that resulted in a collection of three murals. However, due to construction updates and exciting, new Wailuku developments -- most notably the the Hālau of ʻŌiwi Art and Wailuku Arts District projects -- the panels were stored until a specific install site could be secured.
"In June 2021, we were able to formally unveil one of the three Mana Wahine pieces: Haʻahaʻa by Amanda Joy Bowers, which was inspired by ʻōlelo noʻeau: E Noho iho I ke ōpū weuweu, mai ho’oki’eki’e (Remain among the clumps of grasses and do not elevate yourself)," shares ST*BA's Kelly McHugh-White, who has since founded the new nonprofit Maui Public Art Corps to expand this work to new neighborhoods, "On August 11, we will unveil the second in this series: Wailuku i ka malu he kuawa (Wailuku in the shelter of the valley), by Bailey and Courtney, and we are beyond excited that their moment has finally come to share this dazzling work with Wailuku."
The third mural – Mōhala I ka wai ka maka o ka pua (Unfolded by the water are the faces of the flowers) by artist Alex Underwood, is expected to be installed during the holiday season at the end of this year. A 7-minute documentary featuring the Mana Wahine collection may be viewed at the project page: smalltownbig.org/manawahine.
As a Mana Wahine collaboration, the team spent several months working with community consultants, construction teams, County partners, Hale Hōʻikeʻike at the Bailey House Museum/ Maui Historical Society supporters and others to create the artistic compositions and select ‘ōlelo from Mary Kawena Pukui's ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs and Poetical Sayings to firmly root each piece in its ultimate sense of place. Among those consulted were Maui Nui Botanical Gardens Executive Director Tamara Sherrill and Board Member Robert Hobdy; Hawaiʻi Land Trust Chief Conservation Officer Scott Fisher, Ph.D.; Father Robert "Moki" Hino, Good Shepherd Episcopal Church; Artist Phil Sabado; Imua Discovery Garden's Dean Wong; and most recently Suzanne Navarro of Esters Fair Prospect and the new retro-style tavern The Parlay.
“Being a female business owner in Wailuku, I am honored to display a mural fronting our new restaurant - The Parlay - that was created by two locale female artists, Bailey and Courtney," shares Navarro, "It's so important to me as a member of this community to nourish the artists who live here and make Wailuku so special and different. This mural reminds me of how sacred Wailuku is and what an important part this town plays in Maui's history. Thanks so much to SMALL TOWN * BIG ART for all they have done for Wailuku!”
The public is encouraged to attend the mural blessing and unveiling on Thursday, August 11 at 4:30 PM, which will be led by Uncle Bill Garcia. Attendees will convene on the corner of Main & Church about 15 minutes prior to the blessing, which will be followed by brief remarks by ST*BA partner Sissy Lake-Farm of Hale Hōʻikeʻike at the Bailey House / Maui Historical Society as well as by each artist. Each of the Community Consultants will be offered an opportunity to share any manaʻo regarding their May-June 2021 experience talking story with the artists; which is a vital piece of each ST*BA project that helps us firmly root the artwork in a Wailuku sense of place.
Interested in submitting a public art proposal for consideration? The next ST*BA/ Maui Public Art Corps deadline is August 15, 2022 -- and the team is encouraging artists of all disciplines, (dance, poetry, music, theater, painting, sculpture, light work, and more) to apply. Details are at smalltownbig.org/rfp.
This morning I woke up thinking about the interview and the things that came out of it. The more I thought about it the more I realized the awesome journey my life has been. It got me thinking about writing down the stories in a book (a small book) and prompted me to write a short intro to the book. I wanted to share that with you so I have attached it here. I am grateful for the opportunity you gave me to share my story, or at least parts of it. – Caroline/Kaho'iwai
The Journey to Find – Myself
I am one of those people who envy others who can recall their childhood. You see, I have few, if any memories of my childhood until the sixth grade. Although I remember some of my elementary teachers’ names and the layout of my elementary school, I do not remember classes or students or any work that we did. I remember my parents and my siblings within the context of our home, and the kids on our street with whom we played. Very few specific moments, events, adventures; a day at the beach with the family, our old cars, playing hide-n-seek with the neighbor kids.
In 6th grade my teachers convinced my parents to allow me to apply to a private school where I would find more challenges in my education. I was accepted to the school and remember feeling proud and happy at my new school. Still, I did not feel like I fit in well with the other kids. One would say that I flourished at this school, and I did. I was an academic success, but a social nothing. During high school I began stretching myself to do things that were not expected of a poor kid from Kalihi, a not so affluent but highly diverse neighborhood on Oahu. Since then, I have had many adventures, some of them handed to me, some of them by default due to my inaction, and others that I intentionally pursued.
Recently I was interviewed for a project conducted by Small Town Big Art here in Wailuku, Maui. Although I was not sure what I could contribute to the project that was aimed at collecting “sense of place” stories, by the time I left the nearly one-hour interview, lots of thoughts were floating in my mind. This morning, as I lay in bed during that period of drifting thoughts, I realized that my interview responses were really describing my life’s journey to find myself, to be in a place where I was comfortable in the skin I was born in and proud of the genes I had inherited. Someone once observed that I managed to change something in my life roughly every five years. As I thought about my interview and the stories I told there, I realized that I have spent my life trying on different “skins” and being different aspects of myself, all in search of an environment that would not only allow me to be who I truly am, but one that would also nurture me as I live and continue to grow. Some might say I was searching for an environment that would allow me to “live up to my potential”.
In the end, I must acknowledge that the many twists and turns in my life were merely touchstones along my journey. Positive, uplifting, and rewarding as they have been, none were the destination – until I moved to Maui. Until I discovered my Hawaiian ancestral roots, both the people and the land. Since I arrived on Maui roughly 30 years ago, I have been accumulating information that, unrecognized by me, was slowly filling in the blank spaces of my life, forming the connections I needed to truly understand this journey of discovery. I am at peace with the life that I have created for myself here on Maui, with my familial relationships, my formed relationships, my career, and my future. This book is the story of my journey.
Access Anu's pdf HERE or read on
Oxford dictionary says that a “fish story” is an “incredible or far-fetched story”; an idiom from sports-fishers’ tendency to exaggerate the size of their catch.
But in the case of the tiny o’opu’s mighty journey from wild sea to far up-rivers’ pristine pools, that’s a rather inverse fish story. A profound tale in the smallest of packages.
So, when ST*BA asked me to write about the multidisciplinary art that’s coming from these storytelling projects (in particular, the new mural and contemporary dance work that came of Uncle Clifford’s analogy of the “tenacity of the o’opu”)—well it was a lot to unpack.
It began with last summer’s storytelling workshops, which resulted in recorded intergenerational interviews, then Akaku’s distillation for DIY StoryCorps, then the call-to-artists… Then allll the ways those stories can inspire art of different mediums: like the animations we’re going to meet tonight, Cory’s mural, and the Adaptations Dance Theater work (and maybe even this longshort story thingy).
Trying fo’ write about all dat stuffs—it’s been like trying to hold water. And what should have been a nice, normal 1,000-word piece of objective journalism has, um, taken on a life of its own. Three weeks after the unveiling of the mural and dance work, what I’ve instead got dis ukubillion-word, four-chapter, work-in-progress, longshort story thingy.
Even though I didn’t finish (never mind not give them what they asked for) ST*BA has been kind enough to invite me to read an excerpt tonight.
I’ve never really read in front of an audience like this before… And I tend to think of writing as a form of visual art, meant to be perceived on the page… So thanks for hanging in there with me while I try :)
For context—because ST*BA is all about building community through art—I hoped to contribute to the story of “the tenacity of the o’opu” through the lens of introducing a new human to our art-filled community and watching these new works come to life.
Which reminds me that I’d like to share totally personal plug for the ST*BA website. If you have not explored that site yet, berah, grab your snorkel and your fins and dive in ‘cause it is an enchanting sea cave of insight and robust resources to explore the processes of these projects.
For example, you can spock da project pages and watch the recorded artist-and community consultation meetings—which were wonderful to listen to. Some of them are just under an hour each. That sounds like a lot (and at first it felt voyeuristic listening to someone else’s meetings) but then you see what’s happening and you’re like: Oh, wow. Cool. And you’re hooked!
The website is a neat window into the depth of processes for the art itself. But moreover, the additional stories brought forth really stoked in me an alohaful understanding of this place and the people of this place—in a way that I don’t know how I could have gained otherwise.
I urge you to check it out for yourself; because it will give you something that all the writing in the world couldn’t—you’ve just gotta dive in and check ‘em go check.
WATER SHARES THE SHAPE OF TIME
Between the banks of the river Wailuku, I bathe in a shallow pool. I am not alone. A child swims in my womb, ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny (ish). And a tiny young goby fish, born in the sea, climbs a waterfall in her patient journey of connectivity.
Hello, O‘opu friend. Teach me a story?
I watch to listen. The o‘opu climbs. Just an inch of fish, yet a powerhouse. She suctions against torrents of water, time, slime, and all-odds. I watch to listen. The o’opu climbs. Time quickens in its passing. The expanding universe is somehow speeding-up. Stars turn overhead, known but unseen by me amidst the bright blue. How long has it been? An hour? An eternity? There is only this moment; past and future coalesce in this breath. My lungs, the o’opu’s gills, and my womb-child somewhere in between. I watch to listen. The o‘opu climbs. My heart hears:
Water shares the shape of Time. We are beings made-of and moving amidst it.
Between banks of the river of Time, I scoop of a deep pool. Some trickles back and rebecomes the flow to the sea, some makes it to my mouth and becomes me. I am not alone. Everyone is here. Creatures of Time incarnate. We drink. We think. We create. We eliminate. Eventually the water of our flesh will seep into the soil, will rise into the mists, and our ever-rebecoming bodies will again be rain and river and aquifer and ocean. The Time of our lives melts back into the formless dimensions accessible only through others’ perceptions. If anything of our now-lives survives, it isn’t in cells—it’s in mo‘olelo.
The o’opu climbs. I watch to listen. And in silence learn to speak.
Hello, Friend. Teach me a story?
The breeze is at our backs as we cross the bridge. Up and over the concrete chasm that casts our sacred Wailuku River. Ritual pause to regard the water. Pure valley air, pau hana exhaust dichotomy. Daddy and Mommy-me, we push our brand-new baby along a well-worn path. Toward the heart of Wailuku Town we stroll(er), our familiar world made fresh through her eyes.
“This is a bridge,” I explain in singsong whilst cars whiz by. “But you are a bridge, too. Our bridge into the future. Just as we are your bridges into pasts.”
I marvel at her ‘ano. Just a baby, yet full of features from so many loved ones, some long gone. Grandma’s nose is no longer her own, and I wonder from whom and how far-back this nose goes. Funny how I can peer into the past by looking at the face of the future, this flesh-and-blood time machine.
“You’re a baby now, but you will be a girl, a woman, a kupuna, an ancestor,” says Daddy to daughter. She is six months old, but we try to talk-story as if she were 6 or 16 or 60… 600… 6,000; knowing that she will be all these ages and then some. I try to think of her as both an eternal soul given new skin and a new life made of primordial molecules. Water, mostly.
“Did A Dinosaur Drink This Water?” is one of our favorite keiki books. Fittingly the author’s surname is Wells, and he takes readers on a wholesome romp through our planet’s hydrologic cycle, cleaning and recycling the same water for billions of years. Enter modern pollution, and the book expectedly closes with a plea to humanity to care for its most precious resource.
This dovetails well with another beloved book, “We Are Water Protectors,” a dreamily illustrated gem from our Ojibwe brethren. “We come from water,” reads a cherished page. “It nourished us inside of our mother’s body. As it nourishes us here on Mother Earth. Water is sacred… Water is alive.”
Stories are alive, too. And to feed them, we need to read them. Since the night she was born, we’ve read-aloud a lot. Piles of kids’ books, of course, but also passages from whatever novel or online article that I happen to be nosing. From the latter we learn that humans split atoms but cannot manufacture water. And that all of Earth’s water may be even older than the Sun! There are several big hypotheses, but new evidence suggests that Earth’s water could have been delivered by the same interplanetary collision that created our Moon. I rather like this theory, as there is poetry and (literal) gravity in how the Moon and Earth’s water—including the wai within us—remain connected.
It is good to know the stories of the wide world and beyond, but it is essential to know the stories of our home. Because we are the homes of stories. So, we share with our baby the many centuries-old hydrologic cycle oli, that poses the question “Aia i hea ka wai a Kane?” We listen to voice of a beloved mentor speak of “the tenacity of the o’opu.” We listen to the voice of real-life water protector, reminding us to not merely survive, but thrive.
And, I tell her of our mythical water protectors, mo’o, our Hawaiian dragons. I tell her how mo’o is the root word for processes precious to us: mo’okuauhau, genealogy; mo’opuna, grandchild; mo’olelo, story. I tell her how in Hawai’i nei we have no alligators, no large water monitor lizards, no dinosaur bones eroding from the mountainsides, but the memory of these thing traveled with our ancestors; and the lessons they teach live in us as we keep the stories—and this water—alive.
Water that dinosaurs drank. Water that is older than the sun. Water that is within and connects us all.
Ritual pause to regard the water. Up and over the concrete channel that casts our sacred Wailuku river. The breeze is at our backs as we cross the bridge, and push our brand new baby along this well-worn path. Toward the heart of Wailuku Town we stroll, our familiar world made fresh through her eyes.
[TKTKTK This chapter is about our many family strolls to watch the mural come to life—from blank wall to watching Cory work.]
… Cory’s face is uncannily familiar, though I’m quite sure we’re strangers. Stranger still, his ‘ano has a curious timelessness. Am I meeting a kanaka from the year 300 or 3,000? And in the way you can recognize a Waterman by their sea-eyes, judging by Cory’s maka, I’d peg him as a Seer. Apropos for an artist. I instinctively have a deep sense of trust in him as a kahu and creator of Hawaiian imagery. …
[TKTKTK This chapter is about the mural blessing and the Adaptations Dance Theater performance… Especially how neat it was that they focused on Uncle Clifford’s mana’o of listening, then gained the bulk of their inspiration by listening to the community consultations. Cool!]
TK WORDS ABOUT IDEAS … Coming Soon.
[TKTKTK This chapter loops back to the Storytelling Workshops with Kumu Leleihua, which preceded the interviews and art.]
TK WORDS ABOUT IDEAS… Coming Soon.
Stories of Wailuku Town and its journey in becoming a public arts district. MAUI | HAWAI'I