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.