Last Fall, Wailuku’s SMALL TOWN * BIG ART (STBA) creative placemaking initiative teamed up with Imua Discovery Garden for its 2022 call to artists. Working together, they designed a new opportunity for established artists to create a large-scale set of wings as a standalone sculpture that inspires inclusion, inspiration and discovery. Slated for installation at Imua Family Services’ newly acquired six-acre Imua Discovery Garden located at the former Yokouchi family estate in Wailuku, the final piece will be accessible to the public – providing an interactive experience where young children can stand in front of the work and feel a sense of awe, empowerment and play as the moment is captured for an ongoing photo project.
On Wednesday, February 9, 2022, STBA representatives from the County of Maui, Hale Hōʻikeʻike at the Bailey House/ Maui Historical Society (Hale Hōʻikeʻike) and Maui Public Art Corps joined Imua Discovery Garden staff to welcome the artist selected by community panel. Arizona-based Bobby Zokaites and his studio assistant Kara Roschi are currently engaging in a weeklong site visit designed to provide an initial orientation of Wailuku’s history, culture and sense of place. Based on the information and experiences garnered during this site visit; ongoing community consultations; and a four month period of project development, Zokaites will fabricate the piece in his home studio and assemble it here on Maui in June of this year.
"Regularly working across geographies has made me a natural collaborator who recognizes the value in the expertise-of-place held by residents,” shares the artist, “My public art process begins by identifying what excites the community by tuning into the emotional cues within local storytelling. These dialogs are seeded by my own advance research into the histories of region and its communities. Gravitating especially to tales of ingenuity and adventure, unknown or under-told stories, I've found that current residents often have interesting anecdotes that add insight and nuance to the accounts of record. From those conversations, I then design towards sculpturally articulating poignant notes or recurring themes as substantial touchstones informing the larger form or function of the work."
His site visit includes excursions into ʻIao Valley and Kepaniwai Heritage Gardens with Sissy Lake-Farm, a tour of the Bailey House Museum with Kimo Guequierre, Waihe'e Coastal Dunes and Wetlands Refuge with Hawaiʻi Land Trust Chief Conservation Officer Scott Fisher, Ph.D, Waihe'e Ridge Trail with Kim Thayer of Mauna Kahālāwai, the Wailuku public art walking tour with STBA's Kelly McHugh-White, and the vast property of Imua Discovery Garden with Executive Director Dean Wong, among other sites.
“The seemingly miraculous transitions between caterpillar, cocoon, and butterfly evoke a wide range of meanings and ideas in cultures around the world,” shares Wong. “For Imua Family Services, as an organization which strives to help children reach their full potential in life, these transformations represent rebirth, inclusion, creativity, joy, promise and the capacity to experience and enjoy the beauty of life. Through our collaboration with STBA and Bobby Zokaites, we hope to provide a visual representation and internal feeling of transformation and the potential to fly!”
“We are immensely grateful to Dean for sharing his space and vision for the Imua Discovery Garden, and for allowing public artwork to be enlivened through the important work that his organization does for Maui youth and families,” shares STBA’s Kelly McHugh-White, “this partnership marks an incredible new development for STBA, both in collaborating with new organizations that have spaces to host public artwork, and in pioneering large-scale sculpture projects for this initiative. We have a lot to learn from Bobby and his team, and are excited to see what kinds of new relationships unfold through his work.”
Please visit https://www.smalltownbig.org/zokaites.html for ongoing details, conversations and announcements regarding this project, and https://imuagarden.org to learn more about the work of Imua.
Imua Family Services began in 1947 providing services to children with Polio in the Territory of Hawaii. Today, 75 years later, Imua is still making significant progress working with families and children together with a broad scope of child development programs including: Infant & Early Childhood Services, Imua Autism Services, Imua Inclusion Preschool, Camp Imua and Dream Imua.
SMALL TOWN * BIG ART is a creative placemaking collaboration of County of Maui + Hale Hōʻikeʻike at the Bailey House/ Maui Historical Society + Maui Public Art Corps that aims to develop a public arts district focused on the distinctive sense of place, history and culture of Wailuku. Engaging the public in both the process and the product, ongoing art installations such as plays, murals, sculptures, storytelling events and more are created with community input that align with ‘ōlelo from Mary Kawena Pukui's ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs and Political Sayings. Each artwork is spearheaded by professional artists that have submitted project applications exhibiting exceptional quality, style, experience in creating communal or public art and significance to place. Through many hands and many voices, these creative interpretations represent a revitalized identity for this small town with the BIGGEST heart.