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.