Beginning on Monday, June 14, a hui of four Maui-grown artists: Alexandra Underwood, Amanda Joy Bowers, Bailey Onaga and Courtney Chargin, will begin painting a collection of three pieces that will serve as the temporary construction wall surrounding the Wailuku municipal parking lot.
Each artist has worked with the ST*BA team since February to identify a proverb that connects their composition to Wailuku’s sense of place and is currently participating in a series of online community consultations that will help to develop the overall design. Recordings will be made available to the public on the project webpage at smalltownbig.org/manawahine.
Developed through a 2018-2020 Our Town grant by the National Endowment for the Arts, SMALL TOWN * BIG ART is a creative placemaking collaboration of County of Maui and Hale Hōʻikeʻike at the Bailey House Museum/ Maui Historical Society that aims to develop Wailuku, Hawaiʻi as a public arts district focused on its distinctive sense of place, history and culture. Monthly 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 Poetical 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 Wailuku.
Bowers’ piece will run along Vineyard Street, connecting Market to Church, depicting a visual interpretation of the proverb “E noho iho i ke ōpū weuweu, mai hoʻokiʻekiʻe,” (Remain among the clumps of grasses and do not elevate yourself).
“I just want to instill the value of humility: haʻahaʻa,” shares the artist, “I want (to convey) that it’s ok to feel very heavily and deeply about the land that you call your home - whether you were born onto it or not. Maybe it will make people want to lay amongst the leaves and shed tears of gratitude and humility.”
Underwood will share a wall with artist duo Onaga and Chargin in her own piece inspired by the proverb “Mōhala I ka wai ka maka o ka pua,” (unfolded by the water are the faces of the flowers). The shared wall will run parallel to Market Street, connecting Main to Vineyard, as a footpath behind First Hawaiian Bank.
“Water is integral to Wailuku’s identity and its thriving community,” remarks Underwood, “With this mural, I’d like to highlight native flowers endemic to the area, as a visual representation of the vibrant community.”
For their January 2021 ST*BA application, Onaga and Chargin tentatively selected the proverb “Wailuku i ka malu he kuawa,” (Wailuku in the shelter of the valley), and have been working closely with Hale Hōʻikeʻike at the Bailey House Museum/ Maui Historical Society Executive Director and ST*BA partner Sissy Lake-Farm to continually explore other options as each community consultation has taken place.
“We don’t want our artists to feel like the ‘ōlelo no‘eau that they have chosen is paʻa, or stuck, because over the course of the last two years in this process, we notice that sometimes it might start in one place and it might evolve into something else,” explains Lake-Farm, “This whole process is not about the end product, but the journey of getting there. So we want to allow for that and kākoʻo (assist, support) that effort.”
Community feedback regarding the concepts that are being undertaken by each artist — haʻahaʻa (humility), Wailuku as a wahi pana (a legendary or storied place) and natural resources that are endemic to the area — have been collected via public surveys as well as through consultations with 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 of Good Shepherd Episcopal Church; Artist Phil Sabado; and Imua Discovery Garden's Dean Wong, among others.
During a recent online community consultation, Father Robert "Moki" Hino of Good Shepherd (on the corner of Main and Church Streets) shared the history of the church, as founded by Queen Emma, stories about his great grandparents arriving to Hawai’i by steamship and deep manaʻo, stating “What humility means to me is self-emptying. And I think a lot of that comes into listening. Rest assured that as you’re going into this enterprise, I’m going to be saying prayers for you by sending good thoughts and good energy that you find the humility that you’re trying to evoke and that you find the healing that you’re back here to do, and I think the artwork will be a wonderful way to do that.”
ʻĀina steward and paleoecologist Dr. Scott Fisher, who has an office located on Vineyard Street, adds “I think that most people who are sensitive in any way can feel that sense of awe that nature provides (when entering Īao Valley), that the only appropriate response is haʻahaʻa. The philosopher Rudolph Otto talks about the relationship between the human and the divine in what he calls tremendum fascinans. The only natural response to a place like the wahi pana Īao Valley is that tremendum fascinans and that sense of awe, the primary human response is haʻahaʻa, that deep sense of humility. That you’re being surrounded not only by the intensity of the natural world but also the intensity of what our kūpuna (ancestors) handed down to us, because they’re still there. This area of the island is a major, royal mausoleum.”
Bowers will paint her mural directly on-site along Vineyard Street between June 14 -30 while Underwood, Onaga and Chargin will work on individual wall panels offsite at the Yokouchi Estate’s Imua Discovery Garden, among the grounds where Maui's last ruling chief Kahekili once lived.
County of Maui’s Erin Wade states, “These installations will be the beginning of a lei of positive energy surrounding the site. The people, activities and even the materials within the project site are so strongly kane; it will be nice to balance this out with a wahine energy. These women submitted applications with some powerful concepts all on their own. I appreciate their willingness to pause and reflect on the context and to consider the space and the moment that we’re in. While rooted in their individual, Maui-grown perspectives, these installations will be specific to the moment.”
Also on site at the Imua Discovery Garden during the mural-making timeframe will be the Maui OnStage summer theater camp for ages 6-18; an exciting new development for this massive community collaboration.
“We recognize this not only as an opportunity for further collaboration with Wailuku cultural institutions, but for immersing our visual artists in a truly multidimensional artistic process of play, exchange and learning,” shares ST*BA’s Kelly McHugh-White, “Our team believes that developing these projects both on and off site can deepen the artwork's connection to Wailuku's sense of place, expand artist engagement to Bailey House and Yokouchi/ Imua communities and ensure that the voice of this program is inclusive of many of those that contribute to the heartbeat of our beloved town.”
This is the 15th ST*BA project to date, which has yielded 24 public artworks throughout Wailuku that have included a storytelling workshop series by Leilehua Yuen; the Wells Park “Makai to Mauka” mosaic work by Jaclynn Sabado-Eitel; the Maui County Children’s Peace Center mural “Hoʻomau” by Kirk Kurokawa; the “Legacy Series” oil painting exhibition by Avi Molinas; a 1-day artmaking “ʻAlalā Renaissance” experience led by Michael Takemoto; the Main Street Promenade mural “Ma kāhi o ka hana he ola malaila” by Eric Okdeh; an original play entitled “Birds of a Feather” by MAPA; large-scale sculptures “Chinese Take Out Super Size” by Sean Baba and “Hīnaʻi” by Jessica Bodner; the Omura Building mural “Pō Meke‘au” by E.H.A.; a “Día de los Muertos” street procession and communal artmaking event by Jackie Goring and Tamara Li; the MAPA Studio mural “Eli” by Emmanuel Jarus; a 1-night lightwork exhibition entitled “Lost & Found” by Andy Behrle; and the proof-of-concept “Mauka to Makai” mural festival by PangeaSeed, featuring artists Lauren Brevner, Joey Rose & Alex Underwood, Gregg Kaplan, Kai Kaulukukui, Dulk, Cory Kamehanaokalā Taum, E.H.A., Mary Iverson, Wooden Wave, and Techs (Poi).