A new sculpture depicting a playful mother monk seal and her cub has been gifted to UH Maui College. The sculpture, named Kulapa Kai (to frolic in the ocean), is part of a gift from Jim and Mary Hirshfield’s Summit Foundation which seeks to leave artistic legacies in the form of sculptures, notably of animals that live in a particular region.
“Ever since we honeymooned here 47 years ago, Maui has held a special place in our hearts,” said Jim Hirshfield. “We are pleased to be able to return some of the joy we have received by supporting the college and through it the broader Maui community with this gift.”
Kulapa Kai was carved from a solid block of New Zealand marble by local artists Bruce Turnbull and Kim Mosley. The sculpture took nearly one year to complete, with the majority of the carving done at Turnbull’s Kahakuloa studio. “As a stone carver, I see shapes, expressions, movement, and intrinsic life in the veins of a jagged rock,” said Mosley. “Chiseling and sanding this New Zealand marble brought vitality into a dormant stone–revealing the playful essence of a monk seal and it’s pup. I’m grateful to have been part of this transformation.”
The new art installation is set on a small, grassy knoll between the campus’ Kalama and Noiʻi buildings–providing a contemplative spot for faculty, students, and visitors. The piece was lifted by crane and placed on campus last August. Students at the college participated in sanding and finishing demonstrations, and learned how to grind, polish, and chisel the stone with power and hand tools for the statue’s finishing touches.
“We sincerely appreciate this beautiful addition to our campus,” said Chancellor Lui K. Hokoana. “I’ve already heard from faculty and students about how much they enjoy the new piece, and it was a wonderful opportunity for our art students to get some hands-on learning as well.”
“I love walking around the piece and taking it in from every vantage point,” said UHMC art faculty member Jennifer Owen. “It was a fellow art teacher, Mike Takemoto, who pointed out that from one of the nearby sidewalks, the sculpture looks entirely abstract, while from the other walkways the forms of the monk seals are revealed.”
The sculpture will be officially blessed on Jan. 29 at 4:30pm. The public is welcome to attend.
“The world needs more beauty,” Turnbull said about the new installation. “I only hope I can enrich the lives I touch through the beauty I create”.
The Summit Foundation first approached the University of Hawaii Maui College in May of 2013 about the possibility of a sculpture gift at the Kahului campus. In addition to Kulapa Kai, the Foundation has commissioned two sculptures in Washington State.
Photo courtesy UH Maui College