World-renowned artists from Hawai‘i and around the globe are painting several murals over the course of 10 days at four sites within the Wailuku Redevelopment Area and locations throughout Central Maui, beginning Jan. 28. The murals are part of a public art program through PangeaSeed Foundation, an international nonprofit that has created 300 murals in 14 countries with a roster of more than 250 professional artists.
PangeaSeed Foundation travels the world creating large-scale public murals and installations through the “Sea Walls: Artists for Oceans” program to promote the importance of long-term sustainability of natural resources. Discussions between the foundation and County of Maui began over the summer 2018 as the county presented its Small Town, Big Art pilot program for grant consideration by the National Endowment for the Arts; Small Town, Big Art – which launches later this year – aims to position the arts as a catalyst for neighborhood revitalization in Wailuku.
“Wailuku is a place imbued with rich history,” said Tre Packard, founder and executive director of PangeaSeed Foundation. “With Maui being home to such a unique marine environment deserving of protection, we look forward to enriching Wailuku’s urban landscape by further beautifying the town and creating a real sense of pride and community ownership.”
Maui-born artist Matt Agcolicol is coordinating the mural project, which involves approximately 20 artists, many of whom are from Hawai‘i. At least four artists from Maui are participating in the mural project: Noble Richardson, Amanda Joy Bowers, Kirk Kurokawa, and Elmer Bio Jr.
“We were lucky to cross paths with Matt and the Sea Walls team during the research phase of our new Wailuku Town pilot public art program, Small Town, Big Art,” said Project Coordinator Kelly McHugh. “In welcoming their artists to Maui, we encouraged them to work with Wailuku communities to focus their stories on our local issues.”
The mural project provides a unique opportunity for local artists to interact and learn from internationally acclaimed painters, while providing their own teachings gained in Hawai‘i, according to organizers. Maui artists have supported the collaboration and look forward to painting Wailuku and Central Maui.
“I’m born and raised in Wailuku,” Richardson said. “The moment you drive past the wall we are painting on, it opens up to a small town called Happy Valley that is wedged into the Wailuku Valley with a river that descends from the second wettest place in the world and flows through the center of the town. That already seems geographically unique to the world. It is unique to me because it is where all my early imprinted memories originate from. This valley is where my artistic interests were born, it is where lifetime family members were made, and it is still the place I come to when my mind needs clarity. It is unique to me, because this is where my sister and I took root, and this is where our children’s roots are taking its place.”
Maui Redevelopment Agency, the Office of Economic Development, Pacific Whale Foundation and other organizations have partnered to fund the project. OED Director Kay Fukumoto said the reason her office helped fund the program was to examine the ways in which artists and communities can come together to bring awareness about environmental protection.
“From Mauna Kahalawai, to Main Street to Rivermouth, our actions impact the native ecosystems and watersheds,” Fukumoto said.
Erin Wade, Maui Redevelopment Program planner and director of Small Town, Big Art, lauded PangeaSeed’s outstanding work through its public art program, which brings messages of conservation into streets around the globe.
“Our goal is to learn from their very seasoned team of artists and collaborators and incorporate any challenges and successes into the forthcoming implementation of Small Town, Big Art,” Wade said.
A call-to-artists for the Small Town, Big Art pilot program will be distributed online this month, with its first round of artists selected in February. The selected artist(s) will be commissioned to present an innovative work of public art that aligns with ‘olelo no’eau (wise sayings) pre-selected by Hale Ho’ikeʻike at the Bailey House/Maui Historical Society and addresses the town of Wailuku’s distinctive sense of place, history and/or culture.
Photo courtesy of County of Maui