Maui Public Art Corps is delighted to announce the installation of a compelling new public art project, "Maui Strong," showcasing the artistic talents of 600 students who dedicated their creative efforts to convey resilience amid the recent Maui wildfires.
In the wake of the challenges posed by the wildfires, Maui Public Art Corps collaborated with students across the region to channel their emotions and reflections into a powerful visual representation of unity and strength. The result is a vibrant collection of drawings that encapsulate the indomitable spirit of the Maui community.
The "Maui Strong" project serves as a testament to the resilience of the island's youth and their ability to find hope and inspiration even in challenging times. The artwork, which will be displayed prominently along a 1,000-foot stretch of the Honoapiʻilani Highway in Lahaina, on the mauka side just past Safeway, invites the community to reflect on the shared experiences following the wildfires and celebrate the collective strength that emerged from adversity.
"We are immensely proud of our students and their commitment to expressing the spirit of 'Maui Strong' through their art," said Jayme Kahoohalahala of ʻĪao Intermediate School. "This project not only showcases their creativity but also stands as a symbol of solidarity and resilience for the entire community."
Yukki Shin of Maui Waena Intermediate School added, “It is powerful for our Maui Waena students to see their voices take wing, spread beyond their campus and experience their art being shared and embraced by the whole island. The students’ driving purpose was to promote a sense of belonging and collaborating among students and staff through artwork as Maui Stays Strong.”
"It was really cool to be a part of this project and even cooler to see the colorful artwork pop out amongst the ash and debris behind it," shares Truth Excavation LLC Owner Kimo Clark, who partnered with Maui Public Art Corps to install the artwork in collaboration with West Maui Construction and Goodfellow Bros, "Another symbol of hope of what’s to come."
According to Maui Public Art Corps Chair Kelly McHugh-White, the public art project originated with an invitation to partner with Maui Waena Intermediate, as their student activity coordinators collected donations of hundreds of hydro flasks and school supplies for displaced students. Teachers approached McHugh-White to request local artist designed stickers to help personalize these new items. The response by Maui Public Art Corps’ roster of artists was so strong that they received stickers and artwork from 100+ artists globally. With the support of a #MauiStrong grant through the Hawaii Community Foundation, the organization was able to design a hands-on Sticker Buffet activity for interested schools to design their own “Maui Strong” inspired artwork in exchange for artist stickers, offering a creative outlet for students reassigned to new schools while helping them regain a sense of ownership, identity, and normalcy during this challenging time.
The resulting "Maui Strong" themed artwork created by participating students was thought-provoking, inspiring, mournful, and empowered. With the help of ʻĀina Archaeology, the County of Maui and Goodfellow Bros., an additional #MauiStrong grant transformed the student designs into a 1,000-foot mesh barrier fence to be installed along a perimeter of the Lahaina burn zone.
“We believe this artwork installation will serve as a symbol of resilience, unity, and the promise of a brighter future amidst challenging times while simultaneously safeguarding individuals from the elements and potential hazards of the burn zone,” shares McHugh-White. “Students are actively contributing to their community by creating meaningful artwork that is displayed prominently, fostering a sense of pride and ownership. Further, the barrier fence will become a reminder for visitors of the area to act with respect as our community grieves and heals, further enriching their experience on the island.”
To date, students of Lahaina Intermediate School, Baldwin High School, Pōmaikaʻi Elementary School, ʻĪao Intermediate School and Maui Waena have participated.
Learn more: mauipublicart.org/mauistrong
A visit to the organizational website of Maui Public Art Corps (mauipublicart.org) will tap you into a series of community-based projects connecting people, place and story through the development of exceptional public artworks. Presented as site specific collections, Kaho‘olawe is featured prominently on the home page, which leads to works of original music, contemporary dance, animation and storytelling inspired by the Island Reserve.
Established in 2020, the nonprofit organization was developed from a 2018 County of Maui pilot project initially intended as construction mitigation amidst Wailuku’s recently completed Capital Improvement Projects. The pilot was designed to tell authentic, local stories through murals, pop-up performances, installations and more — each carefully co-developed with community members and rooted in a unique passage from Mary Kawena Pukui’s ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs and Poetical Sayings. Entitled SMALL TOWN * BIG ART (named for the Wailuku Town motto: Small Town, Big Heart), the Wailuku-centered initiative remains a collaborative effort of the County of Maui and Hale Hōʻikeʻike at the Bailey House/ Maui Historical Society, which through the inception of Maui Public Art Corps, is now scaling countywide.
With the organization founded by former KIRC staff member Kelly McHugh-White, a growing collection of Kaho‘olawe-inspired artworks have been developed that celebrate its distinctive history, culture and sense of place.
In 2021, KIRC Ocean Resources Specialist Dean Tokishi participated in Maui Public Art Corps’ 3-part storytelling workshop under artist Leilehua Yuen. Since that time, two animated film shorts have been created by Brooklyn-based artist Richard O’Connor and his team of filmmakers at Ace & Son Moving Picture Co. that feature Dean’s stories; one in which Dean interviews Uncle Skippy Hau (vimeo.com/692057252), a retiree of the State of Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources, and another with Coach John McCandless (vimeo.com/773898280) of Hawaiian Canoe Club. Dean most recently recorded a talk-story with his fourth grade Kahului Elementary School teacher, Joyce Kawahara, which will become part of Maui Public Art Corps’ upcoming request for artist proposals. Artists from all over the world will be invited to submit proposals that bring these “Hui Mo‘olelo” audio recordings to life as a work of public art following a period of community engagement that actively integrates feedback from additional Kaho‘olawe resources into the design.
KIRC Executive Director Mike Nāhoʻopiʻi’s Hui Mo’olelo recording also became an animated film short, which premiered at the ʻĪao Theater film festival in December 2022 and joined a yearlong exhibit at the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College Pā‘ina Market. Entitled “Waves,” (mauipublicart.org/waves) the artwork was rooted in ʻōlelo noʻeau #237: ʻAu i ke kai me he manu ala (Cross the sea as a bird), selected by Russian-Ukranian artist Taisiya Zaretskaya in collaboration with Sissy Lake-Farm of Hale Hōʻikeʻike at the Bailey House/ Maui Historical Society.
KIRC Reserve Operations Manager Lopaka White’s Hui Mo‘olelo sessions have featured Kepā Maly of Kumu Pono Associates, Water-woman Aunty Sally Ann Delos Reyes of Lahaina, Kumu Sissy Lake-Farm, and Hawaiian Canoe Club’s Jeanette Nalani Kaauamo of Wailuanui – all available at mauipublicart.org/hui-moolelo. Most recently, Lopaka’s talk-story with Aunty Sally Ann was presented as a work of contemporary dance and original, looped live music during the Arts & Resilience event on the Great Lawn of University of Hawaiʻi-Maui College. Performed by Maui’s Adaptations Dance Theater and Hāna-grown musician Stephen Henderson, music and choreography were inspired by Aunty Sally’s memories of Kaho‘olawe. Within Stephen’s music, you are able to hear her reference a meeting in the ocean to save Kaho‘olawe, with excerpts including “You can’t just bomb an island”, “You going put us in jail!? You going shoot us!?” and “If I going die today, then it’s a good cause.” (Listen at mauipublicart.org/sallyann). Following the event, many audience members took to the microphone to share stories of Kaho‘olawe and resilience.
To date, 9 Kaho‘olawe stories have been recorded yielding 4 animated films, 3 pop-up performances, and 1 mural by a total of 18 professional artists. Through its current Hawai‘i Tourism Authority Kūkulu Ola grant, Maui Public Art Corps aims to continue to develop professional artwork in collaboration with community members that celebrates Kaho‘olawe history, culture, and sense of place. Contact email@example.com to get involved.