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Makawao Boys & Girls Club Unites Kids & Artists

By Vanessa Wolf

The kids worked intently to help create Makawao’s largest mural. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

The graffiti-covered wall flanking the Makawao Municipal Parking Lot is no more.

To clarify, it’s still there behind the the Stopwatch Bar and Grill on Makawao Avenue, but it is now a cheerful and positive mural-in-progress thanks to a local youth advocacy worker, several artists, and a whole bunch of kids.

Lisa Rodrigues, Unit Director for the Makawao Boys and Girls Club, was approached about the graffiti-covered eyesore twice on the same week. First a local police officer commented to Rodrigues that perhaps the wall could be painted.  A few days later, Councilman Mike White’s office called with the same idea.

Rogrigues realized she would need money to get this started and applied for a grant from the county. When funding was awarded, the project officially became part of the CMCA campaign – a movement to reduce youth access to alcohol by changing community practice, knowledge, and policy. The campaign uses a model intervention called Community Moblilizing Change on Alcohol (CMCA), which focuses on community organization efforts to change the environment that contributes to the use of alcohol in young people.

Specifically, the program aims to communicate a clear message to the community that underage drinking is inappropriate and unacceptable; reduce youth access; reduce advertising aimed at youth, and change or influence laws, rules and ordinances to further limit youth alcohol access.

The current mural has been up for two years. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

Even with funding, Rodrigues realized she’d need help. She then turned to local artist Robena, owner of Robena Gallery on Makawao Avenue. She is well known for her large scale Hawaii-themed paintings.

“She embraced it,” Rodrigues explained about Robena. “She came to the club and talked to the kids about what they wanted to see in the mural. That’s where the body boarding and ukulele playing came from.”

The far end of the wall already displays a striking mural done by Maui artist Lanakila Creations and Sara Dickens. Born and raised on Maui, Lanakila has also done the murals found at Whole Foods and the Kuau Mart.

Lanakila and Dickens’ mural, featuring a young woman protesting the bombing of Kahoolawe and Queen Liliu’okalani, the last reigning Hawaiian monarch, has been up for two years.

“People have respected it,” Rodrigues commented. “We wanted to create something else that would also be respected because it would really upset the kids if someone came along and ruined the art they worked so hard to help create.”

“We decided to start next to the Queen,” Robena echoed, “In addition to the kids’ ideas, I decided to put a Native Hawaiian hibiscus in. There is also a maile lei which represents peace and respect. “

Even ha – or breath – is represented with an image of a child and adult face to face and rays of bright color around them.

CMCA urges adults to “be a jerk” about providing teens with alcohol. Photo by Vanessa Wolf

In the middle, there is also a panel driving home the CMCA theme with the “Be a Jerk” message. Be a jerk is a statewide campaign to stop underage drinking by urging parents and other adults to be a jerk when it comes to letting teens drink alcohol.

The kids themselves – mostly middle and high school age – were clearly enjoying themselves. Covered in paint, most were focused on filling in varying elements of the sketched-in mural. As the day went on, additional professional artists joined in to help add depth and richness to the images. To honor their effort, the youth that participated were able to put their permanent handprint on the wall along the stairwell.

The mural is still a work in progress, but Robena hopes to finish it up this week.  The next time you’re in Makawao or parking for Third Friday, be sure to swing through the parking lot – located behind the Stopwatch Bar and Grill – to check it out.

Are you a local artist – sculptor, poet, mime, slack key guitar player, tattoo artist, photographer, chef, sand castle builder or comedian – with an interesting story to tell? Know of a great band, artist, author, filmmaker, or event coming to town? Have an idea for a fun or thought-provoking story? Get in touch: we want to hear from you! Vanessa(@mauinow.com)

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