Small Town Big Art: Blessing of Hīnaʻi by Maui-Based Sculptor on Friday
SMALL TOWN * BIG ART presents its first public artwork of 2020, Hīnaʻi by award-winning Maui-based sculptor Jessica Bodner. A blessing an unveiling will take place at Wailuku First Friday on Jan. 3 at 6 p.m., in Kīpuka Square.
Developed over the course of the last year, Bodner first saw the SMALL TOWN * BIG ART call to artists in February 2019 while traveling in Ojai, California.
The proposal called for quality, style, experience in creating communal or public art, significance to Wailuku and alignment with an ʻōlelo noʻeau that was pre-selected by Sissy Lake-Farm, Director of Hale Hōʻikeʻike at the Bailey House/ Maui Historical Society.
“The very minute I saw the opportunity, I started working on an idea,” says Bodner, who is well known for woven steel forms reminiscent of archeological subject matter, “I have always been inspired by basket making traditions of Hawaiʻi, so I began spending a lot of time at the Historical Society and put together my proposal.”
Bodner’s selected ʻōlelo noʻeau ʻA ʻohe hana nui ke alu ʻia – No task is too big when done together by all was paired with a plan to hand sculpt a six-to-eight foot work from new and reclaimed steel, woven and welded to create a dramatic oversized version of a hīna’i which would serve “as a reminder and memory of the Native Hawaiians tie to the land and sea and one of the few fishing methods that women and children were allowed to participate in,” according to the artist’s proposal.
SMALL TOWN * BIG ART panelists were “absolutely stunned” by the artist’s work, proposal and experience in creating public artwork, according to Project Manager Kelly McHugh-White. “Having created over 30 public art installations in her 20-year career as a professional artist, Jessica is incredibly sensitive to art’s ability to build and enhance a sense of place; art that goes beyond physical attributes to tell a story through the eye of the beholder and to create a dialogue amongst a community.”
“What is this place? What is this thing? Why is it here?” shares Bodner, “Art in public places gives that sense of place, which is extremely important in sensitive places like Wailuku where war and turmoil once existed. It’s important for people to know the history before they can determine what they want from their community in the future.”
While working with the Public Works Wailuku Highways Division crew to help identify and install a base for the 250-pound sculpture, ST*BA Project Administrator Erin Wade was introduced to Life Scout Jonathan Kamehanaokala Merchant. Mentored by Wailuku Clean and Safe ambassador Lawrence Kauha’aha’a, Merchant is currently developing his Eagle Scout Project “Little Free Library,” which are public bookcases stationed in Wailuku to promote neighborhood book exchanges.
The team embraced this idea by commissioning SMALL TOWN * BIG ART artist Amanda Joy Bowers, who unveiled her project mural at the Omura Building on Wells Street just last month, to hand paint the miniature libraries and setting up time with Bodner and Lake-Farm to talk story about the concept’a ʻohe hana nui ke alu ʻia – No task is too big when done together by all.
Now, Merchant is part of the SMALL TOWN * BIG ART family with his community-building through the artsinstallation. Together with Bodner’s installation, these projects illustrate the proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
Merchant’s “Little Free Library” will be stationed at the Safety Office on Market Street in Wailuku, and will hold books for people in the community to take and return, effectively creating a free library that is easy to access.
“I want to do this project because I have always found joy in reading a good book,” says Merchant, “Ever since I was in elementary school, I have loved to read. With this project, I hope to spread my love for reading with others, especially those who might not have access to books on a regular basis, hopefully increasing the communities’ love of learning, as well as improve the visual aspect.”
When asked to select an ʻōlelo noʻeau that best aligned with his intention, Merchant – like his Jan. 3 unveiling partner Jessica Bodner – chose: ʻA ʻohe hana nui ke alu ʻia – No task is too big when done together by all.
Join us for the free unveiling event in KīpukaSquare on Market Street (just beside ʻĪao Theater) from 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 3, 2020.