Maui Arts & Entertainment

Small Town * Big Art Presents Installation of New Mural in Wailuku with Local Artist Kirk Kurokawa

March 17, 2021, 7:10 AM HST
* Updated March 17, 7:11 AM
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  • Kirk Kurokawa. Image courtesy of Small Town*Big Art.
  • Kirk Kurokawa. Image courtesy of Small Town*Big Art.
  • Kirk Kurokawa. Image courtesy of Small Town*Big Art.

Small Town * Big Art celebrated the launch of its next public artwork on Monday, March 15 with local artist Kirk Kurokawa beginning the installation of a mural on the facade of the Victim Witness Building at 2103 Wells Street in Wailuku. The public artwork celebrates Wailuku’s distinctive sense of place, history and culture.

In a 2019 ST*BA application, Philadelphia-based muralist Ben Volta proposed two separate working trips to Wailuku; one to workshop a Hawaiian proverb with local residents that would be selected in collaboration with Small Town * Big Art and another to install a mural inspired by this work.

The team recruited local artist Kirk Kurokawa to act as a Maui-based connection point and to collaborate on the design. The onset of the global pandemic resulted in Volta having to step away from the project and Kurokawa took the lead in continued conversations with public offices, students and the ST*BA team to develop the piece.

Inspired by 300 sketches created in February 2020 by the sixth grade class of ʻĪao Intermediate School and by conversations with those working to develop the Maui County Children’s Peace Center, which will include various agencies and help children who are victims of abuse, Kurokawa’s piece will be completed by April 1, 2021 in acknowledgement of Child Abuse Prevention Month. 

Kurokawa’s resulting mural design includes the critically endangered Kiwikiu (Maui Parrotbill) and ‘Ōhi’a plant as key symbols, sharing that “the whole idea of the mural is to learn, nurture and take care of what we have so that we don’t lose those precious things.”

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“Working together with the Small Town Big Art program I was able to have conversations with Wailuku students and later with County staff that is housed in the 2103 Wells Street building,” said Kurokawa. “It is through these conversations that I learned of the responsibility of the Victim Witness Assistance Division and what they do for our community. Both the Kiwikiu and the ‘Ōhi’a plant are facing their own struggles  for survival on our island. The Kiwikiu has various environmental challenges and the ‘Ōhi’a is being threatened with a devastating fungus. Many of our Native Hawaiian species need our help, compassion and support to continue to thrive. My intent is for this imagery to portray a feeling of hope and nurturing for keiki and others in need of assistance.” 

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Project partner Sissy Lake-Farm, who is the executive director of Hale Hōʻikeʻike at the Bailey House Museum/ Maui Historical Society said, “First and foremost the focus of this place is the keiki – and all keiki – so it’s a very serious place. But the idea is to nurture. This art will serve hopefully to enlighten our people and to be able to find hope.” 

“This is going to be the first place where we feel healing can begin for the child, after they have told of a most horrific or unimaginable event that has happened to them,” says Ruth Mori of the County Victim Witness Assistance Division. 

The ST*BA team will be closely documenting the process over the coming weeks and sharing stories, video segments on its website and social media outlets. 

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Out of respect for work that is done within the building, and due to social distancing, the public is asked not to directly approach the site. Daily updates will be posted on social media outlets (IG + FB) to share the process and the product of this past year of development.

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