Maui Arts & Entertainment

SMALL TOWN * BIG ART Presents Installation of New Public Artwork by Jaclynn Sabado-Eitel

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  • Artwork site in Wells Park. Image courtesy of Sean Hower.
  • Holoholo with Uncle Skippy Hau to find ʻoʻopu Nākea. Image courtesy of Kelly McHugh-White.
  • Artwork site in Wells Park. Image courtesy of Sean Hower.

Small Town * Big Art presented the installation of a new public artwork by local artist Jaclynn Sabado-Eitel. The installation is part of ST*BA’s mission to develop Wailuku as a public arts district focused on its distinctive sense of place, history and culture.

Inspired by the ʻōlelo noʻeau: Ka i’a mili i ka poho o ka lima (the fish fondled by the palm of the hand), the new artwork was created by Wailuku-based artist, Sabado-Eitel, who owns the vintage inspired clothing company Paradise Now on Market Street.

The piece was created using “Put-In-Cups,” an environmentally-friendly reusable and recyclable plastic material that is sturdy yet pliable and snaps directly into chain link fence. Measuring at 100 feet long by 8 feet tall, with 50 percent of the space reserved for visibility between the parking lot and the park, the installation is located at the new temporary parking lot at Wells Park.


“Our 2021 request for proposals specifically called for artwork that can withstand natural elements like wind and rain while remaining unharmful to the natural environment,” shared ST*BA’s Kelly McHugh-White. “Knowing that the work would be completed in time for Earth Day, we saw this as an opportunity to expose schools and community groups to a new, accessible means of temporary public art that could be done independently or in collaboration with an exemplary artist like Jaclynn – who, just like her father, artist Phil Sabado, is a true Wailuku treasure. It’s a terrific opportunity to learn about Wailuku’s native ecosystem and all of the precious things that make Wailuku unique.”

In her ST*BA proposal, which required professional artists to exhibit exceptional quality, style, experience in creating communal or public art and significance to Wailuku, Sabado-Eitel noted that she “was inspired by both a moment in the middle of the pandemic where I was able to experience visually seeing a thriving amount of ‘o’opu in ʻĪao valley and was also inspired by the community members who have been advocating for the Mauka to Makai access for the circle of the endemic and indigenous fish.”

She spent several weeks working with the STBA team during a requisite project development phase to determine opportunities for community engagement and to identify ‘ōlelo from Mary Kawena Pukui’s ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs and Political Sayings.


“Our hope is that this artwork – and all Small Town * Big Art artwork – ignites a series of questions,” said Sissy Lake-Farm, project partner and Executive Director of Hale Hōʻikeʻike at the Bailey House Museum/ Maui Historical Society, “What is that? Oh, where does it live? Oh, where is it from? This will educate others about Wailuku. It brings questions, which brings the opportunity to share.”

An important cultural resource to Native Hawaiians, ‘o’opu were used for both food and religious ceremonies (within limits of kapu). There are five species in Hawai‘i’s streams, with four found nowhere else on Earth. All five are amphidromous— that is, they spend their adult lives in freshwater, where they spawn and lay eggs in the streambeds. When they hatch, the larvae are washed out to sea, where they drift for months.

Only as fingerlings, and after a dramatic metamorphosis, do they begin their trip back upstream. It is this migration journey makai (toward the sea) to mauka (toward the mountains) that makes ‘o’opu even more incredible, as they are collectively known for their ability to climb using their strong suction cup mouths to cling to rocks and move upward. Some species are even able to climb waterfalls at elevations over a thousand feet.


“You don’t always have time to stop and look at what’s going on beneath your feet,” shares Jaclynn, “even in the Valley (ʻĪao) you might think “let me just run in and take a dip” and then you leave. Maybe a lot of us have experienced a moment in nature during COVID where we’re able to stop and look at what’s around us: a flower, a beach, an ‘O’opu. So this project isn’t just about me seeing something for the first time, it’s about not having or taking the time to look in the first place. Maybe this artwork can be a trigger to teach others about the things that have always been here. To stop, take notice and fully immerse yourself in the moment.”


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