Maui Arts & Entertainment

SMALL TOWN * BIG ART To Unveil Two 100-Foot Murals, June 25

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SMALL TOWN * BIG ART Unveils Its Murals Dedicated to Wailuku’s distinctive sense of place this Friday. Portrait by Sean Hower.

A pair of 100-foot SMALL TOWN * BIG ART murals dedicated to Wailuku’s distinctive sense of place, history and culture will be honored by the community tonight, June 25.

Created over the course of two weeks on the grounds of the Imua Discovery Garden (formerly the Yokouchi Estate) in the Historical Wailuku District, artists Alex Underwood, Bailey Onaga and Courtney Chargin completed painting on June 23 amidst the Maui OnStage Summer Theater Camp, which has been sharing the 6-acre space as it transitions to “an outdoor haven for learning and exploration where learners of all abilities can develop at their own pace.”

Each Friday throughout the Summer Camp, family members are invited to the grounds to enjoy a new theater showcase every week. This Friday, Maui OnStage Executive Director Luana Whitford-Mitchell and Imua Family Services & Discovery Garden Executive Director Dean Wong have graciously invited SMALL TOWN * BIG ART to be a part of the evening’s opening in order to acknowledge the synergistic experience of having professional visual artists on-site alongside their exemplary programs. 


“I think having the Imua Discovery Garden as an open air studio space for SMALL TOWN * BIG ART was a wonderful idea,” said Luana Whitford-Mitchell, “We were thrilled to be invited to utilize the space by Dean and to be able to amplify our youth with new experiences that foster creative and critical thinking skills, develop leadership, build self-confidence, and teach teamwork in a supportive and safe environment. What better way to teach collaboration than to exemplify it through this Friday’s event, which celebrates our youth’s creativity in a dedicated space surrounded by the arts alongside our core community.”

The murals were painted at Imua Discovery Garden on 50 individual 4×8 plywood panels, which will later be aligned and installed as the temporary construction wall surrounding the Wailuku Municipal Parking Lot.

They are part of a series of three murals that comprise the Mana Wahine project for SMALL TOWN * BIG ART, which has been in development since February as artists, community consultants, construction teams, County partners, Hale Hōʻikeʻike at the Bailey House Museum/ Maui Historical Society supporters and others came together to plan logistics, create the artistic compositions and select ‘ōlelo from Mary Kawena Pukui’s ‘Ōlelo No‘eau: Hawaiian Proverbs and Political Sayings to firmly root each piece in its ultimate sense of place. 

SMALL TOWN * BIG ART Unveils Its Murals Dedicated to Historical Wailuku Town this Friday. Aerial photo by Matt Pierce.

At this Friday’s theater showcase in the Garden, Dean Wong will recognize artist Alex Underwood, who created a vibrant floral piece featuring wauke, loulu, ma’o, naupaka, kalo, hesperomannia arbuscula and Pōhinahina, inspired by ‘ōlelo, “Mōhala I ka wai ka maka o ka pua” (unfolded by the water are the faces of the flowers) and artist team Bailey Onaga and Courtney Chargin, who depict Wailuku and Mauna Kahālāwai as a wahi pana in their nighttime skyline composition inspired by ‘ōlelo, “Wailuku i ka malu he kuawa” (Wailuku, in the shelter of the valley). The third mural — a portrait of Mary Kawena Pukui as a young girl inspired by ‘ōlelo, “E noho iho i ke ōpū weuweu, mai hoʻokiʻekiʻe” (remain among the clumps of grasses and do not elevate yourself) — will be honored during a formal blessing by Uncle Bill Garcia this coming Tuesday at the construction site of the Wailuku Municipal Parking Lot. 

“This symbolic transferal of the artwork from our ST*BA hui to the larger public is an important step in communal co-ownership and safeguarding of the work,” shares ST*BA’s Kelly McHugh-White, “Later, when the construction schedule allows us to install Alex, Bailey and Countney’s mural panels in Wailuku Town, we can complete our intention for good energy and community engagement with a blessing at the mural site. We are so incredibly grateful to Luana and Dean for sharing their space with us at the Imua Discovery Garden, and for allowing the artwork to be enlivened through the important work that their organizations do for Maui youth and families.” 

“The pandemic created space between so many of us within the community as we were asked to socially distance and take care,” shares Dean Wong, “All of us at Imua want to see this new Garden as a space that brings us closer together, and we are proud to host Maui OnStage, SMALL TOWN * BIG ART, and the dozens of others that have already helped us celebrate these grounds. Friday will be a moment to recognize this as a place to inspire, nurture, grow and safely gather.” 


The event will begin at 6 p.m. and is limited to 100 guests, with priority given to the families of Maui OnStage Summer Theater Campers.


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