Maui Arts & Entertainment

SMALL TOWN * BIG ART Welcomes Lori Hepner

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Wailuku’s creative placemaking program, SMALL TOWN * BIG ART (ST*BA), announces its latest public art collaboration aimed to share stories of its distinctive sense of place, history and culture.

In her January 2021 proposal to co-develop an innovative project with the ST*BA team and Wailuku community, Lori Hepner charted a piece centered around a series of community art-making workshops in which local musicians/performers would be engaged to provide music to dance to for public light-painting sessions while workshop participants donned wearable LEDs and programmable Pixelsticks to “draw with light”.

Lori Hepner. PC: ST*BA

Re-imagined for a socially-distanced world, project supporters recruited ʻĪao Intermediate School and Hālau Makana Aloha O Ka Lauaʻe to host educational light painting events, Wailuku Coffee Company to host the artist’s “open studio” days, and the Lokahi Pacific Pono Center to exhibit the resulting artwork: a video projection, two wall mural decals, and mobile app to access the augmented reality lightwork.

Following months of project development, the Pittsburgh based new media artist and Penn State Professor of Integrative Arts Lori Hepner joined Mike Rose’s afterschool music program at ʻĪao Intermediate School on September 30 for her first collaborative art making workshop. Students from grades 6-8 improvised and performed music using ukulele, drums, guitar and some vocals under the direction of Rose while Hepner taught others to experiment with light-emitting diodes (LED lights) to light paint together, creating silhouette portraits to the beat of the band.


“Mike has created an incredibly open, respectful, safe and creative environment for ʻĪao students,” said ST*BA’s Kelly McHugh-White, “witnessing his ukulele club members and other musicians follow his lead to perform for Lori’s light painting workshop was exhilarating. Everyone took turns learning from each other — whether it was with a musical instrument or a light paintbrush — and just seemed to have a blast. It really felt like the masks and social distancing symbolically disappeared for an afternoon, we were all in the moment creating something new and unique together.”

On Oct. 1, members of Hālau Makana Aloha O Ka Lauaʻe hosted Lori’s second light painting workshop. Musicians Joshua Kulhavy-Sutherland, James “Koakāne” Mattos and Lukela Kanae, known as a group as Kūikawā, played hula ʻauana (modern hula) as dancers performed to My Yellow Ginger Lei, ʻUlupalakua, Puamana, Papalina Lahilahi and more. Hepner’s video recording technology captured the session as dancers wore light sticks reflected for a 360-degree camera, which will lead to the artist’s site-specific art installations that will incorporate additional footage from the surrounding area.

Lori Hepner. PC: ST*BA

“I am really impressed by how ST*BA has worked with bringing the community into all of their projects,” said Hepner, “Sometimes the community engagement is something that a public art project will claim to have, but in actuality, is only a minimal part of it. As I’ve been transitioning to do more public art projects over the past few years, from primarily making work to exhibit in galleries and museums, I’ve most enjoyed the projects where I get to have a real connection to the people in a community. That type of connection allows for the art that gets made to be much richer and meaningful for those who have been a part of making it happen.”

The public is invited to become a part of the resulting artwork and to learn more about her process during her “open studio” days at Wailuku Coffee Company on Market Street, where she will be seated outside on Sunday, Oct. 3 and Monday, Oct. 4 beginning at 7 a.m. Arrive early to receive a free copy of the SMALL TOWN * BIG ART project catalog, which features photos and information on each public art project in the collection. 

Lori Hepner / Color Beechview. PC: ST*BA

“Wailuku Coffee Company has, since its inception, created an environment where our community artists can showcase their work and talk story with neighborhood residents and visitors about all of the things that make Wailuku so special,” said owner Jackie Goring. “Although we cannot accommodate inside seating right now, we do want to ensure everyone feels welcome to come and enjoy our to-go menu, meet our resident SMALL TOWN * BIG ART artist Lori Hepner, and continue to celebrate the small town we call home.”

Lori Hepner. PC: ST*BA

About the Artist:

Lori Hepner is a Pittsburgh-based new media artist, working primarily in new media performance, fine art photography, and community centered public art projects. She has spent considerable time over the last five years in community centered artist residencies in two Pittsburgh neighborhoods, in a small Arctic Community in coastal Norway, as well as in Finland, Iceland, and the Canadian Yukon.

Hepner’s personal photographic work has been featured in Time, Wired, and Next Level Magazine and has been exhibited at the Houston Center for Photography, Carnegie Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, in photo festivals in the Netherlands, China, and Spain. One of her Twitter portraits from Status Symbols, as well as her performative photographs from #Crowdsourced Landscapes, will be sent to live on the moon in 2021 in The MoonArk project. A recent collaboration with singer Kendra Ross entitled Intersection*ology was awarded grants by the Heinz Endowments, the 2018 Carnegie International, and The Opportunity Fund and has been performed at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater’s Alloy Studios, in Durban, South Africa, the InLight Richmond Festival in Richmond, Virginia, and at the Luminaria Festival in San Antonio, Texas.


Hepner holds an MFA in Digital Media from Rhode Island School of Design and a BFA in Fine Art Photography from Rochester Institute of Technology. She is a professor of Integrative Arts at Penn State University’s Greater Allegheny campus.

SMALL TOWN * BIG ART presents Lori Hepner. PC: ST*BA

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