Maui Arts & Entertainment

SMALL TOWN * BIG ART presents Hui Mo‘olelo Film Fest at Wailuku’s ʻĪao Theater

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SMALL TOWN * BIG ART will unveil a collection of film shorts on Dec. 20 that celebrate Maui County’s history, culture and sense of place.

The collection stems from its new Hui Mo’olelo program.

Attorney Kahoʻiwai Belsom with Jocelyn Romero Demirbag, Ed.D., Director of Development, Maui Nui at The University of Hawaii Foundation.

Through kumu Leilehua Yuen, a cohort of storytellers are trained through a series of virtual, live workshops. Hale Hōʻikeʻike Executive Director Sissy Lake-Farm then pairs workshop students with kūpuna to share their stories.

Upon completion of the workshop series and recorded kūpuna sessions, resulting audio excerpts become the basis for annual requests for artist proposals. After an artist is selected by a community panel, they begin an intensive learning and cultural exchange that is rooted in specific places throughout Maui County.

Community panel-selected artists Rose Stark, Natalie Greene and Taisiya Zaretskaya have worked with Maui Public Art Corps and Hale Hōʻikeʻike since July to bring a collection of stories to life under the direction of Oscar contending artist Richard O’Connor.

Their animated film shorts will be presented in alignment with recorded talk-story excerpts about LānaʻiKahoʻolawe and Kahului.


Story participants include:

  • Coach John McCandless (aka Johnny Mac) with Dean Tokishi, Ocean Resources Specialist, Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission
  • Anthony Pacheco with his father Henry Eskaran, Jr., kamaʻāina of Lānaʻi
  • Michael K. Nāhoʻopiʻi, Executive Director of Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission with Kelly McHugh-White, Maui Public Art Corps
  • Soon Yai Amaral, Elder kamaʻāina of Lānaʻi with her daughter Diane Preza, kamaʻāina of Lānaʻi
  • Attorney Kahoʻiwai Belsom with Jocelyn Romero Demirbag, Ed.D., Director of Development, Maui Nui at The University of Hawai’i Foundation
  • Dean Del Rosario, kamaʻāina of Lānaʻi with Shelly Preza, Executive Director, Lānaʻi Culture & Heritage Center.

Project talks began in February 2021, soon after Maui Public Art Corps was first established to expand the work of Wailuku Town’s SMALL TOWN * BIG ART initiative into new neighborhoods countywide.

In November 2021, the team was selected for grant funding by the National Endowment for the Arts to pilot related programming in up to three additional Maui County neighborhoods. By April 2022, partners from Kahului as well as the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission and Lānaʻi Culture & Heritage Center had joined on to participate in Hui Mo’olelo.  

“The Lānaʻi Culture & Heritage Center is grateful to be working with this initiative to express the intergenerational stories of our community through art,” said Shelly Preza, Executive Director, Lānaʻi Culture & Heritage Center, “The SMALL TOWN * BIG ART effort to date, which pairs professional artists with community members to help share stories and values of Wailuku Town, has been impressive, and we are excited to collaborate with their team to share our Lānaʻi stories.”

Preza will join the Dec. 20 event to present three animations about Lānaʻi that she consulted on closely, along with former director Kepā Maly, to help commemorate 100 years since Lānaʻi was purchased by the Dole Corporation in 1922.


“Many people are familiar with the island of Kahoʻolawe as a whole, but very few know of the many different special places that comprise it,” said Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission Executive Director Mike Nāhoʻopiʻi. “This kind of public art and community engagement, allows us to connect people to those places and share the stories of Kahoʻolawe through creative and meaningful experiences, which is at the core of the KIRCʻs mission.” 

The Dec. 20 Hui Mo’olelo film festival event will be emceed by Sissy Lake-Farm of Hale Hōʻikeʻike, beginning promptly at 5:30 p.m. and ending at 7 at the ʻĪao Theater.

Free to the public, audience members will experience the premiere of six individual animated talk-story excerpts, each between 3 to 5 minutes in length, and an offering by Hui Mo’olelo featured kūpuna Aunty Kahoiwai Belsom.

Attendees are asked to RSVP HERE.

Arrive early to enjoy a collection of paintings created by Maui Satellite Job Corps Center students, who participated in a free Hui Mo‘olelo workshop with Art Corps’ Kelly McHugh-White and teaching artist Jana Ireijo.


Together, they listened to the kūpuna audio recordings and created their own visual interpretations, each paired with a link to a recording of their own personal artist statements. Bring your headphones. 

“We connect with one another in the space we share and the actions we take to build that space,” shares artist Richard O’Connor, “These works reflect the voices who once labored in those spaces. They echo to current generations. Through these reverberations we create ties to the past and a path to the future. People. Places. Work.”

To view the artwork research, listen to the story recordings and more, visit and

SMALL TOWN * BIG ART partners are the County of Maui, Hale Hōʻikeʻike at the Bailey House / Maui Historical Society and the Maui Public Art Corps.


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