Maui Arts & Entertainment

Maui Public Art program to launch in Makawao

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  • Makawao Public Library. PC: Maui Public Art Corps
  • Scott Fisher and Kim Thayer. PC: Maui Public Art Corps
  • Sculptor Matthias Neumann. PC: Maui Public Art Corps
  • Public art by sculptor Matthias Neumann. PC: courtesy Maui Public Art Corps
  • Public art by sculptor Matthias Neumann. PC: courtesy Maui Public Art Corps
  • Public art by sculptor Matthias Neumann. PC: courtesy Maui Public Art Corps
  • Public art by sculptor Matthias Neumann. PC: courtesy Maui Public Art Corps

Maui Public Art Corps, in partnership with the County of Maui and Hale Hō‘ike‘ike at the Bailey House/ Maui Historical Society, is announcing a new public art project in development for the town of Makawao. 

The result of a collaborative call-for-artist-proposals that challenged candidates to interpret stories from its Hui Mo‘olelo program as works of visual, performance or experiential public art, sculptor Matthias Neumann has been selected to create a piece fronting the Makawao Public Library, which will be unveiled on April 20, 2024.

April Makawao launch. PC: Maui Public Art Corps

Selected by a community panel with criteria focused on community engagement, exceptional artistic quality, and relevance to the artist’s chosen Hui Mo‘olelo recording, Neumann’s project is inspired by a story shared by Kim Thayer of Mauna Kahālāwai Watershed Partnership and Scott Fisher, Director of ʻĀina Stewardship at Hawai’i Land Trust.


In 2021, Kim Thayer participated in the collective’s Hui Mo‘olelo program—a three-part sense-of-place-focused storytelling workshop led by Leilehua Yuen of Hilo, during the SMALL TOWN * BIG ART pilot for Wailuku.

In 2023, Thayer applied what was learned to capture an audio recorded story with  Scott Fisher, who said, “I was born when my parents were living at Sunny Side plantation camp, which is in the area of Makawao-Hāliʻimaile. I grew up playing soccer at Eddie Tam field, and spending a lot of time there—especially when going to school at Seabury. My brotherʻs first job was at Makawao Steak House. When I moved home in 2003 we were living in Makawao Ranch Acres, and my daughter was born in that house – a true kamaʻāina of Makawao. Perhaps what I have always appreciated most about Makawao is that it is the ‘gate of the forest’ (lit. forest beginning), so it is a transition between the wao kanaka and the wao akua.” 

Thayer shares, ​”I have similar connections to Makawao. My first babysitter was in Hāliʻimaile, and I also spent time with my godparents, Joyce and Skippy Perreira, whose house is on Kaupakalua, near the Kokomo junction. I, too, played soccer at Eddie Tam and spent all of my formative years at Seabury from sixth grade on up. My brother picked up Komoda butter rolls practically every day (except Wednesdays) throughout his high school career, and (my husband) and I got our chocolate Chantilly wedding cake from them. My grandpa was a devoted member of the Makawao Hongwanji. All generations of his side of our family are housed in the Nokutsudo (columbarium) there, from my great-great grandparents to my little brother. We’ve been going to the bon dance there every year forever. Oh, and just remembered, I took my driving test at the Makawao DMV.”


The artist’s proposal included a mockup of a woven 11-foot by 8-foot sculpture, its pattern designed as an expression of the interconnectedness exhibited in the relationship between Thayer and Fisher that unfolded throughout the 80-minute Hui Mo‘olelo recording. Receiving top scores from panelists, Maui Public Art Corps approached the Makawao Public Library as the ideal place for the work – amidst the site’s striking jacaranda trees. Branch Manager Dakota Cotton was thrilled by the idea, as the installation also aligns with the library’s 55th anniversary. 

“I see this art installation in coordination with our 55th anniversary as a great opportunity to highlight how integral the Makawao Library is to the Maui community and that our local Maui staff is very dedicated to serving local people as best they can,” said Cotton, “We are grateful to host this new work, which will reflect back some of the beauty of the people and place which make our community so unique. We hope to continue to be a gathering place for learning and creativity for many years to come.”

To track the progress of this public artwork and to learn how to get involved, visit Maui Public Art Corps is currently seeking local businesses to host “Little Free Art Galleries” at their sites where Makawao artists and visitors can “give a local artwork, take a local artwork.” Two community events are also currently being planned: An artist meet & greet at Hui Noʻeau at 5:30 p.m. on April 19 and a public unveiling and panel discussion featuring the artist and storytellers Kim Thayer and Scott Fisher at the Makawao Public Library at 10:30 a.m. on April 20. 


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