Kakaako Mural Adds to Hawaii's Growing Urban Art Scene

Holly Suthard/Contributor

Editor's Note: Freelance photographer Holly Suthard photographed the Kakaako mural in August as it was being painted. Civil Beat's Anita Hofschneider offers an update on the work that's been done.

Newcomers to Hawaii may not equate Honolulu with a vibrant art scene, but a recent community mural project in Kakaako is one example of how urban art has been muliplying.

“I think that we are just beginning a phase of creative collaboration in this town,” said Maile Meyer, a curator at Two Eyes Gallery and the owner of Native Books. “Urban art is a very visible form of creative collaboration.”

Nonprofit organizations like 808 Urban and Pow Wow Hawaii have been working to increase the presence of community art in Hawaii.

“Graffiti muralism can really be a very transformative community outlet for social uplifting and community revitalization,” said Nikila Badua, a co-director of 808 Urban. The organization, founded in 2006, seeks to train and inspire youth to become community artists and grassroots organizers. Its founder John "Prime" Hina has contributed to more than 50 public murals over the past eight years.

Badua was one of more than a dozen artists who participated in the Kakaako for All mural project in August, a 450-foot mural painted in the span of 10 days last month. The artists began with a bright red backdrop and painted over it with shapes found in Polynesian tapa cloth. Because Auahi St. in Kakaako was once Oahu's shoreline, the artists drew inspiration from the ocean.

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