Friday, October 1, 2010

Nunez & Reyes Team Up with Baldwin HS for "Malama Ko Aloha" Mural

This summer, Hui No`eau welcomed dynamic artist in residence Orlando Reyes to co-develop a case study on how the visual arts can be used as a catalyst for social change. As founding director of the critically acclaimed Jersey City-based 58 Gallery, the established painter, curator and arts entrepreneur has created a focal point on the East Coast that "fills the gap created by the exclusivity of the New York art market and raises a red flag on corporate irresponsibility." He has done extensive work with at-risk youth in New York and New Jersey and overseen public mural pieces on an international scale.

During his time at the Hui, Reyes challenged teen participants aged 13-18 to create connections between pressing social issues, cultural identity, modern symbology, and visual storytelling, thereby developing an open forum to collaboratively express their individuality. Over the course of a 20-hour intensive workshop entitled "Many Stories, Many Voices," his crew, (as he prefers to address them), produced a remarkable 16' x 8' mural aptly labeled Re-Evolve. The piece depicts each teens' individual approach to a societal norm with their particular reinterpretation or development of that idea- from the invention of a new species of fauna (e.g. the Uninarwhale, or combination of a unicorn, narwhal and whale) to an unusual portrayal of a national icon (e.g. a multiple-limbed, swollen Uncle Sam character engulfing Earth)- with commonalities including style, theory, color theme, and above all else- discourse.

"The whole process was political in a profound sense in that we were able to inspire the next generation of Maui leaders to take a societal norm, break it down, make it their own and then see it evolve into something entirely fresh," said Reyes, "It was about creating an identity rather than allowing society to dictate one for you during what is an incredibly sensitive time in a kid's life. I saw that change right away, on
the first day I saw a 12 year old and an 18 year old leave the studio in 2 different directions for lunch, but by the end of the day they were walking side by side exchanging ideas and getting excited about expressing a combined vision."

"Orlando's mural class was ah-mazing. I would take this class again anytime and paint until I spontaneously combust!" commented Gena Ryan, age 13. "My experience was FUN," said Lauren Hecker, age 15, "We learned a lot and all worked together to make something that shows aspects of all of us." The Re-Evolve
mural is currently on display in the Hui's free gallery through September 16th, (alongside an exclusive compilation of Reyes' own artwork), and will later be installed beside the Christopher Gartner Children's Studio.

The buzz generated by this developing Hui program has garnered the attention of a multitude of neighbor schools, including Kalama Intermediate (who recently completed 2 large-scale murals alongside Hui staff themed "We All Belong) and Baldwin High School, currently working on a 35-foot piece that was developed in a partnership between Baldwin's Jan Sato, Reyes and Hui teaching artist Nathalie Nunez, wh
o trained closely under Reyes during his residency.

"Orlando's energy and dedication to his students is completely invigorating," says Nunez, "segueing with him into Jan's classroom really boosted the energy of the program, and Jan's ability to pull her students out of their shells and express their ideas is truly inspiring. This is going to be a great experience for everyone involved."

Using the idea of Malama Ko Aloha
, 78 Baldwin students will plan and execute a piece to help establish and promote the vision of "keeping the love," taking care of aloha. This huge, collaborative effort by the art students reinforces a school wide emphasis on understanding and constructing main ideas and supporting details. The main idea of keeping and sharing love will flow throughout the mural in the form of flowing lines - water, hair, he'e, mountain lines. The connection to ohana and foundation will be supported by the images of the banyan tree - roots, branches, leaves, hands, care. A large array of supporting details will come in the form of floating bubbles of thoughts (interpretations of aloha) – including contributions from various students who may wish to share in the project even if they are not in one of the elective classes. When finished, the mural will reach more than 1,600 students daily.

Sato, Reyes and Nunez met at the opening of the current Hui exhibition "The Politics of Paper/ Many Stories, Many Voices," featuring the Re-Evolve
teen mural. They began talking about the possibility of working together before Reyes' return to the east coast and a week later they were on the campus of Baldwin High School scoping out the mural site. "I really appreciate being able to provide my students the opportunity to interact with talented, energetic artists who bring that breath of the professional world to our classrooms," says Sato, "Over the past 4 years, our collaboration with Hui has been instrumental to the growth & success of our art program and has been the impetus for many of our graduates who are enjoying their lives as artists in many capacities. We are forever grateful for the inspiration and nudge of confidence that your programs have provided."

Hui No`eau Visual Arts Center is dedicated to continuing these and
other pending partnerships with schools to implement mural arts programs. Murals create an awareness of and appreciation for the visual arts while building a sense of pride and connection within and throughout the community. Public art in general and murals in particular can create and define a neighborhood, enhance the environment and feed the cultural soul of our island. To learn more about how your school can partner with the Hui, contact Kelly McHugh, Youth Programs & Marketing Manager at or (808) 572-6560 ext. 29.Listen to Orlando's interview with HI NPR's Noe Tanigawa here.
Take a look at the Baldwin mural here.

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