Friday, June 29, 2012

A Chat with Muralist Shira Walinksy

On Thursday, July 5, Hui No‘eau will welcome the first of 2 mural artists to Maui as part of its 2012 Artist-in-Residence program: Shira Walinsky of Philadelphia, PA.

With an MFA in painting from the University of Pennsylvania, Shira Walinsky is a painter, printmaker and muralist who has been a featured artist with the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program since 2000. Her interdisciplinary work explores cultures and subcultures of distinct urban areas that use personal narratives to reflect larger issues, transform public spaces, and develop a visual language using typography, portraits and textiles. She serves as co-teacher with Jane Golden, Director and pioneer of the Mural Arts Program, at the University of Pennsylvania, University of the Arts, Princeton University, Bryn Mawr College and Drexel University.

To learn more about this exciting program, you can check out our website or scroll down to read previous blog posts. To learn more about on!

Talk about painting in large-scale- what about this appeals to you as an artist?
I have always loved big painting. I like the scale of a piece in relation to human scale. Large painting and sculpture can take you in the way a movie can- you are surrounded by it.

What is it that appeals to you about the collaborative art-making process?
I like  being  in the mix of the real world people, their present and histories. I like that collaborative work can push you to expand your understanding of your work and the world you live in.  

Do you ever struggle with the compromise between the direction/s of a group work vs. that prompted by your own artistic vision?
Yes this is a struggle in most work with communities. How do you balance what you have heard from people and that which you aesthetically love and can stand by? There is always a very interesting push and pull. Ultimately, the work does live and with communities and you need to do the utmost to respect this while not comprising too much so work becomes watered down.

What is community? Why is it important?
A group of people connected by a commonality. We are essentially social beings and need other people. Community can create change, problem solve, support.

What have been the biggest changes to the process of developing a mural on Maui (guerrilla territory) vs. one on your home turf (Philly)?
I think it's always tricky to go into a situation as an outsider to create something reflective of that place which is authentic. This happens going from neighborhood to neighborhood in Philadelphia, where you can also be perceived as an outsider. In Philadelphia, I am currently working on a project with refugee communities from Burma and Bhutan. Though we inhabit the same city I go in as outsider and have to research, talk to people gain trust and navigate through some language barriers. Each mural in Philadelphia has had a slightly different process but they all involve listening, talking to people showing a design and getting responses to the design. So far there have been many great conversations about Maui, but I think a big change is coming in without a baseline of familiarity with place. Murals in Philadelphia are created in conjunction with an artist, a site and a community. What is a big change with this project is the complete unfamiliarity with the site. I have never been to Hawaii but am extremely excited to gain a sense of the place by seeing it in person. I think had I not had conversations I might have been way too overwhelmed by the physical beauty of Maui to do anything but drop my jaw and right straight to the ocean! (I'm an ocean lover in a landlocked east coast city).

How would you explain MAP to Maui? What are the fundamentals of your work there?
MAP is an organization run and founded by the  incredibly great and driven Jane Golden to paint walls in Philly. The program was originally directed at kids who had been sentenced for doing grafiitti to channel their talents by developing their art skills to create community-driven murals. Currently mural arts has a staff of about 30 people and somewhere between 50-70 artists a year paint murals.  Mural arts provides neighborhoods an opportunity to share their stories individually and collectively through the mural making process. Mural Arts provides classes for teens and also has a restorative justice program which stress community building through the mural making process. As a result there are over 3,00 mural in Philadelphia which each tell a story of people and place. The fundamentals of my work at MAP involve working with communities in conjunction with a project manager, designing and painting murals. I have also taught with Jane Golden which has really shaped my interest and love for murals!

Why do you work for MAP?
I love big painting, I love being a part of artwork which is connected to communities. I love learning and being challenged by communities. I like feeling that art is alive and connected to a place everyday. I like seeing people who might not have a connection become involved in various aspects of the mural making process whether its going to a mural meeting or being part of a paint day. I like being a facilitator to help people tell their stories.  I like the possibilities for new ways  to work with communities and art! Philadelphia is a city of characters I enjoy meeting them. Its a privilege to hear peoples' stories.You get to be part of small changes happening in the city; each time there is a mural a discussion is raised around the mural in relation to what people would like to see on the wall, plus questions about the history of the place and the vision for the future. I think these discussions are really important to help get people to frame their own histories and help define their own futures.

What creates a sense of HOME for you in Philadelphia?
Connection to my family, their history here, friends, people, connectedness. Painting murals has also made Philly home to me. With each project you become invested and learn about a new part of the city. You work there every day and this site becomes part of your routine. Not only just painting the mural but going to a coffee shop and talking to people on the street. In this way I feel connected to many neighborhoods in Philly.

What could make Philadelphia BETTER?
Better Schools! Better public education system, a cleaner city, more bike lanes, proactive forward thinkers. Inventors, thinkers. Issues around class and race still a problem. more money to the mural program. 

What is it that makes Philadelphia PHILADELPHIA?
 East coast post industrial, we say wuter not water, its people, its flavor, 100 degrees in the summer and snow in the winter. Bricks, old factories, revitalized downtown. Its a city whose character was formed by its immigrant groups coming from Eastern Europe, Italy, Ireland and German in the early 20th century. These close knit groups formed tight neighborhoods that were drawn to Philly for the work in factories, garment industry etc.. Once these industries shut down the city faced a decline in the 1970s. Philly was founded by William Penn and has an old city feel to it.

What is it that makes Maui MAUI? (I’ll ask once now and again at the end of your residency)
 From conversations so far I would say the amazing geography beauty of the landscape, being surrounded by ocean all the time, being connected to land and ocean, amazing light, color.. history.. need to understand more.. but reconciling with history with how to connect to the past.. what is the native Hawaiian voice, the mix of people and cultures.  But to be really honest I feel like I need more time, more conversations and to see for myself.

Talk a bit about the range of conversations you’ve had with Mauians- provide an overview of your research process thus far. What similarities & differences do you see in terms of defining community or sharing a communal voice (Philly vs. Maui)?
There have been some great conversations so far ranging from visual descriptions of place, proximity to the ocean which feeds, to great anecdotes about Hawaiian families playing music in their garages. There have been discussion about the native Hawaiian voice and some of the divisions between native Hawaiians and newcomers. So far, I get a real sense of connectedness between people on Maui. I think the process has been little different in terms of talking over the phone and getting the response of particular people. Frequently meetings through mural arts have a randomness to them. (I say this in a good way). A meeting is held at a school or a rec center in preparation for a mural and you don't know who will show up. It could be a mix of people- some who really are invested in the project, others who wander in and become invested through the process. Sometimes getting a community together happens in a more roundabout way. Its easy  to enter the neighborhood where you are doing a project and get a sense of the place by observing, going to a corner store , taking photos etc. I think there are so many murals in Philly that people are familiar with the visual vocabulary of murals. So far, the Maui mural has been a really special process. Speaking in a very directed way one-on-one has made me feel connected to the place, possibly more so than just flying in and observing. I've gotten so many great ideas and images, Ive gotten a sense of the layers of the place socio- economically, the flavor the culture the landscape. Actually the power of words is amazing through these conversations I feel like I've taken mini trips to Maui with each conversation.

Want to hear more? Join us at the Hui July 6 - 20 to enroll in one of Shira's workshops, volunteer as an artist-assistant, help us build the mural-base, or just talk story. Can't make it? Post your thoughts & ideas below.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Hui No’eau Maui Mural Project: Preliminary Sketches!

Preliminary sketches of the 2012 Hui No’eau Visual Arts Center Maui Mural Project, by Hui Artist-in-Residence Shira Walinsky (July 2012):

Six months ago, Hui No‘eau was introduced to 2 exemplary artists through the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, Shira Walinsky & Eric Okdeh. Launched by 1984 Mayor Wilson Goode to eradicate the graffiti crisis plaguing the city, this “Anti-Graffiti Network,” as it was then known, hired the services of muralist Jane Golden to reach out to graffiti writers and to redirect their energies from destructive graffiti writing to constructive mural painting. 28 years later, Jane and her team have produced over 3,000 murals that have become a cherished part of the civic landscape and a great source of inspiration to the millions of residents and visitors who encounter them each year. Each piece is its own stunning work of art, but most importantly, they are visual products of a powerful and collaborative grassroots process that gives neighborhood residents a voice to tell their individual and collective stories, a way to pass on culture and tradition, and a vehicle to develop and empower local leaders. The process also engages thousands of Philadelphia’s at-risk children, youth, and adults who find their artistic voice, develop their self-confidence, and discover new ambitions while creating murals through numerous programs.

Over the course of the last 3 years, Hui No`eau has piloted its own mural arts program with partners including Kalama Intermediate School, Baldwin High School, 2010 Artist-in-Residence Orlando Reyes, and 2011 Visiting Artist Prime of the Oahu-based nonprofit 808 Urban. Upon meeting Jane late last year (after many years of hearing about her work), we became inspired to formalize our mural arts curriculum and seek grant support to invite artists from the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program to Maui to share their toolbox for community organizing and artistic leadership. And now, in just 3 short weeks, we will welcome the first of 2 Philadelphia muralists: Shira Walinsky, who has been working with Maui representatives to design a large-scale public art mural that will reflect, inspire and represent our community. (Read more).

Past projects like the 2010 Politics of Paper/ Many Stories, Many Voices Artist-in-Residence program with Favianna Rodriguez and Orlando Reyes stressed a programmatic approach of creating art with emphasis on group dialogue, planning, and collaboration rather than individual creativity. The 2011 Ho‘ololi Artist-in-Residence program with “Stickwork” artist Patrick Dougherty used the visual arts to bring attention to the destructive potential of invasive plants- engaging both the Hui’s arts community as well as those interested in Hawai’i’s ecology and environmental stewardship. The 2012 Hui No’eau Visual Arts Center Maui Mural Project will specifically engage the larger community to develop a unified message through the language of art. By engaging the public in the research, planning and execution of the work, these public art programs allow the Hui to use the arts as a catalyst for building community.

Tell us what you think!

Shira has been chatting with Mauians for the past few months in an effort to brainstorm on her mural content. The questions that have been posed to our community are as follows:

1) What creates a sense of "home" for you here?
2) What would/ could make Maui "better" (whatever that means to you)
3) What is it that makes Maui "Maui"?

Take a look at some of the responses below & please send us some of your own.

1) What creates a sense of "home" for you here?
  • Safe neighborhoods.  People caring for one another.  Culture and arts that thrive.  An environment which reflects people who care about health and beauty, that is practical.
  • Natural beauty
  • A distinctive & comforting culture that is unlike anywhere else in the world
  • There is no such thing as I only we- modern Hawaiians straddle being in two cultures- find a balance between what elders have passed down and life in the present. Contemporary Hawaiians reach into the past

2) What would/ could make Maui "better"
  • If someone could do something about the rampant racial/ethnic prejudice that is here and no one wants to talk about.
  • LESS JUDGEMENT between the different types of people.
  • Respect the Hawaiian traditions and learn from their wisdom.
  • More venues to include older people
  • More venues, events, clubs
  • To stop burning cane!
3) What is it that makes Maui "Maui"?
  • This precipice we’re living on where everything is about to change (e.g. Olowalu, Makena)
  • Kapuna the old ways
  • Mix of cultures: Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, cultures, festivals and rituals, obon dance, kimono, Poi performances, family get togethers colorful connecting the past and the present 
  • Maui is a mixture of rural and urban life. You are a part of your environment - able to interact with the city and be very connected to the environment mountains parks, the ocean…Island mentality: you must make things work together... its 3,000 miles to go anywhere else. People help each other depend on one another- importance of networks
  • The relationship to the island that sustains and relationships with the community- ocean that feed you- connection to land and water- Maui means a network of relationships
  • new technologies windmills, use of sea water, the importance of the ocean
  • Green!  Green growing things everywhere all the time!  yay....
  • the country living.
  • The local agriculture, the whales!, the wonderful culture and artistic expressions that abound here, and making use of the wind.
  • The friendliness.
  • Maui seems for some reason easier to live a “conscious” life.. fewer outer distractions. Ex. Less traffic, less noise, less violence, less poverty... or at least it seems that way.
  • I think that the fact that we are surrounded by water infects us all. - i DO mean infect - it gets in  under our skin. Even if you don't play in the water at all.  It is the smell in the air, it is in the condensation of clouds, It is in the reflection of the sky,..the kind of plants that grow near the ocean.
  • an edgy paradise with all kinds of cultures coming together to inform each other with their particular way of showing reverence to nature.
Special thanks to the following for taking the time to share a piece of themselves with our mural team:

Hokulani Holt, Cultural Programs Director, Maui Arts & Cultural Center
Rae Takemoto, Vice Principal, Pomaikai Elementary School
Kahulu Maluo, Halau Kumu & Arts Administrator, Maui Arts & Cultural Center
Paul Wood, Writer-Teacher extraordinaire
Priscilla Mikell, Kamehameha Schools Maui
Nancy Aleck, Executive Director, Hawai‘i People's Fund
Jen Russo, Maui Time Weekly
Robin Curammeng, Art Teacher, Maui High School
Scott Fisher, Director of Conservation, Hawaiian Islands Land Trust
Michael Moore, Owner & Mastermind of Star Noodle, Old Lahaina Luau and Leoda's Kitchen

Other ways to get involved:

TEEN MURAL INTENSIVE with Artist-in-Residence Shira Walinsky – July 7 & 8 / 10 am – 4 pm
Students will explore a range of portrait possibilities using photography & collage, then enlarge images using traditional mural making techniques.

“TEACH THE TEACHERS” PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT with Artist-in-Residence Shira Walinsky – July 11 / 10 am – 4 pm
Teachers will discover the powerful educational components of mural making and come away with new tools for engagement and a mural arts curriculum by an experienced professional.

MURAL ARTS WORKSHOP with Artist-in-Residence Shira Walinsky – July 14 / 10 am – 4 pm
Participants will develop into mural artists for a day, putting their mark on this historic piece of public art and joining the team that helps transform a Maui space.

PANEL DISCUSSION with Artist-in-Residence Shira Walinsky & Friends – July 19 (6 – 7 pm)
Join us for an informative presentation by Shira and group panel discussion about the impact of community engagement through public works of art and mural making. Contribute your thoughts as we discuss the challenges and applications of art as a tool for social empowerment and change.

Check our website for regular updates

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

"Reflections: Contemporary Glass Art in Hawaii" Walk-Thru

On Saturday, May 12, Hui No‘eau celebrated the opening of  Reflections: Contemporary Glass Art in Hawaii. This biennial survey presents the finest contemporary glass art in Hawai‘i, a challenge to the 30 exhibiting artists to explore the versatile medium in all its forms. Presented in the beautiful gallery space at Kaluanui, the exhibition also features educational displays and a diverse selection of work in a range of techniques. Juror’s Choice Barclay Hill received a $500 cash prize from the Maui Glass Artists Association for his piece “Daylight.”

This past Saturday, Hui friends gathered for a free walk-thru offered by Shiori Abe, Paul Chryst, Anita Laviola, Karuna Santoro & Kim Treloar.

Kim Treloar offered insight into her creative process, which involves asking the question, "What would happen if...?" She talked about her love of shadowplay, busy teaching schedule around the world, and the fun in a try-anything attitude when it comes to glass. Shiori Abe, who flew over from Oahu for the day, mentioned influential professors in her graduate program who encouraged her to experiment with combining different materials with her glass work, including copper and bronze. A funny anecdote about a housewarming gift of a Costco-sized tub of pretzels made explained the concept of her piece "Stomach Was Eaten by Pretzels." Karuna Santoro offered an iPad screening of a video demonstrating her Murrini cane pulling technique. Used to create her impeccably crafted kiln-formed plates, it is labor intensive but produces astounding results (visit to watch the video)

Here Paul Chryst shares his story of an inspiring trip to Murano, in Venice, Italy, that compelled him, post-retirement, to become "THE glass mosaic guy on Maui." With two impressive pieces on view in the exhibition, he's well on his way, and his passion for the work is evident!

Anita Laviola describes how she enjoys proving naysayers wrong by attempting so-called impossible feats, like crocheting wire, and the respite her art-making provides from a challenging career in social work.

At the end of the hour, Ditmar Hoerl, who had come to listen to his fellow artists, decided to chime in and answer an oft-asked question regarding the glass blocks chosen for the show: "How did you do that?" During the casting process, he plunges materials such as plywood and metal into the molten glass to create textures and bubbles once its cooled. To see these artists work and much more, visit this FREE exhibition through July 6, 2012: Monday-Saturday, 10am-4pm.