Pow!Wow! the annual mural painting invasion in Kaka‘ako opened big this past weekend. They’re on a roll after ten successful festivals worldwide last year, and growing. The idea of galvanizing international artists who paint hard at a huge scale, has proven to be an exciting Hawai‘i export. HPR’s Noe Tanigawa reports.
See painters working all over Kaka‘ako through the week. The New Contemporary show is at the Honolulu Museum School until February 24th. The Pow!Wow! Print sale happens tonight at Lana Lane and other events continue until February 18th. See the full schedule here.
This is the opening of Pow!Wow!’s annual Exploring the New Contemporary Movement show, a chance to view mural artists’ work up close in a fine art context. Lots of fun people here, like Carmella Resuma and Raymond Maravilla
Raymond Maravilla: We’re kind of nomadic. A few years ago we started working online so that we can travel more, travel as much as possible really Hawai‘i is one of our favorite places to come visit.
Carmela Resuma: Digital nomads, that's kind of the catchphrase, because a lot of people do online marketing, coding, drop shipping. So coffee, co-working, fast wi-fi, it’s a great kind of life style.
How do you know where you're going next?
Resuma: It’s usually guided by events, so we came to Honolulu for Pow!Wow! Hawaii but then we're headed to Thailand to celebrate Songkran which is Thai New Year in April. Then if our friends get married in the US, we go back home!
Resuma: Yeah it's great, and what it really is, is having the flexibility to live a life we find meaningful and do work that’s purposeful, and we don’t have to just worry about making money. I work in the non-profit world, Raymond is an artist, and those careers typically don’t pay a lot, so in order to develop what we want to do and really make an impact the way we want to, we really have to live and work wherever we can. And we love traveling, so it’s another benefit of it all.
Resuma says she did the numbers and found that the cost of one month in Hawai‘i equals about 5 months in Thailand, so they can balance out their costs. Her non-profit, Foundation for Learning and Youth Travel Education, FLYTE, offers travel opportunities to underprivileged youth.
At the front of the exhibition, Jasper Wong, the mastermind and co-founder of Pow!Wow!, was manning the t-shirt table and planning to change how we think. You know, I can’t afford art, I don’t buy art…
Jasper Wong: I think it's just it's not part of life, especially in Hawai‘i I feel like it’s not something people think about or people think it’s not something they can afford. Also within the arts community, a lot of artists struggle to survive because there is no industry where they can sell their work and live off their artwork.
Especially for mural artists?
Wong: Exactly, mural artists, younger artists, contemporary artists, I think it’s difficult in general. That’s why so many artists leave Hawai‘i, they move to LA or New York or cities where there’s stronger art industry where people buy work more. I think that needs to change in order for us to support the next generation of artists. We need to do that.
We’re talking about young people now who are living in apartments that have bare walls, they have white walls, right now.
Wong: So we want people to fill them up with artwork and support artists. But the original paintings are like thousands of dollars, right? But the prints are like $50! We can get young people to think about collecting art and maybe ingrain that mentality in them so they think about art as something they can buy, purchase and afford, rather than something for a richer demographic.
That’s why, for budding collectors, you 20 , 30 and 40 somethings---the 1xRun x Pow!Wow! Print Exhibition and sale tonight (2/13/28) at Lana Lane is priced for you. It starts at 6pm, 327 Lana Lane in Kaka‘ako, Pow!Wow! headquarters. Artists represented in the gallery show and on the streets will all be participating.
Wong says Honolulu is their home town, and that’s a part of Pow!Wow!’s flavor. However, he actually gets a lot more buy in and support from some of Pow!Wow!’s other worldwide venues like Taiwan, South Korea, Israel, Japan. Officials offer walls, even the keys to the city to Pow!Wow!WorldWide.
Wong: The first exhibition at Long Beach Museum of Art broke all previous attendance records. More
people became members than the entire year before. So we know that it works, we know that it can hit a new demographic, a younger demographic to be interested in the arts, to be interested in buying memberships to museums. The Hawai‘i museum hasn’t given us that chance yet to do it in their main museum. We’re hoping eventually to make that happen.
Wong: The thing about Pow!Wow! the thing about these kinds of festivals is we don’t really make money doing them. Yeah, we sell some artwork, we sell some merchandise here and there, but the cost to put one mural on one building is staggering!
Wong: You’re thinking about the amount of materials you’d need, you’re thinking about the lift you might have to rent or flights, or hotels, etc. So as it’s grown, we have more and more support from Hawaiian Airlines, the Modern Honolulu, paint companies, City Mill, from people that help make it happen but at the end of the day, none of us make money doing it. It’s still very much a passion project for all of us.
At ten festivals internationally in 2017, it’s kind of staggering. Check Pow!Wow!'s Instagram and online videos for some amazing projects, dragons curling up sky scrapers, odd figures populating unexpected urban sites.
Wong: The beautiful thing is we work with passionate individuals in each city that put their heart and soul into bringing art into their home towns. Actually this year in Hawai‘i we’ve brought all of them to Hawai‘i so they could meet each other and we can all collectively grow. Also we’re working on new cities, Manila, Nepal, Cleveland, San Francisco, Rotterdam, so it’s continuously growing.
Wong: It’s all about finding people. Finding competent passionate people that all believe in the power of art in public places or the power if art in general to inspire communities.
The core group of organizers, Wong plus co-founder/artist Kamea Hadar and operations guy/artist Jeff Gress maintain active art and design practices in Honolulu. Hadar has recently completed one of his most successful murals, this one in Makiki off the H-1 freeway, a female with red haku lei.
Smart communities who like the look could offer walls to Pow!Wow! in the future. Kaimukī? Kalihi? Either of those neighborhoods could be ripe for some customizing.
Wong: The community can always support with money, that’d be great, but also time, energy, coming in and helping paint walls, assist artists, or be drivers and pick up artists from airports, and stuff like that are all amazing. Or even show up to events or buy some artwork, or buy some prints or buy a shirt.
I’ll admit I made omelets for the first several Pow!Wow!’s and it was a lot of fun. Honolulu, this homegrown festival is one of our most exciting exports! Let’s keep it strong at home too.
Don’t miss the upstairs gallery at the Honolulu Museum School, where a show of religious art by local tattoo artists is underway. Some of Honolulu’s fine tattoo artists are represented, including those from Soul Signature and LMNtal Ink and Art. Check Lowi Laneza’s work from LMNtal.