Painting a Brighter Future with Kim Sielbeck

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Amid Honolulu’s ever-growing community of artists, Kim Sielbeck has garnered a reputation for her lovable personality and her bold, vivacious use of color. Recently, we teamed up with Kim to develop a new mural in the heart of Ward Village. The end result was a piece that we were instantly smitten with. Following the completion of her work, we reached out to talk story about creating art, building communities, and inspiration.


How have you been holding up as an artist for the past few months?


I was really busy with work-related projects right before all of this happened, then it suddenly came to a halt. It’s been nice to have some time to get back to personal work. I’ve been painting, making silly papier-mache sculptures, and have even been working on creating little stop-motion videos. That being said, being isolated in my apartment has definitely been challenging. The art community here is so vibrant and connected. I miss going to my studio, weekly events, and spending time with other creatives on a daily basis.


In your eyes, what role can art play in shaping communities?


Art allows you to connect to a place on a more human level. If you see a concrete building, you probably won’t think twice about it. But if you see a concrete building with a beautifully painted mural on it, you’re likely to spend a few more seconds looking at it, feeling something, having an experience that is tied to that specific place. Art is really the heart and soul of a place, it brings people together. Be it music, photography, creative writing, and art show, or dance- these things all enhance and give life to our communities.


Let’s dive into your latest mural for Ward Village. How would you describe it?


My mural portrays some of the many ways people today find community at Ward. Be it shopping, surfing, music, art events, the farmers’ market, yoga, or just to hang out—there’s so much to do! I tried to include a little slice of all of this, to show all the heart that exists in the middle of Honolulu.


What do you hope people take away from the piece?


This piece is vibrant and positive, and I’m hoping it inspires joy for this gathering place. Throughout the last few months, it’s been amazing to see people in our community come together and be so resilient, but we’ve all been doing it in the isolation of our homes. This piece celebrates the joy of being together.


Do you have a favorite element of the mural?


I think each element works together as a whole. I really enjoy drawing dogs whenever I get the chance though—especially if I can sneak in a surfing dog. Victoria Ward’s daughter, Lucy, was a big animal lover and supporter of the Hawaiian Humane Society, and Ward is extremely dog-friendly, so it was a great excuse!


Where did you find the inspiration?


Over the years, I’ve enjoyed what Ward offers to the community—from the restaurants, shops, yoga, and festivals. It’s a great hub for gathering with friends, and I look forward to creating new memories. It wasn’t hard to think about all these aspects and be inspired! I also enjoyed learning about Victoria Ward. She was tough, opinionated, independent, and a big defender Hawaiian culture and society. The land was historically used to grow taro and coconuts, so I made sure to incorporate these aspects as a nod to the past, as well.


From a 30,000 foot level, there’s something about the power of art that seems to shine even brighter in difficult times. Art, in its many forms, often has the ability to pull people together and help add or change the perspective of people who see it. Do you feel as if you’re viewing or creating art through a different lens during the time of COVID?


In my art, I always try to create a positive, colorful world that I want to exist. Staying in this positive space during COVID has been very difficult at times, but I’ve also gained much more of an appreciation for the small things that make this life so vibrant. Hanging out with friends, seeing family, grabbing a bite to eat together, going to the farmers’ market, and listening to music- these incite such joy. I find myself trying to hold onto that optimism and recreate a sense of hope for people who see my work. There’s been a lot of time for reflection throughout the world, and I’m hopeful it will lead to a better, more colorful place for us all.