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Jun 29, 2016

A Blank Canvas Comes to Life at Ae‘o

We recently caught up with local designer and artist Ara Feducia, who co-created the eye-catching mural on the construction walls surrounding Ae'o, to discuss the process of creating art in public spaces, working with children, and the challenges of having a 400-foot canvas.

Where did the inspiration behind the piece come from?

My inspiration actually arose from a children's artist, Eric Carle. He's created some of my daughter, Ada's, favorite books like The Greedy Python. The textures in his books have a very handmade and lighthearted feel to them. It almost looks like stop motion—as if a child had a hand in creating it. Because there's a preschool directly across the street, I wanted to play into that and make it feel happy. My main variable was that it had to look happy.

Can you talk a little bit more about how the students from the school were involved?

We wanted to have the students feel like this came from them. I wanted it to feel it was theirs. So we literally had them help. We had them paint and work on the tissues that were installed. It was pretty cool. You can imagine, that could be a little crazy with all the kids, but we had such great project managers making it all work it really wasn't. It was a lot of fun and I feel honored to be a part of it.

There are two other artists involved in this project, correct?

Yes, the project was composed as a group effort orchestrated by a handful of great artists, led by Maile Meyer from Na Mea. The other two artists involved were Kamran Samimi, who has a background in 3D art and Lenny Kaholo, who's an accomplished photographer that utilizes a lot of vintage techniques like tintype. We all helped each other. It was very much a group project. The wind pattern arose from Kamran and we like to say that it literally "hugs" everything. Lenny's images, with their vintage production, are going to be really interesting and exciting. We all helped each other as well. We were able to hang out with everyone and discuss how to take each of our strengths and incorporate each person's variables into the project.

What was the most difficult aspect of the project?

Realizing how daunting the size of the wall is. It's 400 feet! And when you're dealing with something that large, negative space really looks…negative. You don't see that when you're laying it out in mockups and on a computer. But when you see it in person, the full size of the wall really comes into play. We had to make some adjustments and print multiples of certain thing and play with it to see what works. It just goes to show that you can't always plan everything. Sometimes, you just gotta run with it.

The idea of creating art on a construction project seems pretty unique to me. It's almost like you have an instant, public exhibit. How do you feel about that?

I think it's brilliant. The credit really goes to Maile Meyer, who helped to realize that the wall can be a canvas for local artist. It's cool to see art and design in a place where you wouldn't expect it, like a construction zone. But it's inspiring. I feel really honored to be a part of it.

The bird featured, the Ae'o, called Ward / Kakaako home for hundreds of years. Did you have to brush up on your Hawaiian birds and do much research while planning for this piece?

Normally, I would have to have done a lot of research, but with the amazing help from project managers we had for this piece, it was all dialed in and presented to me. It was awesome, it was all there ready for me. We were able to really work quickly to get it conceptualized and onto the week. I think the whole process took under a month to put together.

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