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Feb 28, 2017

Going Public

It's an all-too-common misconception that art is best viewed in a quiet museum, shrouded behind glass and thick velvet rope.

But over the course of the past few decades, the art world has undergone a dramatic shift as greater numbers of artists are opting for an outdoor canvas in a public space to showcase their work. Concrete walls and building facades become open-air exhibits as entire neighborhoods are transformed into urban galleries. There are no entrance fees required here. Just your attention.

Look no further than internationally acclaimed exhibits like Pow Wow! and the upcoming Honolulu Biennial as prime examples of this groundbreaking shift toward public art. Art is meant for the masses. And with that in mind, let's turn our attention toward Ward Village's Ke Kilohana construction site where the latest outdoor exhibit has taken root in Honolulu. Neatly lined up against a barricade, mounted to a striking yellow wall, stands a series of paintings depicting mountain ranges, each unique in their own right but united in theme. Pedestrians walking past the construction site stop, stare, and ponder the public exhibit. And that's precisely the goal of public art: to engage with the public.

"People don't have to go to a gallery to find art anymore," said Maile Meyer, who served as curator / organizer for the Ke Kilohana exhibit. "Art is everywhere."

Upon closer examination, it's revealed that the exhibit holds a connection to the building itself. When it came time for the artists involved in the project to conceptualize the exhibit, they turned to the the iconic Ko'olau mountains to draw inspiration. As it turns out, Ke Kilohana's namesake was actually derived from the highest peak of these landmark mountains. And it was from this vantage point—looking down upon the city from the highest peak of the Ko‘olaus—that would serve as the exhibit's creative catalyst.

This project really was a lot of fun to put together. Most of the 11 artists who contributed work live on the slopes or within walking distance of the very mountains that served as our inspiration. Most were Native Hawaiians who also work in Kaka'ako, which is special because we're building a growing community of artists here and staying connected to this place is really important. The end result is this really unique project.

Maile Meyer

At the forefront of the artists who worked on the outdoor exhibit stands Keola Rapoza, the founder of the successful and internationally renowned street wear brand, FITTED. For his contribution, Rapoza was responsible for creating the unique mountain range pattern that's adorned along the construction wall. Ran Noveck, another local artist highly regarded for his use of color and flowing lines, added his unique perspective to create a mesmerizing piece. To boot, each of the exhibited artworks were printed on aluminum, which makes them durable enough to handle the outdoor, dusty exhibit space without succumbing to the elements.

Judging from what we've seen in the city—whether it's Pow! Wow!, the upcoming biennial, or outdoor exhibits like Ke Kilohana—the entire city can serve as a canvas. By embracing outdoor exhibits, Honolulu isn't just changing the way we view art, but we're changing the way the art world views Honolulu. And that's a beautiful thing.

Ke Kilohana Exhibit Artists include:

  • Carl F.K. Pao
  • Janetta Napp
  • Jayson Southard
  • Kai'ili Kaulukukui
  • Cory Taum
  • Solomon Enos
  • Jayson Southard
  • Nanea Lum
  • Keola Naka'ahiki Rapozo
  • Mealaaloha Bishop
  • Ran Noveck

Original artwork will be displayed in South Shore Market beginning in March.

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