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Art is Alive in Kapaa

Posted by: Kim Steutermann Rogers
Destination: Kauai
Apr 04, 2011

This past Saturday evening, I joined my friend, artist Pam Woolway at a.ell design for the monthly Old Kapaa Town Art Walk. Pam displayed her ceramic Ganesh figurines and served chai and curry nut balls, while I tried on Angelique’s numerous creations made from bamboo and soy fabrics and poured pinot noir. Outside, musicians Pat Gmelin, Joe Zingaro and Spencer played guitar and drums. Down the street, Kathy Cowan celebrated one year of Alley Kat Art, and people gathered on the steps of Ship Store Galleries.

This first-Saturday, monthly art night is turning out to be quite the event in Kapaa.  Not First Fridays in Chinatown on Oahu by a long shot, but with the number of shops and restaurants, Kapaa has the potential to be bigger (not that bigger is better) than what Hanapepe started years ago and continues to offer every Friday night.

It was good to see and hear about art on Saturday night. Last week, I chatted with some fellow co-workers (hi Thaila and John) about the lack of art offered in Hawaii’s public schools. Luckily, there are artistic outlets for young people outside of the public schools, but they are pricey and require an active and already busy parent to seek out and, of course, transport their child to and from.

We all have our soapboxes—those things we get behind and rally for or against. As you know, marine debris is one of mine. The importance of travel to learn, help and open minds is another. Nature is a third. As it happens, I sit on the board of directors for the Garden Island Arts Council. So, art, in its myriad of forms, is yet another soap box for me. (And, really, can you have too many soapboxes on which to stand? They make you taller, if you like tall. What are yours?)

Two years ago, when I spent a couple weeks at Midway counting albatross nest sites, a fellow volunteer on vacation from somewhere in the upper Midwest participated, too. He was taking a break from his work as an emergency room doctor—a J-O-B with real stress. Like me—and everyone else there helping in the albatross census—he was amazed at the marine debris. In particular, the plastic. And, in particular, the particular place the plastic was found—in albatross nest sites. We quickly learned adult albatrosses apparently mistake floating bits of plastic for food, ingest it and, later, regurgitate it and feed the plastic to their chicks back on their nest sites. Some chicks die.

My ER-doctor-friend—I can still picture him. He wore shorts and Teva sandals when I layered rain gear over long pants and long-sleeved t-shirts. But I can’t remember his name without digging through long-forgotten emails. Anyway, he started pocketing small plastic figurines, and on Christmas Day, he created a manger on the beach with the plastic animals, army characters and other bits of plastic he found in albatross nest sites. It’s an image I can’t seem to shake.

Last week, at the 5th International Marine Debris Conference, writer and artist Susan Scott displayed a wall-sized mural of two Laysan albatrosses in full courtship mode—in the pose we call a “sky moo.” I saw the mural from across the room and bee-lined my way directly there. It looked like a mosaic of some sort. As I got closer, bypassing the pasta-laden pupu platter in the middle of the room, I realized exactly what medium Susan had used to create her art. It was appropriate for a conference on such a topic. The albatrosses were made out of hundreds of disposable plastic lighters collected from various Hawaii beaches, including those of Midway National Wildlife Refuge.

Art has a way of making a point.

Here’s another image I hold in my mind—this one with much tenderness. It’s the image of a young boy, maybe six years old, squatting on the top of Angelique’s sewing table. His head is bent over a bowl. His sun-kissed, blonde curls frame his concentrating face. He strings beads onto wire hoops. He mumbles something. All I can make of it is something about a basket on a stool outside the store, and when I leave Angelique’s shop—with a new dress and top—I discover the boy’s stool and numerous beaded earrings hanging off the lip of the wicker basket.

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