Molokai art in action

Poetry readings, pottery demonstrations and hands-on workshops are just some of the activities taking place regularly at the Molokai Arts Center behind Coffees of Hawaii in Kualapuu.

By Imogen Reed

Despite the rich history of art and culture on the Hawaiian Islands, Molokai has never had a dedicated place for art instruction. Molokai hosts a few art galleries, such as the Plantation Gallery, which is a great place to find large canvas paintings, and the small selection of galleries around Kaunakakai that sell traditional crafts.

However, Molokai has never had a dedicated center where Molokai people can learn the skills of traditional arts and crafts, or a place where local artists can improve their skills and spread their knowledge. And then the Molokai Arts Center opened in Kualapuu.

A true community center

The Molokai Arts Center is a community studio aimed at being a home for the traditional arts and crafts of the islands. The arts center is not just a place for visitors to go and view samples of Hawaiian art, but is a living, working arts center where people can participate in painting, pottery, jewelry design, ukulele playing, hula lessons and much more.

The Molokai Art Center is a true community art project. The entire center’s funding comes from donations from local people, and after over a year’s worth of fundraising, the center has finally managed to earn enough money to open up and begin art classes for both adults and children.

The Molokai Art Center is aiming to provide art instruction, youth programs, and studio space for local artists, which they hope will ensure the traditional skills of local Molokai and Hawaiian art continue to thrive. Located in Kualapuu at the Coffees of Hawaii Plantation, the art center has already held some fantastic art events that have attracted much interest.

Hawaiian arts and crafts have proven to be a big draw for people visiting the islands. Hawaiian art is less about the intrinsic value of a select few masters, which generates large sums in the auction houses around the world where only people with large amounts of money or access to lucrative credit card balance transfer offers can afford to buy it, but is more about the culture and history of the people of Hawaii. Hawaiian art is something that should be accessible to everybody either living on or visiting the islands, which is why the Molokai Arts Center was created.

Pottery at Molokai Arts Center

The Molokai Art Center is running plenty of pottery workshops where people can learn how to make, not just traditional Hawaiian plates and dishes, but also contemporary pottery, too. A recent visit by Wally Schwab, whose work has been displayed in galleries across the globe, including London’s Victorian and Albert Museum, captivated visitors to the arts center who were able to learn pottery techniques from a true master potter.

Ceramic work done at the Molokai Arts Center.

The center is now running regular demonstrations on pottery, allowing people to learn how to use the potter’s wheel and develop the skills to paint and glaze traditional Hawaiian ceramics. The Molokai Arts Center is an ideal place for both adults and children willing to roll up their sleeves and get down and dirty with clay.

Poetry at the Molokai Arts Center

In February, Molokai Arts Center held a solo poetry reading by Ariana Nadia Nash. Nash is the winner of the 2011 Philip Levine Prize in Poetry and is daughter of Molokai residents John and Roshani Nash. The people and culture of the islands have heavily inspired her poems and she read from her recent book entitled: “Instructions for Preparing Your Skin,’ to a packed art center crowd, who found her work “revelatory and uncompromising.”

Another award-winning poet and writer, Donald Sunshine, a Professor Emeritus at Virginia Tech, was due to read from his latest Molokai-inspired work. Sunshine had planned to read at the art center in early March, but the event was cancelled due to bad weather. Now it looks like Sunshine’s event has been postponed until late fall so that he and his wife Joanna can to return to their farm in Virginia. Anyone interested should speak to the arts center to find when a new date will be set.

A resident of Virginia, Sunshine spends a lot of time on Molokai where his latest book, “Life’s Moment,” was written. In his reading, Sunshine plans to share the humor that can arise from such everyday events on the islands, such as riding a bus in Honolulu or trying to buy groceries at Friendly Market, situations with which many people on the islands can identify.

Anybody with even the remotest interest in the island’s art and crafts should take the opportunity to visit the Molokai Art Center. With such dedicated volunteers, and a packed schedule planned for the year, there is something for everybody.


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