Pow!Wow! Hawaii 2018, an urban contemporary art festival, has again taken over the streets in KaKa’Ako, a revitalized neighbourhood located right next door to Honolulu in Oahu, Hawaii.
I was in the city recently, duty-bound for a month, to walk a little rescue dog four times a day and – thanks to her – I have come to know the streets and the buildings in the area quite well.
To a street art chronicler, the number of disheveled blank walls in Honolulu point to a worrying level of neglect. They tower like shy, ageing, make-up-less wallflowers desperately begging for a PowWow make-over; and in my opinion, the sooner the better.
Three walls located on North Beretania and Maunakea Streets.
As luck would have it, for the last five years an incredible number of local and international artists have descended upon Oahu. They have come armed with paintbrushes and aerosol cans and have produced exciting new work. Although it is standard procedure to paint over murals in cities with higher concentrations of artists and increased competition for wall space, Oahu does not suffer from either of these problems. Just the same, murals have disappeared that should have been allowed to remain for their artistic value.
To an art enthusiast, this unnecessary loss of original artwork is dispiriting – therefore as an obvious solution, how about we lure these world-class urban artists downtown by offering them some highly visible and very naked walls?
As a further enticement, the walls that I have selected are not obscure hidden places, they are very visible spaces. Most of them are set in high-traffic areas while others are situated near temples, cultural centres, markets and a charming river.
As it currently stands, tour buses set out from Waikiki, stop to let passengers browse in the Ala Moana shopping mall and then continue into the recently gentrified street art district of KaKa’Ako. Again tourists disembark to visit the newly fashionable SALT area, enjoy lunch, and take pictures of the murals.
The tour continues on through Honolulu’s municipal and business centre and then veers into the slightly derelict parts of the city. Even with the amusing hint of a raucous past, visitors cannot fail to notice the degree of neglect from which the buildings suffer. Many choose to remain safely on the buses.
There are several buildings situated along those tourist bus routes that for the minimal cost of a mural could change the spirit of the area.
Something must be done to bring about positive engagement with this part of the city, and as we have witnessed in countless urban areas around the world, the addition of street art revitalizes floundering neighbourhoods, and often leads to tremendous increases in tourism.
It is easy to rummage on the internet to find several examples of inspiring work that are compatible with the Aloha spirit.
There are simply too many artists whose work I would happily endorse to improve the appearance of Honolulu, so here is a tiny sample and where possible, I have included their sources.
Who do we need to convince that contemporary urban art is a very powerful cultural tool that should not be restricted to a one-time annual event? For the good of Honolulu let’s let the artists loose!