Hawaii Part One: Maui’s Burgeoning Art Scene

After years of hearing about the art scene on Maui through my many friends who’ve migrated there from the Mainland, I finally made the trip out to Maui from San Francisco this weekend to check things out for myself.

Public Art in Maui: Ku'au Market Mural by Lanikila

I arrived Saturday into Kahalui airport and my dear friend and our resident Media Mecca decor diva, Fruit Loop, picked me up in her teal-colored hoopty and took me on a tour of this lush and laid back island oasis. I quickly found myself immersed not only in Maui’s beautiful environs but also in a vibrant, artistic, and highly driven group of Burners and creative spirits. As I explored Maui from Fruit Loop’s point of view, I discovered that with some focus and determination, artists can find a wealth of opportunities to pursue their passions and make a decent living in this tropical paradise.

Creative Inspiration: Maui's Big Beach

Maui is a hub for international tourists, many of whom are enticed there by the artistic expression of the artists who call the island home. Art collectors are drawn to the tropical motifs, ancient symbolism and bright colors that they find in Maui’s public murals and inside her many galleries. If you were to hang out in a cafe in Paia or Hana, you might even spot a celebrity. In her short eight months working at Cafe des Amis in Paia, Fruit Loop has waited on Woody Harrelson, Paris Hilton, Pink and Flea. With such a constant influx of art lovers and high rollers, Maui is an appealing place to try to make an earnest go of it as an artist.

Burners and artists on Maui have pooled resources to create spaces to display their work to the wider world. Like the Brewery in Los Angeles or American Steel in Oakland, the Pauwela Cannery in Haiku has been converted by local artists from a manufacturing center into a series of artsty storefronts and studios. Fruit Loop recently signed a lease for her first storefront which she will soon be turning into a visionary art gallery. Getting your foot in the door is one thing but in order to thrive on Maui, Fruit Loop says, you have to be highly focused. “Everyone who comes here to be an artist was successful in their hometown. It’s tough. You have to constantly stay motivated if you want to make it work.”

Vibrant artwork at "Maui Open Studios"

One goal of Fruit Loop’s is to have her storefront included in the next Maui Open Studios.The first annual Maui Open Studios took place this month and I was fortunate enough to catch the tail end of it this weekend. Yesterday, we visited a series of studios where artists were displaying everything from beautiful fabric paintings, to stained glass, to sculptures. Sarah, one of the artists at the Pauwela Cannery, told us she had four possible sales on the horizon after yesterday’s  “Open Studios.” By having her act together enough to open her studio doors to the public this weekend, Sarah found doors opening up for her. Sarah’s story is proof that for the motivated artist, opportunities abound on Maui.
“It’s exciting,” says Fruit Loop. “I finally feel like I am able to fully be a professional artist.” I for one can’t wait to see the “Open” sign on Fruit Loop’s studio door.

About the author: Meg Rutigliano

Meghan "Megs" Rutigliano has been burning since 2005. She is currently the full-time Regional Network and Media Relations Coordinator for the Burning Man Project. Meghan is co-anchor of an independent radio show called Shouting Fire News (www.shoutingfire.org) and works on playa at Media Mecca. Meghan is addicted to traveling and performing and is a seasoned singer, actress, and voice over personality. Meghan will be exploring the art, events and culture of various regional Burning Man communities in her blog posts.

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