Ulana ‘Āina: Art and Conservation Education

In January 2022 I began a dream project, thanks to a grant from the Hawaii State Foundation for Culture of the Arts. I got to follow around conservationist professionals from five Maui nonprofits with my paints and GoPro. I painted in the deep rainforests of Haleakalā’s upper slopes, in lo’i (taro fields) of Wailua in East Maui, in the oasis of Kipuka Olowalu, and on planting expeditions on Maui’s dryland slopes.

Paintings created at Kipuka Olowalu during a Kalama Intermediate School visit to help harvest kalo.

This is what I do. I paint on site as a way to connect to a place, and to express that connection. When I get to further express work being done to mālama (care) for the ʻāina, it is an absolute joy. I have often pulled my painting kit out during lunch breaks on volunteer planting trips, but this took the chance to express these places to the next level.

Painting with the Maui Nui Marine Resource Council at Pōhākea Watershed, after vetiver planting with Sunshine Vetiver Solutions

Even with that, creating these artworks is the beginning of the project, not the endpoint. I am turning the footage into three video art lessons to connect Maui students to these places and the work being done to care for them. Ulana means to weave, and with this project, I am weaving people back to these unique ecosystems, expressing how the care of these places is interrelated, and weaving art and conservation work together. Through art we make meaning. Through art we connect. And so through Ulana ‘Āina, students will grow a deeper connection with these places.

Hana High students at Pu’u Pahu on Haleakalā Ranch land after they planted natives and painted on site, with East Maui Watershed Partnership.

I taught several community art lessons in connection with the nonprofits, as well as in Maui’s schools. There is often little budget for art supplies in our island’s classrooms, and quality supplies affects how art turns out, and as a result, how the young artists view the experience. Please join me in supporting Maui’s teachers. I will be distributing supplies to teachers who plan to teach these video art lessons, as needed. Help by ordering items off this list, and I will send you an original painted postcard created on site at one of these locations! (Send me a note with your address since I can’t always tell who the gift is from.) These supplies will allow for continued artistic expression in these classrooms.

These videos will be re-launched in August so that teachers can integrate them into the next school year and weave these places, the work being done to care for them, and Maui’s next generation even more. To get involved, contact me at create@paintthere.com.

Also, please visit these conservation group’s websites to read more about each of their efforts and volunteer opportunities:

East Maui Watershed Partnership

Kipuka Olowalu

Maui Nui Marine Resource Council

Nā Moku ʻAupuni ʻo Koʻolau Hui

Coral Reef Alliance

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