The future is bright – and extremely colorful – for 15 Hawaiʻi students selected to participate in a special eight-week art course taught by POW! WOW! Hawaii Founder and Lead Director Jasper Wong.
The summer class resulted from a partnership between Wong and Palama Settlement, a nonprofit, community-based agency supporting the Kalihi and Palama neighborhoods of urban Honolulu. Wong has long dreamed of organizing art classes in the underserved community, where arts and music programs are often the first on the chopping block when education funding gets cut. So, when administrators at Palama Settlement approached Wong to brighten its campus walls with his signature, Asian-influenced pop culture designs, he suggested taking the idea one step further by bringing his art into the classroom.
They agreed to test the waters with a summer curriculum to gauge interest – and the response was immediate.
"We got together and just said let's see what kind of curriculum we could create that caters to this community. It'll be free, we'll cap it at 15 students, put it on our social channels and right away it filled up," Wong said. "It was originally supposed to be a four-week course, but we changed it to six. Once the classes started, the kids loved it so much I just kept teaching! It ended up being eight weeks."
The class quickly became a crash course in real life applied digital arts. The first assignment was to create original designs for a back-to-school kit for Hawaiian Airlines and POW! WOW! Hawaii's 10th Anniversary Logo Collection.
High school student Chloe Sylva, who became interested in art in middle school, relished the chance to create a design for such a large and well-known local business. "I was blown away, like this is an actual company and people will be able to buy stuff that we created," she said.
All proceeds from the collection will go back into supporting Palama Settlement in acquiring new technology for its art program.
Wong guided students through the application of art to commercial products, starting with research and transitioning into drafting sketches, converting vectors, creating thumbnails and finalizing designs. They visited the POW! WOW! Hawaii exhibit at Bishop Museum for inspiration and also met with the brand team at Hawaiian Airlines to review the steps of building a customized product from scratch, including selecting the paper type, binding and exterior color.
Sylva worked alongside fellow students Silver Ueno, Elli Ranesis and Hailey Park to develop their design, which they titled Ku‘u Aloha ‘Āina. “We knew we wanted to incorporate ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language) and wanted to also highlight how the POW! WOW! artists show Aloha ‘Āina through their murals.”
In all, the 15 students created five unique notebooks, each with its own design story:
Andie Shimizu, Hidemi Hano, Austin Atagi, Hope Dela Cruz and Taetum Inofinada
“Fever Dream is the combination of our group members' individual works, combined to demonstrate our respective styles into one piece. We wanted to display self-expression and togetherness in street art into a chaotic unified design.”
HAWAIIAN ALANUI KAIKAMAHINE
Elli Ranesis, Chloe Sylva, Hailey Park and Silver Ueno
“The girl shown represents the past and present cultures in Hawai‘i; a mix of Hawaiian style, pop and street art. The leather jacket, gas mask and graffiti represent street art, while the tattoo, flower and the phrase “Ku‘u Aloha ‘Āina” (love for the land) signifies the local culture.”
Hailey Park, Silver Ueno, Chloe Silva and Elli Ranesis
“The piece was heavily inspired by the POW! WOW! Hawaii exhibit, taking elements of both Hawaiian and pop punk culture. 'Ku‘u Aloha ‘Āina' is a statement made by Hawaiian street artists showing their love for their arts and the land they came from.”
KU‘U ALOHA ‘ĀINA
Chloe Sylva, Hailey Park, Silver Ueno and Elli Ranesis
“’Aloha ‘Āina,’ love for the land, is a concept crucial to Hawaiian culture, in which the land and the people support one another in a symbiotic, equal relationship. Combined with ‘ku‘u,’ which means ‘my beloved,’ the phrase ‘Ku‘u Aloha ‘Āina’ encapsulates street artists' unique, much-loved way of bettering the land and perpetuating Aloha ‘Āina through their art.”
SUM OF ITS PARTS
Kayleen Howard, Maile Hoe, Polaris Bruce, Zac Domingo and Jarime Justo
“Visiting the POW! WOW! Hawaii exhibit at Bishop Museum left us with three main ideas to implement and showcase in our design.
The first was the massive spectrum of styles both realistic and cartoonish as well as colors from monotone to rainbow. The second idea was the feeling of excitement. Everything in the exhibit was moving – a living, breathing work of art, just like the street art it paid homage to. The final idea from the exhibit was the concept of unity. No matter how wildly different any one piece was, they were all wonderfully unique pieces of the same puzzle connected through the history and community of street art. No artwork felt out of place.”
Wong wasn’t sure what to expect when he first walked into the classroom – students didn’t know each other and came from different communities, which meant they didn’t all have access to the same tools and technology. However, Wong noticed right away they all shared something far more important: passion.
“These students are so amazing and so passionate and that’s all it takes for them to find a way,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if they have access to the right software or right program, they'll find something and they'll teach themselves.”
Sylva, who just weeks prior thought about studying to become a lawyer, now realizes her passion can also be her career.
“This was such an empowering experience,” she said. “Art was just a hobby for me, but I know now that I can have a stable career. It’s opened new ideas for me as far as what I can do with my life. My dream job is to be a designer and design book covers or logos, but I’m also interested in psychology so I could also do art therapy.”