Hawaii artists take their street art global
From Massachusetts to the Mediterranean, public murals serve as backdrop for cultural exchange of ideas.
The shaggy-haired, laid-back Kamea Hadar drives a car to the office – despite what you might think. "People hear Hawaii and they think that I surf to work and live on a canoe."
The Jerusalem-born Hadar, whose first name means "lucky charm" in Hebrew, is the co-director of an arts initiative called Pow Wow. It was launched in 2010 by his high school buddy Jasper Wong. Less than a decade old, the Honolulu-based group is already organizing events all around the globe – from Texas to Taiwan, and all points in between. In each city, they host a week-long festival where they, along with local artists, team up to paint dozens of outdoor murals.
"Murals and public art are kind of a perfect canvas for our two founding principles, which is collaboration because it's such a large canvas, it really lends itself to collaboration," he told From The Grapevine. "And then also process – obviously depending on the street, the process is open to the public."
For Kadar, street art serves as a way to engage a younger audience who may not be accustomed to walking into a museum. "I think the thing that street art does is it becomes a lot more accessible to people. The very sterile, traditional gallery environment can be very intimidating for most people," he said. "In my opinion, art should be for everyone, and street art really helps to do that. You can paint on a building and you can lean against that building. You can touch the art. You can experience it. You can ride your bike around and enjoy it and like it or dislike it or have an opinion about it, but it's there and people are less scared to interact with it."
The group who participated in the Pow Wow Guam project. (Photo: Joshua Agerstrand)
But Pow Wow's goals go beyond mural festivals that help beautify a particular cityscape. Beneath that facade is a desire by the group to break down barriers, to have people come out and meet others they ordinarily wouldn't have interacted with. Just like Hadar wants people to realize he doesn't surf to work, breaking down misperceptions is a driving force of the initiative.
Hadar took his team to Israel this summer, to show them where he's from. While Hadar travels there often to visit family, for most of the artists it was their first time in the Mediterranean country. They spent two weeks traveling around and creating murals.
"Pow Wow is very much about cultural exchange and not just the finished product of the murals that we leave, but also connecting local artists with the international artists," he explained. "Just the whole experience, having people from outside of a place come in and share their art and then having the people that are from the place share their opinions and share their art. Israel is a perfect place for such cultural exchanges. It's the same reason why Pow Wow works so well in Hawaii ... because it's such a melting pot of different cultures. So I thought that Israel would be the perfect environment, and it was. It was a smashing success and it was very well received and we just had a blast."
For the 33-year-old Hadar – who's married and has a daughter – he hopes the organization continues to grow. "Right now we just keep expanding," he told us. "Every year we add on more cities. So I see myself just traveling quite a bit and doing more Pow Wows around the world and painting a lot of different countries and cities around the world. So I think bigger, better and more."
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