The Pacific Literacy Consortium’s (PLC) ‘Aha Lamakū ‘Oia‘i‘o (ALO) project partnered with the Ka‘ū-Kea‘au-Pāhoa Complex (KKP) and The Estria Foundation (TEF) to engage Pāhoa High School juniors and seniors in a place- and culture-based art experience. The two-week activity culminated in a large-scale mural on the school’s campus on April 30, 2021.
Under the direction of Curriculum Research & Development Group PLC Director Hugh Dunn, ALO is a federally funded project providing culturally-responsive leadership development, mentoring, and transition support to at-risk Native Hawaiian youth in the KKP.
“Student participants co-created this mural from inception to completion,” Dunn said. “Not only did they acquire new art skills, but they also developed a stronger sense of cultural awareness and connection to place through a series of huaka‘i, or field trips, led by cultural specialists and kūpuna. In addition, this two-week experience further developed their career skills in communication, problem-solving, and management of time and resources.”
During the first week of field trips, including a seven-mile hike to Cape Kumukahi, artists with TEF’s Mele Murals program guided students through a mindfulness process involving meditation, writing, dialogue, and sketching. The second week involved pa‘ina pena, or paint days, at which time the artists and participants transferred their approved sketch to a central wall, approximately 10-feet high and 100-feet wide.
Students and artists worked over several days to collectively complete the vibrant mural that visually captures the story of the community and the voice of the students. The school community celebrated the culminating project at Pāhoa High & Intermediate School’s mural unveiling event.
KKP Educational Specialist, Iwalani Harris, said, “This two-week journey came at an opportune time. Pāhoa brought together school leaders, artists, and the community to honor the past and embrace their uniqueness and resilience that they continue to live each and every day.”
Dunn concluded, “This experience wouldn’t have been possible without the collaboration between The Estria Foundation, KKP leadership, and all the Pāhoa High School students, teachers, administrators, and community members.”