About fifteen minutes up the road from Kona lies a sweet, unhurried artists’ community in a town named Holualoa Village. In a recent trip to the big island, my first experience with Hawaii, I was excited to learn of this village and to plan a leisurely day exploring it. It’s a lovely drive up Hualalai Road, winding along narrow streets, passing tropical, dense foliage and coffee farms. The village itself is nestled on a steep hillside and most artists live in houses connected to or very near by their gallery space. It seems to be a fairly tight-knit community, and everyone I spoke with was friendly and eager to talk about their work, whether is was the traditional carving and dying of giant gourds or the way giclee prints are made and framed. No one was in a hurry; no one was pushing sales. Rather it felt quite peaceful and each artist lived and worked in this town because it was home.
The shops of the village are on both sides of about a quarter-mile strip and most of the shopkeepers had their doors open, ready to welcome a visitor. The first stop was in a beautiful store called Kona Art Gallery. The shop’s owner and artist crafts incredible, intricate “silent” wind chimes so we can hear what Spirit is speaking to us. She also displays traditionally created gourds and “fairy rattles.” Her husband, a local photographer, also showed his work in the shop. Kona Art Gallery is special because of its proprietress, who is the kind of person you want to spend more time with as she possesses a calm energy and a penchant for the unknown. I liked her immediately and found her work both peaceful and provocative. She shared a great deal about the concepts that formed her art and even offered to bless my husband and me with a ceremonial prayer she had learned from an island elder. Of course, we agreed and she spoke in Olelo Hawaiian, wishing us happiness and continued love in our marriage.
Further up the street I stopped into Studio 7 Fine Arts and saw the amazingly diverse work of Hiroki Morinoue and his wife and child. All three are practicing artists in this community and they work in 2D and 3D, with materials that range from oil on canvas to stone and metal statuary. The range of art forms, the materials used, the eclectic style and the fact that the Morinoue family has been producing museum-quality work for decades made this one of my favorite stops.
A little further down the main road, a visitor will find the colorful, detailed work of Shelly Maudsley White, a woman who has lived and worked in Holualoa for most of her life. She was inside her gallery, busily focused on a piece of art as guests browsed through the gallery space. The walls are filled with images of sea life, like clown fish and turtles, strange and exotic tropical flowers, like the magnificent Bird of Paradise, and a strange assortment of “chicken” portraits. White has a signature style and, happily, is not afraid to take on the silly beauty of the simple chicken. I enjoyed speaking with White and ended up finding a wonderful print to bring back home…a mysterious sea turtle contemplating life in “On the Rocks.” My husband loved this one, so we claimed it for our own and named the turtle Oliver.
After wandering the corridor of art galleries for a few hours, it was time for a break. There are several places to grab a bite or pick up something in the corner store, but several shopkeepers had urged us to try the Holuakoa Garden and Cafe. What a lovely spot as the restaurant’s table sit next to a gurgling mountain stream stocked with koi or under a trellis laden with palms and fronds. A few Hindu statues watch attentively from the mossy hills and the overall mood here is – again – one that encourages a visitor to stop and relax for a while. We did and ate a delicious meal of organic produce and home-made treats. My bowl of roasted pepper soup and a side of garlic bread was fantastic.
Holualoa Village is definitely worth a trip, especially for those spending time in Kona. It’s so close but feels worlds away from the “strip” shops and typical touristy kitsch available in town. I am so glad we found this little gem, met so many interesting and committed artists and were able to locate a few treasure for ourselves. Now when I look at my silent wind chimes, entitled “Goose Bumps”, I can think about the artist in Kona Art Gallery and her generous spirit, and when I see “On the Rocks” I can have the satisfaction of knowing that I met and supported a truly talented Hawaiian artist.