Freestyle: Help 808 Urban use art to change lives

Jun. 5, 2012 | 0 Comments

Graffitti/urban artist Prime held an art workshop in Kakaako early this year with students as a part of Pow Wow Hawaii 2012. (Photo by Aaron Yoshino, special to the Star-Advertiser)

Graffitti/urban artist Prime held an art workshop in Kakaako early this year with students as a part of Pow Wow Hawaii 2012. (Star-Advertiser File)


An organization I respect, 808 Urban, is fundraising through IndieGoGo to support a new effort to work with youth in Honolulu. The campaign to support the Mai’a Project began on Friday, June 1. Donors can receive “perks” for contributing, from a Facebook shout-out with a $10 donation to an original painting on canvas with a $1,000 gift.

“Youth are the hope and future of Hawaii,” this organization maintains, and its grassroots efforts flow from that belief.

The Mai’a Project is about giving youth arts and entrepreneurial savvy — letting them learn how to run their own operation, taking it from idea to fruition. Youth will design concepts and propose products for clients, which, if successful, can in turn raise funds for their own education and art classes.

Youth, teaching artists/educators, 808 Urban and the client all share in proceeds from the merchandise.

The first collaboration will be with the Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery, “working to find visual solutions to help stop sex-trafficking.” After a series of workshops, young participants will connect with the nonprofit client to design merchandise lines such as T-shirts, posters, cards or whatever creative projects are approved, working hand-in-hand with professional artists and educators.

808 Urban director John Hina, aka urban artist Prime, known for his murals and mentoring of youth, and artist/mentor Sierra Dew, a clothing and jewelry designer who’s familiar in the fashion and art communities, are instrumental in the project.

Sierra Dew at her home studio, with some example of her stencil work. (Photo by Dennis Oda, Star-Advertiser, 2010)

Sierra Dew at her home studio, with some example of her stencil work. (Star-Advertiser File)

I spoke to Dew about her involvement. She told me that she’s been volunteering with Prime and the organization for about three years, after reaching out to 808 Urban because she was “craving collaboration,” and wanted to use her skills for the public good.

“I had this really intense meeting with him at Zippy’s, where he questioned whether my heart was in the right place,” she recalled. “I guess I passed the test.”

About a year ago, she suggested they rev up the organization, which has a storefront in Kakaako, with this project.

“We’ve always been working with other organizations to give back — but, it’s very circular as I see it,” she said. “This way, we hope to gain from these sales.”

It’s a win-win-win for the organizations, as she explains it, with learning opportunities for the youth involved, better options for getting the word out for the non-profit clients, and revenue generated for the students, mentors and clients.

The first classes begin tomorrow, June 6, and the series runs for 12 weeks. After the works are completed, the merchandise line will be sold at 808 Urban’s hub and storefront in Kakaako, The Refuge, a place “for drawing, hanging out, talking story and feeling safe,” Dew said.

The IndieGoGo campaign will fund start-up costs, stipends for teachers and artists, and art supplies.

808 Urban is a collective of “community cultural workers”: artists, organizers, and volunteers who work with youth. It includes a “junior board” of students from schools including Farrington, Waianae, Punahou and Kamehameha, who help advise the organization. Among current projects: A joint venture with Pow Wow Hawaii to present a graffiti workshop.

Its arts orientation is particularly vital, as schools throughout the islands shrink or eliminate arts programming. 808 Urban’s current partner organizations include The Hawai’i People’s Fund, Pow Wow Hawai’i, The Estria Foundation, Girl Fest Hawai’i, Native Books Hawai’i, and Palama Settlement.

For more information or to donate to 808 Urban’s Mai’a Project, visit their IndieGoGo page: Visit the storefront, The Refuge, at 685 Auahi St., 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays.

Roll Call:

SHOWDOWN IN CHINATOWN is always evolving, and now the organization is looking for a new poster image with a “fresh new look” to help publicize its upcoming competitions, incorporating the Showdown in Chinatown logo.

Go to Human Imagination, 1154 Nuuanu Ave. in Chinatown (538-8898) to pick up your entry form. Entries in the poster art competition will be accepted through June 25. More details here.

Finalists will be announced at the Find Art Festival on June 30.

Kuana Torres Kahele was the big winner at the Na Hoku Hanohano Awards, with six trophies. (Photo by F.L. Morris, Honolulu Star-Advertiser)

Kuana Torres Kahele was the big winner at the Na Hoku Hanohano Awards, with six trophies. (Star-Advertiser File)

DID YOU CATCH our coverage of the Na Hoku Hanohano Awards, which took place May 27? It was presented by the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts (HARA), which honors music conceived in the Islands — largely Hawaiian music, but also rock, hip-hop and jazz.

Search #nahoku for Twitter posts from the event.

I posted some on-the-fly photos and observations for the event under the @StarTGIF and @StarAdvFeatures Twitter accounts, while the Pulse’s Jason Genegabus kept on top of winners and unfolding performances via @HonoluluPulse and @PulseHNL. Honolulu Star-Advertiser Online Director Scott Morifuji posted live photos via the @StarAdvertiser Twitter feed.

We posted a story and photo galleries afterward. Check ’em out: Some great shots here!
Elizabeth Kieszkowski is editor of TGIF, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s weekly arts and entertainment section. Reach her via email at or follow her on Twitter.

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