Freestyle: POW! WOW! Hawaii returns

Feb. 1, 2013 | 3 Comments

Angry Woebots, aka Aaron Woes Martin, at work on a Kakaako mural for Pow Wow Hawaii in February, 2012. (Star-Advertiser photo by F.L. Morris)

Angry Woebots, aka Aaron Martin, at work in February 2012. (Star-Advertiser File)


Update: The Pow Wow Hawaii exhibit and reception planned for Feb. 14 at M Nightclub has been cancelled. An updated schedule of events will run in print and online in TGIF on Feb. 8.

Coolio! We’re just days away from the launch of Pow Wow Hawaii 2013, the third installment of the street art festival in Kaka’ako.

Last year, the event astonished with its rapid maturation and colorful impact on Kaka’ako’s previously implacable warehouse walls. This year, with an estimated 100 local and international artists participating, new studio space and an established, dedicated cadre of volunteers in place, the festival is poised to be even more dynamic and impressive.

“We have double the walls,” said Pow Wow Hawaii co-creator Jasper Wong. “Way more local and emerging artists, a lot of younger artists. There’s Pow Wow, and now there’s all these satellite events popping up.” (Read more about one of them below.)

Pow Wow Hawaii 2013

» Where: Various locations in Kaka’ako (pick up maps to murals at Loft in Space, 831 Queen St.)
» When: Feb. 9-16
» Cost: Free (some related events charge admission)

In 2011, Pow Wow’s debut in Hawaii was exhilarating, as Honolulu artist Wong drew international and local artists to create murals in and around the Fresh Cafe/Loft in Space on Queen St. But in 2012 the event blew up, covering blocks of walls in Kaka’ako with fantastical imagery, from the cartoonish to the sublime.

The assistance of Kamehameha Schools was a significant factor, as the Kaka’ako landowner made its properties available for painting and allowed activities to take place in a warehouse off Auahi Street.

The state and other neighborhood businesses also welcomed Pow Wow’s presence, and as a result, some stunning and significant street art has graced the district’s walls for the past year. Look along Auahi and Pohukaina streets and near Mother Waldron Park for the evidence.

The Pow Wow Hawaii art has drawn more visitors and more positive attention to Kaka’ako. Meanwhile, development plans for the area are coalescing, and other creative endeavors are underway in neighboring storefronts.

It’s a transitional era, and Pow Wow is balanced on the wave’s edge. It’s coming at you, with more music, more locations and more art. Get ready to do some walking and gawking.

Returning international artists include Suitman (Hong Kong), Meggs, Rone and Phibs (Australia) and Peap Tarr (Cambodia). Returning local artists include Prime, Ckaweeks, Solomon Enos, Angry Woebots and Ekundayo. But there are more than I can list. You’ll have to be there to absorb all that’s offered.

“One unique aspect of Pow Wow is collaboration,” says co-founder Kamea Hadar. “You’ll have five artists working on one wall. … The artists create something as a whole.”

If you’ve missed it so far, watch the captivating Pow Wow Hawaii video series directed by local filmmaker Michael Inouye to get a feel for the art, artists and impact, including some eloquent talk from the artists themselves. The final video from the series is embedded below.

More highlights of Pow Wow Hawaii 2013 include:

» A group art exhibition at Fresh Cafe/Loft in Space, 6-10 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 9
» Public painting in the streets of Kakaako, Feb. 11-16
» An exhibit of art by Chaz Bojorquez and OG Slick, with a reception at M Nightclub, 7-11 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 14
» A finale block party at Lana Lane Studios (new this year!), 432 Keawe St. in Kakaako, 6-10 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16, presented in conjunction with the indoor/outdoor “Kakaako Night Market”

Watch for a full schedule of events in TGIF next week.

Lan Thai, with the Refinery Project's "upcycled" bus. (Star-Advertiser photo by George F. Lee)

Lan Thai, with the Refinery Project's "upcycled" bus. (Star-Advertiser photo by George F. Lee)

ON THE NORTH SHORE, a creative woman with big dreams and her DIY friends in the Refinery Project are walking a parallel path with Pow Wow — envisioning an environment enlivened with art and restricted only by their ability to build what they conceive.

The eco-art installation is holding a Chinese New Year gathering in Waialua with Pow Wow Hawaii artists (and maybe you) on Feb. 10. Buy a ticket, $10 in advance or $15 on the day of the event, and help support the cause of communal art and sustenance.

Lan Thai, a chef who caters events and can be found vending at the Haleiwa Farmers Market (now taking place on Thursday afternoons at Waimea Valley, across Kamehameha Highway from Waimea Bay Beach Park), has been slowly building up an array of artist-friendly, do-it-yourself options on a rented plot near the Waialua Sugar Mill. She has cooked up the crazy idea of hosting events blending food and creative activities, from art lessons for kids and adults to acoustic musical performances and other happenings — and she’s already made it happen.

“I wanted to offer connection and community, but with a nature feel,” she told me on a visit to her current (but temporary) location, which operates off the grid, with containers serving as classrooms or a meeting place, a painted former church bus as a movable gallery and/or gift shop, and a shed offering room to share a communal meal and ideas for Oahu’s future. “It’s just cool when everyone comes together and builds their own.”

A painting by Irish street artist Eoin at the Refinery Project. (Star-Advertiser photo by George F. Lee)

A painting by Irish street artist Eoin at the Refinery Project. (Star-Advertiser photo by George F. Lee)

Surfboard shaper/artist Nick Wells (aka Welzie of Two Crows surfboards), artist Ryan Higa (known for his absurdist, sci fi comics-inspired imagery, which he’s titled Gruntled Funk), nature-inspired painter Chelsea Iwami, animator and artist Drew Toonz (known for his Volcom “Surf Skool” videos), and carpenter Chad Repass are among the core contributors.

Thai plans to move to a location better suited for drawing North Shore participants and holding gatherings within the next few weeks. I’ll tell you more about what her vision for the project is after the location is announced.

The Pow Wow Hawaii meet-up is among your last opportunities to see the Refinery Project in its current spot, which is pretty magical in its own right. (On Feb. 17, PangeaSeed, an organization that advocates for sharks, takes over the space for a kids art workshop with guest artist Shark Toof, followed by a screening of Rob Stewart’s film, “Revolution.” It’s part of a “Shark Love Inc.” weekend of art events — also connected to Pow Wow Hawaii! RSVP/contact:
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.

Related Video:

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    The “Shark Love Inc” benefit for sharks and the oceans includes a benefit at The Box Jelly in Kakaako, with a reception 6-10 p.m. Feb. 15. Find out more at or

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    There’s a Facebook event page for the refinery project party now:

  • ElizabethKieszkowski

    There’s a Facebook event page for the refinery project party now: