Hawaii is experiencing a renaissance of sorts when it comes to the booming art, music and culinary fields within the 50th State.
Fittingly, a unique weeklong event has made Hawaii home, and allows both kamaaina (locals) and visitors alike the opportunity to celebrate the arts and recognize the skilled artisans who use their remarkable talents to strengthen and diversify the social fabric of the state’s “melting pot” culture.
POW! WOW! Hawaii returns for its third year in the booming urban core of Kakaako from Feb. 6-13. Artists, musicians and food & beverage purveyors have utilized their talents to present their craft to consumers within the area, which has blossomed from a drab, worn-down collection of warehouses to a thriving cultural hotspot in the heart of Honolulu. POW! WOW! Hawaii takes the concept of a street festival to new heights by creating a unique, contemporary and cosmopolitan way of viewing the state as a travel destination in ways that many may not have previously considered.
“POW! WOW! Hawaii is an annual weeklong event in Honolulu consisting of gallery shows, lecture series, schools for art and music, mural projects and concerts,” said Jennifer Lee, manager of marketing promotions for Hawaiian Airlines, which has sponsored the event as its official airline since POW! WOW! Hawaii’s inception three years ago. “As part of our partnership, Hawaiian brings in top artists and creative minds from across the globe to showcase their stunning styles throughout the streets of Honolulu’s Kakaako district.”
The popular festival was conceptualized and introduced by Founder and Lead Director Jasper Wong and Co-Lead Director Kamea Hader. Wong explains that more than 100 participants will share their talents with POW! WOW! Hawaii attendees, including visual artists, musicians, designers, writers and culinary wizards all focused on bringing people together and celebrating art, culture and music.
...The artists that we bring here are pulling inspiration from our beautiful islands and then incorporating their talents into a unique showcase...
“The mission of POW! WOW! is three-fold: first, it is to bring people together through art, and that involves flying artists in from every corner of the globe to build connections through shared creative goals,” Wong says. “Two, to beautify areas with color, bringing unassuming and bland walls to life; invigorating communities. Three, to educate. Creating art and music schools for our youth and providing outlets for emerging artists.”
As a features reporter for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Jason Genegabus has covered Honolulu’s entertainment, music, nightlife and food scenes for nearly 15 years. The veteran scribe credits POW! WOW! Hawaii for exposing a new generation of local residents, as well as an influx of visitors, to the burgeoning art scene.
“It’s established new venues for the community to get involved outside of the traditional museum setting, which also provides positive economic impacts along with cultural enrichment,” says Genegabus, who also authors the “In the Mix” blog (808ne.ws/in-the-mix-posts). “The musical component of the festival fosters creativity within the local scene and provides crucial networking opportunities for developing artists.”
Hawaiian Airlines’ partnership with POW! WOW! extends beyond the annual festival. The company launched a rotating art gallery called “Local Colors” in its corporate headquarters, and works closely with Wong and Hader to curate the display and commission local artists to showcase their pieces. Additionally, Hawaiian Airlines tapped into POW! WOW!’s network of talented artists to paint ground vehicles used in daily airport operations such as service trucks, push-backs, plane tugs, baggage belt loaders and baggage carts.
“Hawaii is well-known for its rich blend of cultures which is highlighted in our cuisine, customs, music and especially art,” Lee explains. “Supporting an initiative such as POW! WOW! helps promote the collaboration of local and global artists - stemming from various cultures - who are also making incredibly beautiful contributions to our community. The artists that we bring here are pulling inspiration from our beautiful islands and then incorporating their talents into a unique showcase that everyone in our community can enjoy.”
At this year’s POW! WOW! Hawaii experience, Tokyo-based artists Kamea and Hitozuki will live-paint a Hawaiian Air service vehicle at the Honolulu Night Market on Feb. 6 and Finale Concert at Makers & Tasters on Feb. 13.
“We couldn't make this a reality without the support of Hawaiian Airlines,” Wong says. “They are integral in helping us bring artists from all over the world to Honolulu (and treating us to) their first impressions of the Hawaiian spirit and culture. They are stewards of the spirit of Hawaii.”
Some of the artists slated to participate in POW! WOW! Hawaii include Audrey Kawasaki, 1010, Slinkachu, Edwin Ushiro, Risk, Pantone, Andrew Hem, Hitotzuki, Christina Angelina and Deejays Jimmy Taco and Mike D.
For Wong, the POW! WOW! event represents more than a week’s worth of artistic expression and interaction. The experience signifies a revolutionary approach to exposing the community to the talent and passion displayed by artists working to hone their craft.
“We have had many people come by and show their support,” Wong says. “I've even had people come in tears thanking us for what we do. People love art and they want to see it in their neighborhoods. We also see a myriad of people attending and admiring the murals throughout the year. It’s changed the very fabric of the community.”