POW! WOW! Hawaii 2018 kicked off with a much more mellow vibe than last year—partially because, due to a business trip, I couldn’t make it out to Honolulu until halfway through the mural festival. However, everyone I talked to agreed—from start to finish, it felt a little more like the first POW! WOW! festivals six and seven years ago. Between the artists painting and the volunteers putting on the event, it feels like a family affair and it's easy to form a bond with the strangers you encounter day after day.
When POW! WOW! started, there were just twelve artists painting walls and crashing at the Mobius House on the North Shore. Now, it’s grown into a worldwide art event hosting a hundred mural artists in Honolulu, hosted by sponsors like The Modern Honolulu, Hawaiian Airlines, Hawaii Tourism Authority, Montana Cans, and more. It’s incredible to see the impact that POW! WOW! has made in the Hawaiian community, and it’s even more incredible to be a part of it.
In addition to mural painting, there are dozens of events throughout the week open to the public. Almost as soon as I touched down on Oahu, I was off to my first event: an artist chat with the legendary Daniel Arsham, with stellar interviewer Jeff Hamada of BOOOOOOOM! Talking through the process of designing and creating with such a visionary, contemporary artist was a wonderfully inspiring way to kick off the week. Check out more of his work here!
One of the best parts about POW! WOW! is the connection you’re able to make with the artists each day. Because the artists are painting public walls on open streets, tourists are constantly strolling by and saying hello, asking about their work, and getting an opportunity to share their own stories. POW! WOW! artists really have a grasp on the idea that a viewer completes an art piece—seeing how the community interacts with their new mural is what brings the piece to completion.
Kaka’ako boasts dozens of great cafes and restaurants, and no matter where you go, it’s almost guaranteed you’ll run into a POW! WOW! participant, whether it’s an artist, blogger, gallery owner, videographer, or one of the founders. One of my favorite spots to hit up is ARVO, an Australian style coffee shop that is one of the festival’s partners. It’s the perfect place for a light lunch of avocado toast and a coconut milk latte before spending a little time on the beach—you’re in Hawaii, after all!
Photos (of me) by Sunny Golden
As it happens, POW! WOW! takes place during the rainy season in Hawaii, so if you find yourself stuck in an afternoon downpour, there are also a few indoor POW! WOW! activities to take advantage of. Thinkspace curates a gallery at the Honolulu Museum of Art School featuring artists participating in POW! WOW!, and it’s always really interesting to see such small-scale works by the same people you watch paint 50-foot walls all week.
However, the coolest thing I got to take part in throughout the week reminded me why POW! WOW! exists in the first place. POW! WOW! artist Prime from 808Urban was invited by the Sheraton Waikiki to put up a really cool piece in their restaurant, RumFire, and I was the first one on the scene. Hotel employees, associates, and visitors from all over the world were invited to share their handprints on the wall. Prime described the process in such a powerful way that I left feeling so inspired—the handprints mixed with the paint creates layers of DNA and stories that will live on for years as people come and go from Oahu. Along with Prime, I was the first set of handprints up on the wall. It was an absolute honor.
The close community that POW! WOW! creates is such an amazing thing to experience first hand. Although there may be a POW! WOW! festival in or near your hometown, I officially invite everyone to pack up your bags and head to Honolulu for POW! WOW! 2019. A week of surf, sand, art, and new friends, all with the spirit of aloha—it feels like such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, that it's comes as a wonderful surprise to remember that it happens every year.
Thanks to the Oahu Visitors Bureau for supporting my trip.