POW! WOW!

POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018

I can't believe it was two short years ago that I first learned about POW! WOW! On a three-day press trip to Long Beach that truly changed the course of my life, I was introduced to Jasper Wong and his team of dreamers and do-ers that put on dozens of mural festivals each year in cities across the globe. I've been lucky enough to attend both POW! WOW! Long Beach and POW! WOW! Hawaii twice, and POW! WOW! D.C. and San Jose are both on my wishlist for the near future. They explain it this way: POW! is the impact that art has on a person, and WOW! is the reaction the viewer has to it.

It's an incredibly inspiring week, and the Long Beach tourism board gets that. They generously invited me down for a few days to experience the festival and all that their amazing city has to offer. Long Beach has such a different vibe from Los Angeles despite being twenty miles from the heart of downtown. It's a place I could consider calling home within the next few years, and hopefully you'll be able to tell why by the end of this blog post.

POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane

As soon as I arrived, I took myself for a seafood dinner at King's Fish House just a few minutes from my hotel. After a busy day of airporting, flying, and running errands as soon as I landed, I was ready to head to bed early to hit the ground running the next day. There's an adorable and delicious cafe, Cuppa Cuppa, just a few minutes' walk from the Westin, our home for the week—we absolutely loved our central location & the friendly staff. Coffee and avocado toast was an easy decision for breakfast before a leisurely walk to the beach and back. I spent the rest of the afternoon at the pool waiting for my friend and photographer Michele to get into town, and when she did...that was when we hit the ground running!

POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane

Long Beach is a surprisingly walkable city. Most neighborhoods contain several murals from the current year and years past, so once you get to the area you're going, you can park for an hour or two and pound the pavement. Make sure to seek out a POW! WOW! "Passport" on the day you arrive, which is your guide to finding the locations of each artist's mural. They're available at most POW! WOW! events as well as select retailers around the city (P.S., they're free!). There's also a digital map on the POW! WOW! website, but if you get your passport stamped you can get discounts at local restaurants and shops.

Typically, my days at POW! WOW! follow a pretty similar schedule. After breakfast, I grab a coffee to go and stop by as many murals as I can to check on the artist's progress. Passersby are encouraged to stop and say hi to the artists and ask them about their work, so I usually like to make conversation. Lots of them are surprised to hear I've attended four POW! WOW! festivals now—which, if I'm being honest, also surprises me. It's just such a powerful event that I get terrible FOMO whenever I don't attend.

However, on this trip to Long Beach, the tourism board set me up with some activities outside of the festival. Alamitos Bay is a popular spot for beach-goers and watersport enthusiasts—you can get on paddleboards, kayaks, or even gondolas. The canals you can paddle through are lined with incredible vacation homes and have five beautiful bridges to travel under that make you feel like you've kayaked into a different country. I love kayaking any time I vacation near the water, so I definitely made time in my schedule.

POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane

Of course, it's always important to break for sustenance, and Long Beach has a ton of incredible dining options in addition to the aforementioned locations. One of our favorite meals was at the newly opened juice bar and health food stop Salud Juice. I am not vegan or gluten-free or any of the things I should be, but I can't tell you how much we enjoyed our savory raw salad bowls! (The acai bowls unfortunately left much to be desired—make sure to get your bowls from Revive Juice Bar, they are too good to be true.)

Another standout meal was Michael's Pizzeria, where we enjoyed pizza, pasta, olives and rosé to our heart's content. For breakfast, a favorite spot is Berlin Bistro (they're also my favorite coffee stop in Long Beach). Matcha, chai, lavender Arnold Palmers...you name it, they have it. Make sure to stop into the iconic Fingerprints Music store next door!

POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane

After spending four nights at the Westin Long Beach, it started to feel like home. My favorite spot on campus? The pool area, of course. It was so serene and made the perfect place to hide out for a few hours and read as a bit of a respite from the city. Even on work trips, I have to step back every now and then to get some time to myself, especially on one like this where I'm constantly meeting new people and going to events every night. This girl has to put her feet up...especially in southern California heat!

POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane

As murals wrap up toward the end of the week, there are a ton of closing events and parties, which becomes a lot of darting back and forth across town. I was so grateful to have our Ford Escape (which is coincidentally the car I want to buy!) from Enterprise. I love the additional space an SUV offers for traveling, and it happened to be the cheapest car option available from Long Beach Airport. Pickup and dropoff is always so easy with Enterprise—they truly run the best customer service game in the business.

Speaking of the airport, Long Beach Airport is one of my favorite airports in the whole country. It's open air and the landscaping is so pretty. JetBlue flies nonstop from Seattle to Long Beach all the time, which is an easy and comfortable flight. I try to fly into LGB every time I go to Los Angeles—it's one million times better than LAX and just about the same distance from everywhere (unless you're in rush hour, then add about forty minutes onto your drive time—still, worth it! It takes me that long to walk through LAX anyway).

POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane
POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane

As always, I'm very grateful to the Long Beach tourism team for having such contagiously positive attitudes toward Long Beach—thanks to them inviting me to visit once, I've fallen in love with the city as much as they have. There's nothing better than being waterfront with such tremendous art opportunities around you. They really are the #BeachWithBenefits

POW! WOW! Long Beach 2018 | truelane

Thank you to Visit Long Beach for hosting me!




POW! WOW! Hawaii 2018

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.

POW! WOW! Hawaii 2018 with Visit Oahu | truelane
POW! WOW! Hawaii 2018 with Visit Oahu | truelane
POW! WOW! Hawaii 2018 with Visit Oahu | truelane
POW! WOW! Hawaii 2018 with Visit Oahu | truelane

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.

POW! WOW! Hawaii 2018 with Visit Oahu | truelane
POW! WOW! Hawaii 2018 with Visit Oahu | truelane
POW! WOW! Hawaii 2018 with Visit Oahu | truelane
POW! WOW! Hawaii 2018 with Visit Oahu | truelane
POW! WOW! Hawaii 2018 with Visit Oahu | truelane
POW! WOW! Hawaii 2018 with Visit Oahu | truelane
POW! WOW! Hawaii 2018 with Visit Oahu | truelane
POW! WOW! Hawaii 2018 with Visit Oahu | truelane

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!

POW! WOW! Hawaii 2018 with Visit Oahu | truelane
POW! WOW! Hawaii 2018 with Visit Oahu | truelane
POW! WOW! Hawaii 2018 with Visit Oahu | truelane

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.

POW! WOW! Hawaii 2018 with Visit Oahu | truelane
POW! WOW! Hawaii 2018 with Visit Oahu | truelane
POW! WOW! Hawaii 2018 with Visit Oahu | truelane

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.




A Week on Oahu

Where to begin with the natural wonder that is Hawaii? Eight—make that 137—islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, discovered some time around the tenth century by Polynesian explorers who set out with no destination in sight. But of course, the more imaginative of us like to believe the Menehune were the first to call Hawaii home. Hawaii is a place of mystery and magic, and I only got the tip of the iceberg spending 11 days on O'ahu.

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No matter how it got here, Hawaii was nothing like I ever expected it to be. It wasn’t even a place I had an interest in visiting until I really started to get into adventure travel, and then hiking, off-roading, surfing, and more all seemed to culminate heartily in this little jumble of islands halfway between us and Australia. Plus, my family and I have always had a running joke about dropping everything and starting a pineapple farm on Maui. But the string that finally pulled me there was not nature or adventure or even the beach—it was art.

A Week on Oahu | truelane
A Week on Oahu | truelane
A Week on Oahu | truelane
A Week on Oahu | truelane

POW! WOW! Hawaii is a mural art festival started by Jasper Wong, an artist in his own right, but also includes music, gallery shows, lectures, community events, and more. Before going to Honolulu to experience the festival, I had taken part in POW! WOW! Long Beach in California, so I had a small idea of what the festival was about. POW! WOW! has grown and changed so much that it’s hard to imagine what it once was, but these, days, it’s essentially a week of hard work, hard laughs, and an intimate gathering of strangers in the Kaka’ako district of Honolulu.

My sister and I were traveling on the cheap, so we called a hostel on the far side of Honolulu home during the duration of our stay. We had also thrown together our itinerary two weeks before we flew out, deciding at the last second to even attend. Somehow, we ended up with our dream car (a Jeep) rented out at the airport and headed into Honolulu for acai bowls before checking in. We were immediately enchanted by the island, and now that I’ve been there, I can tell you that you truly don’t understand what Hawaii is like unless you go. It has power.

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A Week on Oahu | truelane

The best part of our hostel was that it was two blocks from the surf and sand of Waikiki Beach, where we spent our time when we weren’t in Kaka’ako or driving back and forth to the North Shore (easily the best part of O’ahu). After a quick panel discussion with the founders on day one of POW! WOW!, the next day we were off to the North Shore to see what all the hype was about. Even the drive was breathtaking. It’s an easy thirty to forty minutes, which made us realize we had to do it at least a few more times before we headed back to the mainland. We started at a beach on the north side of Haleiwa and walked into town, eating way too much shave ice and crushing on way too many surfers. We basically had no idea where we were or what we were doing, so we lazed the day away on empty, unknown beaches and driving through quiet neighborhoods absorbing the lifestyle that was ours for the week. And of course, we stopped at Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck on the way back.

A Week on Oahu | truelane
A Week on Oahu | truelane
A Week on Oahu | truelane
A Week on Oahu | truelane
A Week on Oahu | truelane
A Week on Oahu | truelane
A Week On Oahu | truelane
A Week on Oahu | truelane

After living the island life for the day, we had exciting dinner plans with our friend Maria at Mahina and Sun’s at the Surfjack Hotel. The Surfjack is an incredibly hip hotel located right in central Waikiki, and I would definitely recommend it if you want a truly boutique hotel experience on O’ahu. From fish taco appetizers and dazzling cocktails to the woodfired pizzas entree, I had zero complaints. It’s such a cozy place too, I could have stayed tucked in our booth long into the night.

A Week on Oahu | truelane
A Week on Oahu | truelane

The next morning, we started the day at our second home: Arvo. It’s an Australian style café—arvo being the word for ‘afternoon’ that folks Down Under use. With an avocado toast for the ages, one of the better flat whites I’ve had, and a cool and friendly atmosphere, it’s a wonderful place to while away the hours. Dozens of POW! WOW! attendees are bloggers, writers, reviewers, photographers, and more, so it’s definitely a central location for people to caffeinate as well as get some work done away from the distractions of Lana Lane Studios. Lana Lane is the POW! WOW! headquarters, as well as a site for many of the murals, the merchandise store, the classroom for POW! WOW! School of Music, and more, so there’s a lot going on.  

A Week on Oahu | truelane
A Week on Oahu | truelane
A Week on Oahu | truelane

The best part of the day was that it was pouring rain—unfortunately for the artists. No one could get the prep work down for painting that day, so Elyse and I decided to go on an adventure. I never shy away from the rain, so we drove up to Tantalus Lookout just north of Honolulu. The lush green, the low clouds, and grey fog all amounted to a rather magical morning of exploration. But what better way to prep for a hike than with the famous—and rightfully, deliciously so—Leonard’s Donuts. These blew my mind so much that I think I ate three on my own. The line was long, but went fast. It’s one of those places that will always be incredibly busy, but the employees know how to handle it and have you in and out in five minutes.

A Week on Oahu | truelane
A Week on Oahu | truelane
A Week on Oahu | truelane
A Week on Oahu | truelane
A Week on Oahu | truelane
A Week on Oahu | truelane

Full of donuts and satisfied by the mountaintop views, Elyse and I then drove to a favorite local spot on the east side of the island—Lanikai Beach. Just a bit after we got there, beyond the shore coming through the grey skies was a full and vibrant arcing rainbow.  I would take the easy way and leave you with the word ‘indescribable,’ but I’ll try my best since I told you earlier that you can’t understand Hawaii until you experience it.  After a morning of my favorite weather, seeing that splotchy sunlight on yellow sands and those magical colors jetting from a stormy blue ocean, it was like waking up to a white Christmas in Seattle. You never think it’s going to come around, and when it finally does after ten or more years of waiting, the sight makes you instantly warm inside, like anything is possible. Now, imagine that on the most warm, lush, beautiful island you’ve ever seen in the middle of the ocean, isolated in that feeling.

A Week on Oahu | truelane
A Week on Oahu | truelane

After our relaxing day, we had to hurry back to Kaka'ako for the official POW! WOW! launch during the Honolulu Night Market. It was one of my favorite events of the week; there were food vendors, live paintings, music and dancers...the energy was incredible! Elyse and I ate fish tacos from a truck, and got a tour of Lana Lane Studios with one of the mural artists.

A Week on Oahu | truelane
A Week on Oahu | truelane

But of course, the next morning, we were right back up to the North Shore. One of O'ahu's finest, Halley Elefante of The Salty Blonde, was hosting a closet sale and I was pretty eager to find some goodies, so we drove up with a stop at the famed Dole Plantation on the Kamehameha Highway. One of the biggest draws there (beside Dole Whip) is the rainbow-striped trees! I couldn't get enough of them; the perfect find on Valentine's Day. So dreamy!

A Week on Oahu | truelane
A Week on Oahu | truelane

Before the evening POW! WOW! event, a print exhibition with 1xRUN,  we headed back to Waikiki Beach for Elyse's first unofficial surfing lesson with a friend of mine on the island before searching out some sushi for dinner. We ended up at Furusato, and oh was that sushi good. I highly recommend if you're in Honolulu! 

Our fifth day in Honolulu was a special one. Bright and early, we drove over to Kaka'ako for the festival blessing and registration. Most everyone wore t-shirts from POW! WOW!s past, covered in paint spots, although it's really inspiring to talk to the new artists. Some of them have never painted a mural in their lives. Careaux is one artist I'm a huge fan of—she designs for PUMA—who had never painted a mural before, and hers turned out to be one of my favorites. It's special to see the artists come together and support one another, and the feeling is never quite as palpable as it is during the prayer and blessing.

While the artists dispersed and began their first strokes, Elyse and I set out to check off one more Hawaii goal—hiking to a waterfall. Likeke Falls was an easy walk—park at the far end of at Ko'olau Golf Club, and you'll be able to find the trail head from there. It was an incredible experience. We only ran into two other people on the entire trail. 

A Week on Oahu | truelane
A Week on Oahu | truelane

And, of course, we were hungry when we returned, but another cool thing about POW! WOW! is that so many of the surrounding businesses get involved. Elyse and I got 10% off acai bowls at Juicd Life just for showing our POW! WOW! badges. It was the perfect pick-me-up before beginning our daily walk around Kaka'ako to catch up with the artists and check on mural progress. Although just about everything we did in Hawaii was exceptionally memorable, these walks around Kaka'ako in the hot sun ended up being one of my favorite activities.

One of the cool things about our hostel was that they offered group hikes, which is a great way to meet people and a great way to experience fun local activities! We did a sunrise hike to Diamond Head, which was actually way more intense than we bargained for. It was definitely a workout. The views of Honolulu were lovely, and it's a pretty cool place as it was once a U.S. military post. 

A Week on Oahu | truelane
A Week on Oahu | truelane

Our days in Hawaii were full. After filling up on coffee and pancakes post-hike, it was back to Kaka'ako to check in on the artist's progress. After shooting, it was off on our next adventure—I told you our days were full! A magical place called Mermaid Cave was on my bucket list for O'ahu, but I also heard it could be slightly dangerous depending on the tide. As it happened, the tides the week of Valentine's Day were insane. The surf was huge. And you know what? I went in anyway. 

Why is this mystical cavern off the west coast of O'ahu called Mermaid Cave? Supposedly, you can see the legendary creatures flitting through the waves during a full moon. If anyone is down to investigate with me, drop a line. I would love to go back to Mermaid Cave. I felt instantly transported into a magical otherworld, but at the same time, I was definitely scared. It was a powerful experience to say the least!

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A Week on Oahu | truelane
A Week on Oahu | truelane

Our next walk through Kaka'ako to check on the murals was a special one. I got to write a piece for Vans Girls featuring 5 female artists at POW! WOW!, which was a huge honor. I shot portraits of each boss babe and their mural, and did a little write-up for readers to get to know them. Check it out here!

A Week on Oahu | truelane
A Week on Oahu | truelane
A Week on Oahu | truelane

Although the rest of our days played out the same routine, each day in Kaka'ako is different. When you have that many artists painting throughout the city, you never know what could go down.  Some days an artist would be completely unhappy with their work and how it was progressing; you can always tell when to keep your distance. However, most days, the artists embrace one of the main draws of POW! WOW!: the ability for random passersby to stop at the wall and talk to the artist—"what are you painting?" It's how the POW! WOW! gospel gets around.

A Week on Oahu | truelane
A Week on Oahu | truelane
A Week on Oahu | truelane

One by one, artists and journalists and assistants and photographers start flying back home. After eleven days on the island, I was starting to feel a bit like I was on the television show LOST. Elyse had to fly home for school a few days before POW! WOW! ended, so I was on my own as the festival wrapped up. Thankfully, we'd made a few friends throughout the week, but when you have that many creative people smashed into a small space for eleven straight days, tensions can run high. If anyone here has been to church camp as a youth, you know what I mean. It was an incredible, emotionally-taxing, overwhelming, beautiful, and inspiring trip. I was ready to head home and recharge—and so ready to fly back for POW! WOW! Hawaii 2018. 

A Week on Oahu | truelane
A Week on Oahu | truelane
A Week on Oahu | truelane
A Week on Oahu | truelane
A Week on Oahu | truelane
A Week on Oahu | truelane

EAT HERE:

DRINK HERE:

SLEEP HERE:

EXPLORE HERE:

Thanks to the O'ahu Visitors Bureau and the Polynesian Hostel Beach Club for hosting parts of our trip.