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A Unique Art Center in a Unique Building in a Unique State Park: Wailoa Center Education & Outreach Efforts Expanding

Posted on Jun 17, 2019

(Hilo) – Wailoa State Recreation Area in Hilo is unique among Hawai‘i State Parks given it’s one of a few parks in an urban setting, right on the edge of downtown Hilo. What also makes this beautiful park unusual, is the unique building which houses the Wailoa Center, which is the largest venue on Hawai‘i Island for showcasing the work of local artists.

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The 12-sided (Dodecagon) building was completed in 1967, to help breathe new life into the green zone created by the devastating 1960 tsunami along Hilo’s Bayfront. Over the course of the past half-century the Wailoa Center has featured countless exhibits, including the popular 10X10X10 exhibit which just ended its 2019 run in the center’s main second floor gallery.

The long-time State Parks Interpretive Center Coordinator, Codi King, explained, “It’s ten artists that are each given a space and they have ten materials that they can use. One is by their choice and the other nine are materials that we chose. This ‘installation art’ gives them a new outlook on their art and gives then an out-of-the-box experience because this tends to push them to their creative limits.”

The Wailoa Center hosts 24 exhibits annually.  Coming up in July is a month-long exhibit, titled, “Transformations,” which chronicles and depicts last year’s devastating eruption of Kīlauea which destroyed more than 700 homes and displaced hundreds of people in the lower Puna district of Hawai‘i Island.  King expects this exhibit to help people heal, to be cathartic, and to be of great interest to the local community and to visitors.

On Friday the State Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) issued a revocable permit to the Hawai‘i Island Art Alliance (HIAA), which will allow the non-profit to expand into education at the Wailoa Center.  This includes the potential of hiring visiting artists to teach classes for the community, the production of an annual art festival, and scholarships for keiki. 

King commented, “It just opens up huge possibilities and opportunities for us. Teaching-artists in the community are looking forward to it because they want to share their experiences. 

HIAA having the permit will jumpstart enthusiasm and propel us forward into continuing to support the arts and sponsoring more shows that are community based.”

Currently the center holds monthly receptions, often attended by more than 400 people. “When people attend an opening reception or peruse through the galleries of the Wailoa Center, we hope they will appreciate the beauty of the Wailoa River State Recreation Area,” said Dean Takebayashi, Hawai‘i Island Superintendent for the DLNR Division of State Parks. “It combines the artistic beauty of nature and the artistic creations of the artists, in one setting” he added.

Wailoa Arts & Cultural Center from Hawaii DLNR on Vimeo.