Hands-on Art Centers

Paint, sculpt and draw with local artists

By: Karla Aronson

Not only can visitors to Hawaii behold a beautiful waterfall, they can paint it in the company of accomplished local artists. Or they can take a photo of one of the islands’ majestic volcanoes or canyons, then learn how to create an artsy print of it.

Making art may not be considered your typical island activity, but local art centers actively encourage the hands-on participation of guests in their arts programs, making for a fun and rewarding addition to the usual tourist fare.

The Hui No’ea Visual Arts Center on Maui recently began promoting “a day of art” for visitors through resort concierges. The half- and full-day classes include raku ceramic firing, watercolor painting, glass fusing and holiday wreath making. For non-members, the four-hour courses cost $42 and the six-hour courses cost $60.

The center will also cater to requests for group instruction. It recently arranged a half-day silk painting class for 20 women in a wedding party from New Jersey.

“A lot of visitors want to take part in the local art community,” said Linda Doyle, the center’s program manager.

Its location in the scenic upcountry town of Makawao provides an additional draw. Visitors can tour the grounds of the former sugar plantation mansion and estate, attend free lectures by local and visiting artists, view year-round gallery exhibitions and access the open studios for jewelry-making, printmaking, photography, drawing, woodworking and ceramics.

In West Maui, the Art School at Kapalua is similarly housed in a historic plantation building. The school also has an open-air facility for large events.

The art school offers children’s classes every day of the year except Christmas, New Year’s, Easter and Thanksgiving. Instruction includes creating art with glass, “Lego-mania,” introduction to jewelry, hand building with clay and digital photography. The Keiki Day Camp for ages 5-10 and the Adventure 7 Camp for ages 11-16 cost $60 for a full-day, six-hour session or $30 for a half-day, three-hour program.

Adults can select among painting courses in the fine arts studio or sculpting and pottery instruction in the ceramics studio. One-day workshops may feature coconut painting, while visiting artist workshops cover subjects like painting tropical fruit or waves in watercolor.

“We are the number-one spot for rainy days,” said Molly McMillen, the executive director, pointing out that weather can be volatile in the Kapalua region.

The Art School at Kapalua is well equipped to manage corporate events as well. Events for spouses left on their own during meetings have included art lectures and lessons. The school regularly provides courses at the Kapalua Bay Hotel and the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua and can facilitate a course anywhere on the island. Class sizes depend on what is being taught.

Watercolor instruction can accommodate 50 to 75 people, for instance.

The Kauai Outdoor Painting Association organizes several workshops throughout the year and brings in accomplished plein-air (outdoor) artists from elsewhere. The four- to five-day workshops are limited to 15 people and are attended by people from around the world. The one-day attendance fee is $125.

Two unique resources for visitors on the Big Island are the Donkey Mill Arts Center, a former coffee mill owned by the Kona Coffee Cooperative farmers, and the Volcano Art Center. Both sites sponsor exhibitions and workshops.

The Donkey Mill Arts Center recently hosted a lunch and papermaking session for a group traveling from the Smithsonian. Its regular programs feature Japanese woodblock printing, Chinese brush painting, basketry and clay raku.

A studio pass for $15 allows visitors to spend a day creating ceramics, printmaking or paper making with some initial instruction provided. Weekend workshops range from around $90 to $125 with a free lecture given by the instructor on Fridays before the workshops. During the school year, children can attend an art class on all mediums from 2 to 5 p.m.

Visitors can also stop in at seven art galleries located in the town center of Holualoa just minutes away.

Nestled 4,000 feet up the active Kilauea volcano, the Volcano Art Center offers a mix of arts and craft classes specializing in glass and woodworking. Farther up at the summit of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the art center’s gallery represents the work of more than 250 artists, the majority from Hawaii.

The center can customize programs, including transportation and catering, if desired, for groups of all ages.

“We do it quite often, for family reunions, school groups and alumni,” noted Marilyn Nicholson, executive director.

“We can also take a program to them” in the Volcano region, she added, or offer tours of visual artists’ studios in the area.

Whether Hawaii visitors find inspiration from ancient lava beds, sugarcane fields or any of the other beautiful island settings, next trip recommend that your clients pursue their artistic inclinations a local art center.