As we close the 2023 in-school programs with Hōlualoa Elementary School (HES), we celebrate the amazing collaboration between our teaching artists, classroom teachers, cultural experts, HES Administration and the PTO team that are committed to serving the next generation. By emphasizing a well-rounded education, imbuing wonderment and creativity into lessons for  both in-school and after-school programing, these collaborators are the heartbeat of what makes a resilient community.

In the Schools

This semester our teaching artists focused on the moana (sea) and kahakai (shoreline) zones of the ahupua’a with kindergarten, first and second grades. Artists Akiko Cutlip and Angaea Cuna guided these art explorations with sensory activities using various materials for mark-making. By helping build up students’ courage for large scale drawing, they began to add complex and layered designs in their underwater compositions. 

“Making art is a mystical process-a lot of people who are artists don’t understand it themselves Especially the young ones. They feel different, but they don’t know what it is. They feel more.” -Rick Rubin 

“I especially enjoy teaching young students because their art has more freedom. It’s just pure creation. Everyone is born an artist; at some point we tend to lose our way. I want to help the youth stay on their path of creativity.  As an abstract painter, I love to see what lines and shapes students create. I find inspiration by their bold but playful color choices. They are the constant reminder of what art should be: pure and uninhibited creations.” – Akiko Cutlip, Teaching Artist

Our Programming Evolves

The collaboration between the Mill’s programs and Hōlualoa Elementary School span 20 years, from our first after-school program in 2003 to now serving grade K-5 both during and after school.

“The first task in teaching for creativity in any field is to encourage people to believe in their creative potential and to nurture the confidence to try.”  — Ken Robinson

“Setsuko Morinoue has been my mentor for youth art education in our public schools. Setsuko has imprinted on me the value of engaging young people to explore their creativity in relationship to self, family, community, and the world. The ripple effect Setsuko initiated back in 2003 continues to emanate as The Donkey Mill Art Center embarks on expanding its focus to place-based learning that weaves art, science, and culture as the source for creative potential. 

The act of kilokilo (to observe deeply) has become a stepping stone for introducing Hawaiian values into the classroom. We continue to open pathways by collaborating with local cultural practitioners like Kim and Jesse Kaho’onei at Kahalu’u Kuahewa and Ka’ulu Llanes of Aloha Map giving all involved a richer understanding of our ‘āina and community. 

I recently visited Hōlualoa Elementary School for their kindergarten final gallery walk with teaching artist Akiko Cutlip. I was met with a roomful of smiling faces among an explosion of colorful watercolor paintings, playful collages, and giant oil pastel reef fish. The elevated excitement of the students as they shared their art describing the elements of art such as line/color/shape and techniques like drawing, painting, and collage was priceless. Akiko has created a space for young students to connect with the diversity found in our coral reefs while connecting to their emotional responses about the ocean – perhaps planting the seed of curiosity and love for our oceans that continue to ripple outward for this generation and beyond.” — Gerald Lucena, Youth Education and Fiber Studio Coordinator 

What’s Next

Next year, with the support of the Artist in the Schools grant from the State Foundation for Arts and Culture, our teaching artists will take third and fourth graders to explore the kula (plain) and walo (forest) zones of the ahupua’a with a huakai (excursion) to Kahalu’u Kuahewa to explore the ancient Kona field systems with cultural experts and stewards of the land, Kim and Jesse Kaho’onei. Students will imagine what it was like to feed a population of over a million people using a share system of kuleana (responsibility) and will learn about important plants (kalo, ulu and wauke) through drawing, painting and papermaking.

“Working with natural materials is equally magical as it is scientific. In papermaking, the process is innately collaborative as you combine farming, cooking, and sculpting, all the while engaging kilokilo throughout every step of the way. I hope students find a sense of wonder with the ‘āina and a connection to the soil, water sources, and plants that make papermaking possible”. – Angaea Cuna, Teaching Artist and Donkey Mill Art Center Fiber Arts Apprentice

Mahalo nui loa to all of you who make this work meaningful. Let the new year allow this work to continue to seed in all of us.

Special mahalos to: Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, Hawaii Community Foundation, House Representative Kristin Kahaloa, and Senator Dru Mamo Kanuha .

Written with love from our teaching artists!