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Ocean plastic is an art medium at the East Hawaiʻi Cultural Center's new exhibition

East Hawai’i Cultural Center's exhibition “Current Events” runs to Nov. 26.
East Hawai’i Cultural Center's exhibition “Current Events” runs to Nov. 26.

East Hawaiʻi Cultural Center's new exhibition "Current Events," in collaboration with the Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund, seeks to illuminate visitors on the impact of ocean plastics and debris — through art.

EHCC Gallery Director Andrzej Kramarz elaborates on his vision for the exhibit, “This is certainly not the first time that museums and artists have employed art as a tool to bring attention to the problem of ocean plastic. But the usual approach often features whimsical sculptures made out of the garbage. This show is nothing like that. It’s blunt and visceral. We want to force viewers to confront the fact that today’s plastic waste is tomorrow’s environmental disaster.”

Multimedia efforts accompany the exhibition, beginning with a continuous showing of “Albatross,” an award-winning film by artist Chris Jordan. The production is billed as “a powerfully moving love story about birds on Midway Island in the Pacific whose bodies are filled with ocean plastic.” Photography by artists Eric Edwards and Laurel Schultz will also be on display.

Educational efforts are incorporated into exhibition activities. EHCC is planning Zoom lectures by experts in science and culture who can illuminate the tragic impact of ocean debris.

Information will be available at the gallery desk on local organizations that focus on reducing, reusing, and recycling plastic on Hawaiʻi Island.

Kramarz notes that local businesses who sell goods that recycle plastic or provide sustainable alternatives to plastic are welcome to contact EHCC to make information on their products available to gallery visitors.

Space will be given to the creative impulse as well — during the final two weeks of the exhibition, well-known local artist Ira Ono will lead a group to collect debris that they will use to create artwork for display in next October’s "Trash Art" exhibition, which will have a theme of masks.

In addition, on Dec. 11, noted artist Ken Little whose exhibition “Tight Hide” was shown in the EHCC gallery during June and July 2021, will offer mask-making workshops to the public utilizing collected debris as a medium. The masks will temporarily adorn the new EHCC fence and, if pandemic conditions permit, will be worn by an EHCC contingent in Hilo’s 2022 Pride Parade.

This exhibition is possible due to the assistance of Kona Trans, which has loaned EHCC a 20-foot container to facilitate the process of collecting, exhibiting, and disposing of the debris.

“Current Events” runs to Nov. 26. For more information, visit ehcc.org, call 808-961-5711, or visit the gallery at 141 Kalākaua Street. Current hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Friday; and Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Noe Tanigawa covered art, culture and ideas for two decades at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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